If your knees sway back and forth like a pendulum when performing lunges, you probably hate this exercise with a passion. Many people attribute this wobble factor to quad weakness, but that often isn't the case. During the lunge, your quads require assistance from your glutes and inner thighs. Providing knee stability, these muscles eliminate the Raggedy Ann effect. Certain types of lunges effectively coax these stabilizers to do their job.
The lunge falls into the compound exercise category. Exercises of this sort target multiple muscles simultaneously, and their ability to do so makes them efficient at multitasking. During the lunge, your inner thigh muscles, also called adductors, stabilize your front knee, while the hamstrings and quads of your front knee bend and extend your leg. Meanwhile, the hamstrings and butt muscles of your rear leg perform hip extension. Always do your lunges before your inner thigh isolation exercises. If you work your inner thighs first, you'll tire them out, leaving them unable to stabilize your knees during the lunges.
As a weight-bearing activity, the lunge helps you maintain bone density and prevent osteoporosis. The lunge also provides closed-chain muscle activity, since your foot remains in a fixed position. Closed-chain exercises create compression forces, which help stabilize your knee joints. When performing these exercises, don't be a rep counter. Perform only as many sets and reps as you can do with perfect form. If you're recovering from a knee injury, check with your doctor before trying these workouts.
Wobble Board Lunges
Nothing sounds wackier than using a wobble board with already wobbly knees, but there's a method to the madness. A 2002 study published in the "American Journal of Sports Medicine" detailed a preseason hockey training program designed to prevent in-season groin pulls. The research team included balance board lunges as one of the exercises. Instead of the 11 adductor strains that plagued the previous seasons, the team captain reported only three adductor strains in the subsequent seasons. Necessity explains this phenomenon. If your knees wobble when lunging on stable ground, it's annoying, but not life-threatening. Having wobbly knees on a balance board triggers a "yikes" response, which forces your adductors to wake up and do their job.
Lunge Like a Victorian
Young society ladies once curtsied in the presence of royalty. Holding each side of their long skirts, they crossed one leg behind the other, bent both knees and spread their skirts apart like butterfly wings.The skirt maneuver was a social custom, but the arm movements helped maintain balance, lest the lady fall at the feet of a handsome lord. Curtsy lunges engage the glutes and adductors, which move the legs toward the body's center. Strengthening those muscles probably helped the ladies of the era keep their virtue. In modern times, the curtsy lunge simply provides effective lower-body exercise. Long skirts not required.
Few exercises compare with the lateral lunge for enhancing the dynamic cutting movement skills seen in the most athletic divas. Powerfully engaging your glutes and inner thighs, this killer exercise begins in a squat position. Remain in the squat and take a giant step to the right, simultaneously straightening your left leg. Step in with your left leg, bend the left knee and repeat. Perform as many as you can in each direction. As you do the movements, imagine a low tunnel above your head. If you try to stand completely upright, you'll bang your head.
- American Association of Fitness Professionals and Associates: Closed Chain Exercise For Legs and Knees
- Personal Training Theory and Practice; James Crossley
- American Journal of Sports Medicine: The Effectiveness of a Preseason Exercise Program to Prevent Adductor Muscle Strains in Professional Ice Hockey Players
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.