Sensational title! You’re probably thinking I’m a nut case (you’re not far off), but I’m dead serious, and you will probably agree with me if you take the time to read through this. Let me also tell you straight up that I’m not the type of guy that easily goes “You should not be doing this, you should not be doing that”.
If you’re experiencing knee pain when lunging you will thank me at the end of this article.
When referring to lunging it’s the specific version of the Weighted Front Lunges in Place, but I’m off the opinion that even bodyweight front lunges in place are not the best for strength. Either way, after my explanation you will probably want to stick to reverse lunges anyway.
Let me paint a picture for you; 50kg barbell or two 24kg kettlebells in racking position, you need to remain on the spot while doing 12 alternating front lunges, meaning you’re lunging forward. You start with your right leg and lunge forward, keeping all the weight on the heel, your back knee touches the ground, now it’s time to get back to standing position. You want to do this without putting weight on your back leg, as this leg is not in a position to take weight, simply put, if you try to get up with the back leg you’ll be putting weight on it while in a compromised position!
If you need evidence of this, move into a lunge position as demonstrated in the photo below, put your weight on the back leg in that position or even coming a quarter of the way out of that position. How does that feel on the knee? I call what is happening in that position ‘pulling apart’, the angle with weight added wants to pull your femur of tibia and fibia. The photo further down below will clearly show you the angle of force and in which angle the knee is receiving that force.
Ok, so how do you get safely back up to standing position with the weight pounding down on you? You’d have to be able to generate so much explosive force with the front leg that you’re able to pop up into the air and pull your foot inline with the other foot. THIS IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN ON EVERY REP!
Ask yourself: when doing in place forward lunges, does the full weight, or part of the weight—depending on how explosive you can get—pound down on my back knee during the return to standing? Yes/No? If you answer no, stop, no need to read further.
If I lost you at this stage, I don’t blame you, but do this, stand up, lunge forward, stay there, look at the foot of your back leg, it’s all the way behind you, you will need to bring your front foot back inline with that back foot. Using bodyweight only it’s possible to drive the heel into the ground explosively enough to keep ‘most’ of the weight off the back leg. Add weight and you simply won’t be able to do this.
The solution to all this is quite simple actually, that’s right, it’s lunging backwards in place rather than forward. Why?
The reverse lunge helps your knee stay safe because your weight plus the added weight can always be kept on your front leg, i.e. always supported from a safe position, there is not one stage during the movement where you enter a stage of what I call ‘in-between’ which is you being almost fully upright and needing to be able to pull that front leg under.
If you’re still lost, no worries just check it this new article I wrote paired with a video, link at the bottom of this article.
If I did get the message across then I guarantee that from now on you want to only be doing reverse lunges if and when you’re doing them with added weight and in place. If you’re a coach or trainer, you want to only be programming reverse lunges in your WOD’s. Also make it clear in your programming, help your clients out, write “Reverse Racked Lunges”. Some might go even further (I would) and write “in place”. If you want to be a top trainer, you also take some extra time and explain why you’re asking your clients to do it this way.
But I love my front lunges you say! That’s great, you can still keep doing them as long as you’re doing walking lunges, because you’re moving forward there is never this stage of ‘in-between’ which puts pressure on the knee of your back leg. That is, as long as you always keep your weight on the front leg, and of course through the heel!
- when doing weighted lunges in place, do reverse ones
- if you have enough space to do walking lunges, it’s ok to go forward
- when doing bodyweight lunges, reverse lunges is still the best option, unless training for explosiveness
If this article helped you any, please give me a shout out, like and share to help others achieve pain free knees.