Be Well: Lunges

DSC_2146_2No one likes lunges. It's a fact of life. Just like burpees, lunges were used as a form of punishment when I was in high school, and I've had a bad association with them ever since. However, as my dedication to exercise and strength training has increased, so has my appreciation for the power of lunges. Although they are no fun, they are a great workout for your legs, and they're easy to pair with arm exercises in order to craft a great full-body workout. See below for a demonstration of two of those arm exercises. But first, here's Lunges 101 for those of you still struggling with form:

As with almost all exercises, start in a normal, comfortable, standing position. When I do lunges, I almost always try to add weight (ups the difficulty [and calorie burn] on everything!). There are two ways you can add weight: first, by holding dumbbells in your hands (what I am demonstrating here, which is an easy segue into a few arm exercises) OR by placing a weighted bar across your back like you would when doing squats. Your workout, your decision. DSC_2104_2

Step forward with one of your legs, keeping your arms at your side. Make sure you step pretty far forward so that bending at the knees isn't uncomfortable a few seconds from now. Try to keep good posture, with your back straight and shoulders back.

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Sink down into the lunge while you continue to keep good posture. Your front knee should be directly over your front ankle (absolutely NO pushing your knee past your ankle - you will really hurt your knees) and your front thigh should be parallel to the ground. You have to dip down pretty low to get your thigh to that level - don't cheat it! See below for a closeup:

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Now step back and repeat on the other leg. If you're using heavy weights, do three sets of 10 reps per leg for a great lower body workout.

Now, let's take it up a notch by adding arms. The first option is a simple bicep curl when you're in between lunges. It goes a little like this:

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As you rise up out of the lunge, step your feet back together, keep your back straight, shoulders back, and abs tight, and do a normal bicep curl:DSC_2140_2

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Continue doing a bicep curl in between each lunge in your set. You legs AND your arms should be burning by the end (don't forget that heavy weight)!

Second arms option: the overhead press.

Start with a single dumbbell cupped in your hands under your chin, with elbows at your side: DSC_2201_2

As you lunge forward, slowly push the dumbbell up and towards the ceiling:

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Make sure to maintain good posture throughout the motion. Do not arch your back. The effort should be concentrated in your arms, shoulders, and abs, NOT your lower back. DSC_2178_2

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End with your front knee directly over your front ankle, just like in a regular lunge, with your arms extended all the way to the ceiling.

DSC_2207_2Repeat, pressing the dumbbell overhead during each lunge in your set.

Yesterday was a big day for me on the fitness front - I cancelled the gym membership that I've had for the past year and a half (the gym I currently go to is in no way convenient to my new office) and I signed up for the introductory program at a local CrossFit gym! I'll be spending Monday, Wednesday, Friday of the next two weeks learning how to do Olympic lifts, jumping on boxes, climbing ropes, and doing all the other crazy things CrossFitters do for exercise. I have no idea if I'll love it or hate it, but I'm excited to shake up my workout routine by trying something new!

Whether your workout routine is feeling new or old, I hope you'll spend some time today lifting heavy weights. Do yourself (and your skeleton) a favor! And have a wonderful day.