The Benefits of Lunges
So legs eh? Yes you walk around on them, run with them, use them to swim with – other than why would you spend your time training them. They’re not exactly the first things you think about when you want to get ripped or add mass.
The more dedicated lifter will train their legs, and it is essential to have good legs and a strong back if you want to get big weights off the floor.
But there’s so much more to leg training, and lunges offer excellent benefit to definition, leg shape, size and general health and fitness. These brilliant exercises are mostly unrecognised and are seen mainly in comedy films when an unfit protagonist tries to make an effort to get fit in a silly training montage.
Training your legs is hard work, especially when you’re starting out or trying to make gains in size. The common exercises like barbell squats and leg presses are efficient in gaining mass on your legs, but the humble lunge is an excellent bodyweight exercise which can be an incredible addition to your arsenal of adding bulk to your legs. Overlook it at your peril. You may be missing out on a less brutal form of mass building than the traditional presses and squats.
Instead of putting some token lunges at the end of a leg work out when you’re already done in from squatting and pressing, put your lunges up front and you’ll see clear benefits of prioritising the exercise.
Let’s take a fresh look at lunges – we’ve identified 6 real benefits to the exercise which we hope will encourage you to put them at the heart of your leg work.
– You don’t need to go anywhere or use any equipment to lunge.
Lunges can be performed anywhere, and I do mean anywhere, perhaps not at a funeral or a christening, but you get the point. You don’t need an occasion or a venue or a piece of equipment. You can simply … well … lunge.
You might want to add a dumbbell or a barbell to your lunge, but your own bodyweight is sufficient enough to get the optimal benefit from this exercise.
Make lunges a regular part of any exercise session, do some lunges after stretching in preparation for a run, or do some at home or in work. I work in an office to pay for my supplements, and I find a set of lunges while the coffee pot is brewing is a perfectly acceptable way to get the creaks and cracks of desk sitting out of your joints; and it entertains colleagues too, especially on a tight trouser day – will they burst – will they not burst – you know how it goes. Do a few walking lunges around the park, your legs are getting bigger and in better shape and you’ll entertain a few dog walkers as well.
Basically, there’s no reason not to do them. You can do them anywhere with a little bit of space.
Lunges are great for mass building
I may be over egging this, but there really isn’t a better exercise for building leg mass. Okay leg presses and squats are the traditional big two when it comes to training your legs, but do not overlook lunges for mass building.
Lunges will undoubtedly tone your muscles well, but lunging targets the glutes, the quads, hamstrings and the calves making them one of the finest compound exercises. A positively brilliant set of exercises for helping you pack on some serious mass.
Compound exercises are great because they target more than one muscle group at a time when you do them. This helps with the overall building of muscle and naturally benefits your body.
If you are serious about lifting or generally creating more impact with your workout, lunging does not only make your muscles larger, it makes them much stronger. Stronger legs generate more power which means you can work with heavier and heavier loads. Done regularly you can create a useful cycle of power and growth.
Lunging will add benefits to the traditional squats and presses as well. You may not be noticing a great deal of growth in your leg muscles using the big two. Adding regular lunges to your routine will help develop some good leg mass.
Lunges are versatile
I’ve covered a lot about the versatility of lunges on point one, but it is worth drilling down into the detail of not only the versatility of lunges in terms of the spaces and opportunities you can create to do some lunging, but also the benefits of tweaking and varying your lunging technique to get maximum results from this exercise.
Lunges are one of the most versatile exercises in your arsenal of workout moves. They are the perfect exercise to keep your leg workout fresh and interesting.
You can lunge from a stationary position, you can do a walking lunge, or consider exploring the benefits of side lunging which adds yet another dimension to this compound exercise.
If you’re in the gym you can lunge with dumbbells, or a with a bar on your back, or even with the kettlebell. In fact, you can increase the impact of lunges by adding almost any weight to your back, hands or shoulders.
Okay there’s no denying a lunge is pretty much a lunge, but each different version will exercise the main muscles as well as stimulating different muscle groups in the lower half of your body.
Lunges improve posture.
I’ve already mentioned that I mostly work at a desk all day. It’s a story that’s repeated everywhere as more and more people are now working in stationary or sedentary desk jobs. Our bodies were never designed for these levels of inactivity and back and joint issues are the most common ailments for the office worker.
I struggle sometimes with back pain, for which I point the finger of blame at myself for not taking regular screen breaks, and not utilising tasks where I can move about to break up my seated work.
It’s not all bad news though – lunges are actually proven to improve posture and increase overall spinal health.
A lot of heavy compound exercises will not help your posture or your spine. If fact they can do the opposite by putting pressure on your spine and causing compression in your discs. It is essential you look after your spine and strike the right balance of exercises to keep you fit and take care of your skeleton.
Lunges are an incredibly good exercise for decompressing the spine. Walking lunges and other variations are proven to decompress the spine and alleviate pressure from it. This improves your overall posture, alleviates back pain and contributes to negating and preventing back pain and back issues in general.
So, there’s the bonus there, get strong defined legs and improve your back health by adding simple lunges to your routine. As I said, have a stretch at work and don’t be shy about doing a lunge or two in the workplace for those all-important posture issues.
Lunges improve your balance
Don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re going to tip over when you first start to do lunges. The exercise itself teaches you proper technique as this simple move forces your back into an upright position and stretches your leg muscles as you perform it. Incorrect technique means you will be unbalanced or topple over. It is important to take advice on how to lunge properly and to take your time to practice the technique properly.
Lunges are considered a to be a unilateral exercise, which means that they target both sides of the body evenly.
You want symmetry in your legs and you want to increase balance and co-ordination. You simply won’t get the same benefits from squats as these do not even come close to the lunge in terms of balance, coordination and stability.
– Lunging is “functional”
Here we go, another website putting “functional” in inverted commas. Surely all exercise contributes to body functionality, right. Yeah not necessarily. Can I escape a lion or an angry mob with torches if I’ve been concentrating on squats and presses. Probably, but the squat is a truly “functional” exercise as it contributes to strength and fitness you can use in the real world.
People are moving away from training to simply look good. It’s all fine and well getting ripped, but you want to be able to put that muscle to use in every day circumstances as opposed to only having a body that is a machine which is useful for operating gym machines.
Look at these big musclebound folks you see who can bench press astonishing weights. That’s great for the gym, but what use is it in everyday life? Will they be as strong outside the gym when you need to bend over to pull some weeds or tie your laces or pick up the ping pong ball for the thousandth time because you suck and are the worst table tennis player in the office break out area? Okay that last point might be a personal one, but it still stands to reason that there isn’t a great deal of use in putting a tone of effort into building a body that doesn’t in turn become more useful for real life activities.
Lunges are a great example of building functional strength and fitness, because you mimic similar actions in everyday life. Lunges make you more flexible and improve your posture which are things you can take outside the gym and make useful every day.
Get on to the humble lunge, it’ll change your legs, your back and your everyday life.