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How Lunges Create Healthy Knees

knees over toes

Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Creator DVRT Restoration Certification, Knees Over Toes Course, DVRT Rx Shoulder, Knees, Pelvic Control, & Gait Courses)

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Seems to be the common “chicken or the egg” situation. So many people struggle with knees, yet, when you explain to people how lunges can be such a powerful solution to their knee problems they look at you like you are nuts! How can lunges create stronger knees with an exercise that is so problematic for those with “bad knees.”

healthy knees

Well, before we go down too far the rabbit hole we have to understand that A LOT (not all). Knee issues aren’t really a factor of bad knees. Going back to the concept that Mike Boyle and Gray Cook popularized in the “Joint by Joint Approach”, we see that the knee is usually a victim to what is above and below the joint.

healthy knees

Building stronger knees is really a function of getting people to use their feet and build greater pelvic and core strength. The feet, toes, ankles, and lower leg sets the foundation for stronger knees. You can see by the diagram above that if any of those areas are compromised how the issues are going to go right up the chain!

Same thing happens when going down the body; if the pelvis can’t stabilize, it changes the knee angles and puts excessive stress on the knees. An easier way of thinking about the knees is that the more simple the joint, the more they are often a byproduct of other parts of the body working. Below you see ways to work on ankle, hip, and core stability.

Knees are largely just a hinge joint, so they are truly a result of the more complex joints that are above and below the area. That is why our DVRT lunges are so key in developing stronger knees. Not just because we are going to strengthen these muscles that are above and below the area, but we use progressions that force the feet, hips, and core to be strong in all three planes of motion.

Teaching the body to be reactive in our DVRT lunges we MUST grab the ground with our feet, we MUST create stability through the core/pelvis. In fact, many of these progressions are what Gray Cook calls, “self-limiting” exercises.

What the term means is that inappropriate performance of the exercise causes it to be impossible to lift the weight. That the actual nature of the movement prohibits bad form, the weight can not make the end point of the exercise if the drill is done badly.

Now, that is an awesome idea and I would say it is LARGELY true, especially with the DVRT drills we are talking about. However, over 16 years of clinical experience has also shown me that people can do some pretty incredible things when it comes to doing movements incorrectly!

That’s why progression has always been at the heart of what we do with DVRT programs and when people ask, “how do I get better at that exercise?!” The answer is usually, “do the one that came before.” In this case, DVRT drills below show a strong foundation for where we want to go ultimately in our venture of building stronger knees.

The super band around my body allows me to have assistance in controlling my deceleration while also helping me back up which is powerful for someone building up these qualities and a history of knee issues. 

Building a good foundation of body awareness, positioning, and alignment gets us to our goal of building greater resiliency and real world strength through some of these DVRT progressions that strength coach, Martin Adame shows below.

At first glance these movements may seem like just new ways to do lunges, but if you look at the movement lessons they teach the body as a whole you will see such a great tool in teaching greater resilience of the knee. If you think about the lessons of movement and our body’s design that I discussed earlier, if you think about the progressions I just laid forth, it should be obvious that this is EXACTLY where our training needs to go. Of course, look at the progressions and foundations, don’t think of these as individual exercises with no connection.




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A post shared by Martín Adame, CSCS, (@martinadame1)