The lunge is one of the most commonly performed exercises. It appears basic, but it is actually a fairly complex movement. Both the lunge and the squat are common sources of complaint for people suffering from knee pain. I admit I was once part of that population. I stopped lunging for several years because it “hurt my knees.”
Like most people, when in doubt, I tended to throw the exercise out. It wasn’t until years later, and with proper assessment, did I realize, my knees hurt because I was exhibiting poor technique. Part of the problem was I continued to adhere to that Old Trainer/Gym Instructor Myth “Don’t let your knees pass your toes.”
It is a commonly held belief, based on a 1978 Duke University study, that the knee should never pass the ankle in a lunge. When I quiz people why they think this, they never know why. I assume it is to possibly reduce shearing forces on the knee. This theory has since been debunked.
As a movement guy, I can attest we all have different movement patterns. You need to watch from the ground up and then top down. If a client, or you, are experiencing pain, the answer often lies in investigating the movement and not specifically the joint. There is generally a causal relationship. What percentage of people are born with “bad knees”? This is usually a case where the chicken came before the egg.
The research in exercise science is moving very quickly and the industry and media itself is lagging to keep up with it. We talk about having results but we don’t adequately explain the mechanics.
Watch this clip by the American Council of Exercise (ACE). This demonstrates and explains the correct mechanics for a Standard Forward lunge.
When in a forward lunging motion your knee will pass your toes. It is strict biomechanics. Otherwise it would be near impossible to go up a flight a stairs. Yes, there are possible modifications that may need to be made on a case by case basis. But for a healthy person, this is the exception and not the norm.
The lunge, when done correctly, is a very effective exercise to strengthen:
- the core
- the hips
- inner thighs
If you are interested in knowing more, ask me or send me an email. I have listed a few sources you can turn to down below.
Now when in doubt, figure the movement out. Once you learn the form, you will be clear to participate in exercise with confidence and expertise.
American Council on Exercise: Knee Movement & Proper Form during Lunge Exercises
Men’s Health: Lift Better, Look Better