Leg Training: About Lunges

Leg Training

the leg training I typically see in the gym involves lots of squat and lunge variations.  Lunges have become so popular that trainers even use them as a warm-up! Is this the best way to train legs?

The reason lunges are so popular is because they WILL make you sore.  Many gym goers believe being sore is the best way to gauge whether their workout was effective or not.  Another reason trainers use lunges is they believe creating balance in the body requires a lot of single limb movements.  I don't subscribe to either of these beliefs and here's why...

1.  Lunges Make you Sore.  This is like giving crack to the drug addict or giving sugar to a sugar addict.  They just keep chasing more whether or not the outcome is optimal or not. 

Outcome is the key in any training decision.  What do you hope to gain from training this way?  Improving performance or making a muscle bigger can happen WITHOUT getting sore or at least not very sore. 

So how do you determine if you've done enough?  One way is to leave a little on the table.  If you are completely exhausted after every workout you are training too much.  The second way is to test your recovery until you figure it out.  Try 1 work set and see how you respond.  (it's ok to do a warm-up set, but remember it's not a work set and is only intended to warm you up before your work set). 

If you are focused exclusively on soreness in the quads, you will be ignoring other muscle groups of the lower legs.  Lunges are quad dominant.  If your program consists or more quad dominant exercises like lunges and squats than hip dominant (deadlifts, etc), you will be on your way to knee pain and eventual injury.

2.  In the early 2000's the "Functional Training" movement was born.  It has since become a popular buzz word in training and launched all kinds of interesting and sometimes absurd equipment sales.  Money was the driving force and functional equipment became the big business. 

Single leg training was first introduced around this time by Ian King as a way to provide benefit in training without external loading.  He wrote about it in his Get Buffed series and The Book of Muscle to name a few. 

Along the way others copied his original work and even misinterpreted the meaning behind it.  As they applied it to the misguided philosophy of "functional training" there was an overreaction to single limb training.  It become the ONLY method of training someone with muscular imbalances.  In the process creating more. 

Conclusion:

When training your legs take into context all of your current training (including running, swimming, hiking, biking etc.) and your past activities like previous strength training programs and sports you played throughout your lifetime.  Listen to your body and learn to understand how these activities affected you positively and negatively.  Create your new program in a manner that helps to balance out the negatives of your past training programs while also creating success towards your future goals and aspirations. 

You can read more about balancing strength training programs in a few of Ian's books.

Get Buffed Series (1, 2, 3 and 4)
The Book of Muscle
How to Write Strength Training Programs
How to Transfer Strength Training

And of course I can also help you get there faster.  Injury Prevention is Performance Enhancement.

Little Leopards Become Big Leopards, And Big Leopards Kill
- Ian King

This is one of my favorites and it refers to injuries and how they happen.  Injuries occur over time except in the case of direct trauma like a car accident.  Typically, someone who performs a lot of quad dominant strength training on their legs without doing equal amounts of hip dominant training will slowly damage their knees.  The damage first shows up as small pain signals or feelings of being tight.  Over time these pain signals get larger and larger.  If continually ignored they eventually cause a ligament tear or meniscus tear or similar.  So don't ignore the little signals! THE BEST REHAB OCCURS BEFORE THE INJURY OCCURS!!

Tom LegathComment