Lunges of all sorts can be very beneficial to lifters of all levels and sports. In recent articles, we discussed the dumbbell lunge, lunges vs squats, and now, five reasons why all athletes should embrace these highly functional and unilateral movements. Below are our five favorite benefits of lunges.
Lunges can offer many benefits, many of which can be influenced by the loading and/or lunge patterning (dumbbells, barbells, single sided, lateral etc), however we all can agree on the following five benefits.
Improved Balance and Coordination
Unilateral lunging variations entail a lifter to support themselves primarily on one leg (however the other leg may or may not be used for assistance). The need for joint stability and control (ankle, knee, and hips) heightens the difficulty of this movement, increasing the neurological and muscular demands. Seeing that many human locomotion patterns and fixed positions (such as the squat) rely heavily on both, increasing balance and coordination can lead to greater single leg performance (running, sprinting, jumping, formal sports, etc) in addition to greater bilateral output (jumping, squatting, etc).
Greater Glute Activation
Lunges do a wonderful job of addressing weaknesses in balance and coordination, as well as demanding dormant muscle groups to develop. The glutes are a powerful muscle group that can be targeted (especially in wide stance lunges), which can lead to enhancements in power output, decreased lower back pain, running economy and speed…just to name a few. By lunging, as well as performing hip bridges and Romanian deadlifts, we can specifically target the glutes to increase muscle firing and activation rates, increase hypertrophy, and positively impact sports performance.
Better Muscular Symmetry
Correcting asymmetries is important to the minimization of injury in athletes and fitness goers alike. Chances are, many of you (myself included) have movement and muscular asymmetries that go unnoticed or unaddressed due to the great amounts of bilateral (two limbs at once) movements we do in our training. While bilateral movements are highly beneficial to us, employing lunges and other unilateral exercises can help to increase muscular hypertrophy and strength in a weaker leg, diminishing movement and developmental asymmetries and compensation patterning, and ultimately increase injury resilience.
Enhanced Muscle Growth
Unilateral training has been shown to increase muscle activation which can lead to more forceful muscular contractions. By performing lunges, we force the loading to be placed upon one leg, which is beneficial when trying to focus on the development of specific muscle groups. The ability to make the mind to muscle connection via unilateral training is highly beneficial to adding quality lean mass and sound movement mechanics; both of which can impact squat strength and health, sports performance, and overall leg development.
Maximize Injury Resilience
As discussed briefly above, lunges do a wonderful job of increasing many attributes that have a direct correlation with some of the most common injuries know to powerlifters, weightlifters, and functional fitness/sport athletes. By performing lunges and the numerous variations, you can take a proactive step (pun intended) towards bulletproofing your body by adding greater muscle mass, movement and coordination, balance, and distribution tendencies (of the load).