Lunging Into Stride Length Part I: Introducing the Benefits of a Functional Lunge

Here’s our latest in the Sports Health section from Dr. Jonathan Hartman and Dr. Marshall LeMoine. This topic has been broken out into 3 parts due to its’ length so keep an eye out every first Wednesday of the month to stay on top of this great article.

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With any high-level athletics training, it is important to keep the “force vector training theory” in mind. This trains the athlete as close to their sport’s specific body position while opposing or resisting the most exact line of pull, or direction of resistance that they will encounter when playing their full speed sport. This will vastly help the athlete attain the most sport specific muscular adaptations and the correct sport movement patterns, for best carryover onto the field or court (4). We should strive to train each athlete according to the proper sport specific force vectors with optimal muscle activation patterns which at times may involve ipsilateral lower and upper extremity sport patterning, (seen with the squat for a jumping athlete), or a contralateral upper and lower extremity sports pattering, (seen with the lunge for a running athlete). In the past articles I have broken down an ipsilateral pattern with the squat and deadlift, and thus in this article I will discuss the contralateral pattern enhancing strength gains that can be attained using the lunge.

This article will focus on the benefits of the step back, forwards, and stationary lunge as it is a functional multi-joint exercise that is commonly integrated into lower extremity progressive athletic optimization programs. This exercise has vast benefits as it can mimic the reciprocal contralateral patterns seen in sports activities, can target single leg stance trunk stability and control, can aid in enhancing single limb push off and stability, and can be modified and progressed in a vast array of ways to target specific sports specific muscle groups of the lower extremities and trunk. When compared to a closed chain bilateral lower extremity exercise such as a squat, this lift is primarily performed with the majority of the weight on a single lower extremity and thus we can overload the muscles of the supporting lower extremity with less overall weight therefore reducing the total load on the athlete’s spine. I will also give insight into how to progress this seemingly simple exercise into many different ways, using many different external aids, as well as highlight which joints and parts of the movement are most susceptible to form break down. The supportive studies for this article will shed light on how the evidence behind the lunge will closely simulate the strength adaptations needed for the sport specific muscles involved in running and single leg stride sports. There is also evidence to support how the differing aids and variations of this lift will affect certain muscles and joints, as well as this lift’s role in enhancing pelvic and trunk stability and balance.

Keep an eye out for next month’s Lunging into Stride Length Part 2, where we will discuss the research based evidence behind lunge variations


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