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The great Dan John downplays the importance of lunges, while other coaches overplay their significance in the strength realm. No matter where you fall on the lunge scale, there is one fact most can agree on. They suck, and they’re difficult. IMO, almost every lifter will benefit by having a lunge variation in their program.
The reduced support base means lifting less weight than your bilateral exercises, but you’ll be training more muscles due to the offset load and to avoid falling flat on your face. Unilateral exercises like lunges strengthen side imbalances and improve overall muscle development.
Due to the lunge’s difficulty, you want to get the most bang for your back when you ‘have to’ do them. If you want to upgrade your lunge, here is a treat. This variation by Tasha ’Iron Wolf’ Whelan, Head Coach and Manager of PRO Club, competitive strength athlete in powerlifting and strongman, may have you walking funny the next day.
“Loaded deficit lunges are unique compared to the standard lunge as they allow for greater and deeper ranges of motions and reaping benefits of hip mobility as they are a loaded stretch.”
Loaded stretching combines resistance training and flexibility work. It involves performing exercises through a full range of motion while under load, allowing muscles and tendons to stretch and contract simultaneously. This enhances flexibility and builds strength in the stretched position, promoting muscle growth and improved joint mobility.” explains Whelan.
Here are some essential tips from Iron Wolf to get the best out of this challenging lunge variation.
Choose the Right Elevation: Use a stable, elevated surface (such as a step or a low bench) to increase the depth of your lunge. However, make sure the height is appropriate for your fitness level. Beginners should start with a lower elevation and gradually progress as they gain strength and stability.
Perform the Ipsilateral Reverse Lunge: Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in your right hand, keeping it at your side. Step your right foot back and lower your body into a reverse lunge. Your left knee should be at a 90-degree angle, and your right knee should hover slightly above the ground.
Switch to Contralateral Load Placement: Push through your front heel to stand back up from the ipsilateral lunge. Switch the weight from your right to your left hand as you begin the next reverse lunge with your left leg. Lower your body into the reverse lunge on the opposite side, ensuring both knees are at 90-degree angles.
Maintain Proper Alignment: Keep your front knee aligned with your ankle, and avoid letting it go past your toes; the back knee should hover just above the ground without touching it. Maintain a neutral spine and avoid leaning too far forward or backward.
“This loaded deficit lunge variation switches the load from one side to the other (i.e., Ipsilateral same side as the working leg, vs. contralateral places loaded on the opposing side).
Incorporating this ‘switch’ into the deficit reverse lunge takes lunges to a new level. Starting with the weight on the same side as the forward leg (ipsilateral) and then switching it to the opposite side (contralateral) mid-way through the set challenges stability, core strength, and coordination.
Switching challenges the core muscles to stabilize, promoting greater core strength and stability. This is essential for maintaining proper posture and preventing injuries. The switch requires increased balance and coordination, stimulating the nervous system and enhancing overall body control.
Contralateral load placement focuses on the stabilizing muscles of the hips and core, leading to better muscle development. The deliberate switch in load placement demands mental focus and concentration, fostering a stronger mind-muscle connection and enhancing workout effectiveness.” says Whelan.
Whelan suggests a few set and rep ranges depending on your goals.
Strength & Muscle: Four to five sets, six to eight reps per side, resting 90 seconds between sets.
Endurance: 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps per side, resting 45 seconds between sets.