It is the perfect debate for social media, “what is the best exercise for the lower body?” Of course, these conversations are rarely based on any research or data, but a heck of a lot of “I like…” There is nothing wrong with liking certain exercises, however, not being aware that our favorite for an exercise can have us miss the value of other movements can be problematic. That is why I like going back to movement patterns and to me, when we break down how much is achieved, it is hard not to say lunges are one of the most important movement patterns we can train. This is a big reason that our DVRT system has so much emphasis on the power of Ultimate Sandbag lunges.
Let’s be honest for a moment, why do most people dislike lunges? Right now I can hear people saying everything from, “you can’t get really strong from lunges because the weight is so much lighter than with squatting”, to “lunges hurt my knees so I like to do other exercises.” In both cases I think we miss the bigger pictures of what good Ultimate Sandbag lunges and other progressions in our DVRT system can provide. Delving a bit deeper we will get a lot more value for these movements.
You Aren’t Going To Build Strength
Typically lunges, not just Ultimate Sandbag lunges, get tossed in as an “accessory” exercise compared to movements like squats. This is often just based on the weight used in the exercise, the bigger weight one can use in a squat seems like it would be more impactful in strength development. However, we know that our limitations in how much weight we can use in lunges is based off our more unstable position of being in an asymmetrical position. Research shows over and over again that the weight can be misleading in how much we are training the body.
This research paper (you can read HERE) in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation found, “quadriceps and hamstring activities were significantly higher in lunge than in squat.”
It becomes more amazing that we still have these views in light of the fact that some of the research isn’t new. The 2009 study “IMPROVED MUSCLE ACTIVATION IN PERFORMING A BODY WEIGHT LUNGE COMPARED TO THE TRADITIONAL BACK SQUAT” had some fascinating stats below, but ultimately found, ” The lunge activated most of the lower muscles greater than the squat. Sport performance is often initiated from a ready stance, similar to that of the squat however, upon movement the athlete typically steps into a lunged position. Therefore, with the similarities in sport motion to that of the lunge, and equal if not greater activation of the lower extremity, the lunge is an ideal activity to train athletes.”
Even if you aren’t used to reading research, you can see the numbers for the lunge are either better or in line with every squat measurement other than rectus femoris.
A little easier way of seeing these stats and worth pointing out, it was measuring WEIGHTED squats vs. BODYWEIGHT lunges
There are A LOT of reasons that this shouldn’t surprise us. For one, we are in a less stable position so we not only have to produce a lot of force to move in the lunge, but we also need to resist a lot of force. When you add direction into the equation you could imagine how much the body is working even though the loads don’t seem comparable. Sometimes the stresses we can’t see (like forces from different planes of motion) can be WAY more challenging to the body than being in a stable environment and lifting more weight.
This doesn’t mean squats are bad (we obviously recommend a lot of different squats in DVRT), but the fact is we shouldn’t probably put them on a pedestal and should place more focus on lunges. The great thing with our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag lunges is we have many levels to progress towards and let’s address the REAL issue people have with lunges which is that they are much more challenging to perform well for most people.
But Lunges Hurt My Knees!
I would never say people are faking when it comes to feeling pain in a movement, however, typically WHY people have these experiences has little to do with the exercise itself. So, let’s go over a few of the most common reasons people struggle with lunges for all sorts of reasons.
-They begin with the wrong level of the movement: In DVRT we discuss there are several different keys that people fail to realize with lunges. They are, the direction of the lunge and the load position during the lunge. Sounds simple, but people fail to recognize this all the time and that is why most start with forward lunges instead of backward lunges. Going forwards requires more strength and stability because you have to decelerate more of your body mass to do the movement. That is why our Ultimate Sandbag lunges start with Up Downs to teach people proper foundations of strength, stability, and mobility.
Annmarie does some great cuing on what is a simple but still very intentional form of our Ultimate Sandbag lunges.
Cory Cripe not only shows how we perform foundations of Ultimate Sandbag lunges with Up Downs, but how we bring in the other aspect which is load position.
Load position is a key DVRT concept and the Ultimate Sandbag gives us the most options out of any tool. We start by using the weight in either a Press Out or Front Loaded position to gain feedback from the Ultimate Sandbag for core stability that allows for increased hip and lower body stability and strength. Then we move to positions like Front Loaded, Shoulder, or Overhead that starts to challenge the our Ultimate Sandbag lunges at higher levels in not just producing but resisting a lot of force. This serves as a foundation for more powerful Ultimate Sandbag lunges.
These foundations are important because the knee issues tend to be a byproduct of not learning how to control the core how to use our feet properly, and have that balance of mobility and stability not only in the hips, but ankles as well. Ultimate Sandbag lunges like Up Downs go a long ways in helping these common problems.
More Advanced Lunges
We may have to do another blog about all the progressions we use in DVRT because there are A LOT in order to get to more advanced Ultimate Sandbag lunges and to what you see us do at the highest level of our training. Sometimes see the really advanced movements and assume we start there and when they can’t do them they get really frustrated, but sadly they didn’t realize how many layers they were built upon.
For example, walking lunges are a pretty big progression in directional movement of our lunges, but we tend to think they are basic in fitness. However, understanding that if we know that they are more advanced can help us build on that leap to not just more advanced, but sophisticated forms of strength.
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Pablo Herrera shows how we can combine the advancement of walking lunges with our various holding positions.
The HIGHEST forms of lunges come when we add power to them. In this case, we show how tools like Ultimate Sandbags and kettlebells can not only give us many options in such movements, but important layers of progressions. These are the highest forms of not just Ultimate Sandbag lunges, but lunges period because we have to create huge forces, but also decelerate them in less stable positions. So the strength we build is also done so with equal training of stability at the same time. However, there are some keys you need to know as Cory Cripe explains below. Keep scrolling though to see some great kettlebell and Ultimate Sandbag lunges that will help you appreciate why these are such powerful drills from coaches Martin Adame and John Rhodes.
It isn’t just about being able to do more “stuff”, but building better forms of training that allow you have to achieve greater results!
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