Throughout my adult life I always struggled with lunges, the leg exercise where you lunge forward and stand on a bent front leg, then step back to a standing position. I’ve always had to work on leg and glute strength, and I’m sure that’s been a factor in my struggles.
My problem was that I’d wobble and struggle with balance stepping forward, and it was a fight to stably land and maintain balance. Stepping back always required a forceful push from the front leg.
I don’t remember the exact moment I realized the key to successful lunges, possibly while reading Jean Francois Harvey’s book Run Better. But once it occurred to me, and I focused on this element while lunging, they immediately became easy to do. And now it’s about focusing on control and building strength in habit.
Much like running itself, the key to a successful lunge is a focus from running itself: Your foot strike.
Comfortable running relies on a stable, comfortable, repeatable foot strike that’s balanced, while the focus of energy is along the mid and fore foot. As a side note, Harvey mentions in the book that a natural step rolls from the outside midfoot (akin to but not quite a supinating foot) towards the big toe before pushing off from the forefoot… which certainly feels like a more comfortable range of motion than just jamming your weight into your midfoot or forefoot.
But I digress a bit. Running feels comfortable when your foot lands in a position where it can quickly, lightly, comfortably push off from that spot into the next step. By placing your focus on the midfoot and forefoot when landing, this best assures a comfortable, repeatable running step.
Likewise, a lunge is basically an elongated step. You basically overstride forward and then come to a rest on your extended leg. So what would happen if you focused on the footstrike of that lunging leg, assuming you had comfortable command of your running footstrike and effective use of your glutes/core?
It turns out you have no trouble stepping forward and shifting your weight. If you step forward and think about your lunging foot landing as naturally as it would while running, except of course that you’ll come to rest on that foot instead of pushing off… it turns out your legs, core and body shifts naturally into place with it.
I tried lunges this way and never had a problem with staying balanced after that.
Important side note: One element I’ve had less trouble with is stepping back to a standing position. This is simply about using your glutes to draw the leg back up into a standing position. If your glutes are doing all the work, this part of a lunge should always be easy.