- The lunge is an acceptable strengthening exercise, but it is often performed excessively with improper form.
- Proper form requires hip, knee, ankle, alignment, reducing stress at the hip and knee.
How the Lunge can be Dangerous
One of the biggest benefits of dry-land is helping prevent the repetitive demands of swimming. Unfortunately, many breaststroke swimmers [learn how to swim the breaststroke] already have a lot of repetitive stress on their medial knee structures, causing lax ligaments, which can be perpetuated by poor lunge biomechanics. To ensure proper form, safe progressions and regressions, as well as knowledge in biomechanics is a necessity. Simply put, most coaches (not only swim coaches) do not have this education, as they spend their necessary time on learning swimming biomechanics, going to swim meets, season planning, etc. This makes it crucial to find someone who is qualified, at least in exercise prescription and biomechanics. This can be as simple as a parent volunteer who is also a strength coach, who can at least monitor exercises properly. Now, if you are working with a volunteer strength coach or someone without a background in swimming, specific criteria are mandated, as bodybuilding principles are not likely the most beneficial for swimming. Now, some may argue these principles can work, we all must realize although results may correlate during years of maturation, it doesn't mean it caused improvement. If you are a coach with an interest in becoming educated, take a strength and conditioning certification. Note, not a simple class focused on swimmers, these courses have their time and place, but in my opinion, should be used to complement the base knowledge of strength and conditioning.
Common Lunge Flaws
Once again, some glute activation prior to the lunge can help clean this up. Try some simple glute squeezes for the novice athletes, or some side-steps/4-pt hip ext.
One set on the weak hip should be sufficient; after all, the goal here is neural activation, not gluteal exhaustion.
Typically if someone's knee caves in, his foot caves in as well. This is the term for overpronation.
Excessive pronation is attributed to two issues:
- Weak floor-to-ground muscles
- Weak gluteal muscles
In the first scenario, if the swimmer has poor strength of the muscles around the ankle, specifically, the gastrocnemius, soleus and/or peroneals are short/stiff and the tibialis anterior is weak. Some foam rolling for the short/stiff muscles, coupled with an activation set for the tibialis anterior, could go a long way to correcting this flaw.
The second scenario is common in those with weak glutes (just like above) causing the knee to collapse which can transfer all the way to the foot.
Coaching cues include forcing your big toe into the floor to stabilize the arch of the foot. Another cue is to contract the glute, preventing hip collapse as before.
Proper Lunge Form and Progressions
- Alternate leg stance for 30 seconds
- Static Lunge
- Alternating Reverse Lunge
- Alternating Forward Lunge
- Alternating Reverse Weighted Lunge
- Alternating Forward Weighted Lunge
- Walking Reverse Lunge
- Walking Forward Lunge
- Walking Reverse Weighted Lunge
- Walking Forward Weighted Lunge
- Bulgarian Deadlift (rear-foot elevated lunge)
- Weighted Bulgarian Deadlift
- Bodyweight Valslide Reverse Lunge
- Barbell Walking Lunge
- Barbell Zercher Walking Lunge
- Dumbbell Contralateral Load Deficit Reverse Lunge
The lunge can be a highly effective dry-land exercise is dosed and performed properly. As a coach, "doing no harm" is mandatory. Make sure you are not doing harm, instead helping prevent injuries and benefit your swimmers, while they swim and later on in life!
For an individualized dryland, check this out!
- Krabak BJ, Hancock KJ, Drake S. Comparison of dryland training programs between age groups of swimmers. PM R. 2013 Apr;5(4):303-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2012.11.003. Epub 2013 Jan 29.