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Why THIS Lunge Delivers So MUCH Powerful Functional Fitness

knees over toes

John Rhodes (John Rhodes Personal Training)


When I started to workout in high school very few of us thought lunges were something we should focus upon. How many young men do you know start lifting and are excited to do lunges? At the same time, I like to think we were pretty progressive for our age as we did do some lunges and saw a little value in them. However, like so many people learning to lunge and not struggle or have discomfort was very challenging for us.

When I was introduced to lunging as many in fitness are, I was only taught how to move forward because it was “the way it was done”. Since that was how we thought lunges were to be performed, we grabbed the heaviest dumbbells we could and started doing our forward and walking lunges. The truth is though, they always ended up hurting my knees, I constantly lost my balance, and I never understood why they were so challenging for me. Most times we just think lunges are unnecessarily difficult and since they are often seen as “less than” to squats and deadlifts, many just end up leaving them out of most workout programs. That as I have learned, is a BIG mistake!

During my early years of training I had no idea about acceleration and deceleration in performance of different movements, nor why would it be even important. The idea of stability and mobility along with strength and power all at once wasn’t something I was really focusing upon because like most, it was all about the weight we were using. The goal was only to focus on training specific muscles and getting the weight up as much as possible because that’s what makes you a “strong athlete.”

When I started learning about DVRT about six years ago, the system made me have a whole new appreciation and level of understanding in truly what being strong meant. The idea of how our bodies are designed to function and how the muscles are connected really made me see lunges in a whole new light. In DVRT we speak a lot about the importance of foot engagement, core stability, and tension through your upper back. If you told me this stuff 18 years ago, I would have no idea what you were talking about and why it even mattered. Fast forward to now, I see without those components moving through this system would be extremely difficult to progress through. Josh and Jessica always talk about “proximal stability = distal mobility.” So thinking in terms of a stable core, I can now move better through my hips and lower body more efficiently.” #science;)

One of my favorite movements that really demonstrates the power that lunges can have to our strength and fitness goals is the MAX Lunge. The MAX (multiple axis) Lunge is a great exercise progression because of the demand it places on the body to work as a unit, we learn to produce and resist force at the same time. Meaning we get strength, stability, and power all at once, pretty cool right? Even though the MAX lunge is a rather popular DVRT exercise, I have learned that it is essential to take a few steps in order to get the full benefit of this great exercise. Yes, it is one of those “sexier exercises”, however, if you don’t know how to perform the basic fundamental patterns of the lunge, you may be setting yourself up for failure, and that’s the last thing we want to do.

injury resilience

Understanding how our body works together is key! During any lunge movement we aren’t just isolating our glutes, quads, or hamstrings; like most people may think. We are utilizing the Lateral Sling System. What the Lateral Sling System (LSS) does is stabilize the body laterally while performing movements such as running, walking, or any stepping movements. So imagine all the muscles that help contribute to stabilizing so you just don’t fall over. Now that we know what is happening during lunging movements, we can now set ourselves up for success in the lunge movements.

Step 1: Up Downs

I love performing DVRT Up Downs because they help teach you how to create that lat and core stability with the Ultimate Sandbag to help give stability from the “top down”, but also teaches us how to decelerate our body and builds hip stability/mobility at the same time. Plus, we can have many progressions of this movement which will smoke you in the process.

Going through Up Downs we are making sure our feet are engaged into the ground and helping provide that first point of stability for the body. Key point here is to make sure there is little to no movement coming from the upper body and pelvis. If you do have movement coming from those two areas we need to address those areas first before progressing. First place you may want to look at is the feet because if your feet aren’t properly engaged into the ground it could start a chain reaction to instability from the foot upwards.

Step 2: Front Loaded Reverse Lunge

For this movement we want to make sure we have those same cues as above during the Up Downs, but instead of coming into a tall kneeling position, we are just going to lower our rear leg as low as possible then come right back to our starting position.

ultimate sandbag lunge

Step 3: Front Loaded MAX Lunge

You are probably thinking why not move directly into our MAX Lunge. The reason I am adding a Front Loaded MAX lunge is because of the holding position of the Ultimate Sandbag. As Greg is showing in the video, the holding position adds more core stability but also teaches us how to get proper thoracic spine rotation while not allowing for lumbar movement during the performance of this movement.


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If you are still having a problem making that jump to MAX lunges, Josh explains a great DVRT solution that may look easy but is a lunge that is tough and provides another opportunity to build important layers to our training.

Step 4: MAX Lunges

Now that we have reached our MAX Lunge we are going to keep in mind all our cueing from previous movements, but now we are going to have our USB by our side as we step back. Make sure to actively pull those handles apart. By pulling the handles apart (yes, using the neutral grip handles during the MAX lunge is incredibly important for proper core stability and control!) we are able to engage our lats which helps with core stability. Tamara shows us why we want to start going to one side first and that is because we want to build up endurance and have proper stability through our movements. When you alternate side to side you are challenging your body to a greater degree and sometimes that can be too much because you have to focus on accelerating the weight across your body then decelerate it on the way down.


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Finally, once we have proficiency in our MAX Lunge we can start alternating side to side. In the video below I explain some of these key details that often get overlooked and keep people from benefiting from this amazing exercise as much as they should! For me, I love DVRT drills like these because it isn’t just getting to the highest levels that make it great, but the journey of learning so much more about our bodies and proper movement/strength that I find so beneficial to anyone looking to achieve their goals!



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