Exercises You Don’t Need To Do Part III

Well hello again. I’m happy that you’ve decided to tune into another episode of Exercises You Don’t Need To Do. Make sure when you read that you do so with a booming broadcaster voice for maximum impact. On today’s episode as promised we’re going to take a look at that awkward exercise, the lunge.

Whether it’s a walking lunge or a standing lunge it’s still a lunge. More often than not it’s performed with a pair of moderate weight dumbbells held at the trainees side, although I’ve seen all kinds of variations where weights are held overhead or you shoulder lateral the dumbbells while stepping into the lunge. I’m going to refrain from commenting on those variations. After all, the purpose of this series is to entertain, and not to unnecessarily put down something someone else may enjoy doing, but I’m wandering off again.

One issue I’ve got with this particular exercise is it’s not really an isolation exercise, or a compound movement that you can use a lot of weight with, or a cardiovascular exercise, or anything that applies to anything you might use as an ancillary exercise to boost performance elsewhere in your training, so what exactly is this exercise for?

The cynic in me believes it was invented by personal trainers as a time filler. I can’t count the times I’ve seen some poor person, usually female, traverse the length of the gym while lunging, followed closely by a trainer counting how many reps the poor trainee has completed.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here, if you have very limited weight training experience then the walking lunge will definitely serve the novice well as a sort of complete body exercise. It requires balance, core stability, a degree of explosiveness and targets the muscles of the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings fairly well. What I’m saying is that for the intermediate and advanced trainee, those that are most likely to be reading this, there are many, much more effective whole body exercises that accomplish all that a lunge does, only much better.

This is all forgetting that the lunge has basically zero practical applications in the world of sport, or life for that matter. How often have you needed to pick up something heavy, and then proceeded to go through the options at your disposal in your head, and decided on the lunge as the most effective method of retrieving those heavy grocery bags from off of the floor? ‘Let’s see, I could bend down and squat them up, or bend forward and deadlift them up. No wait! I’ll lunge them up. Yes, a lunge would be best suited here and it’s just so natural, it’s like breathing!’ If you’re a chronic lunger then maybe this has happened to you, but I have my doubts the rest of us would have ever selected the lunge as an option in this scenario.

If you’re a curler then I guess the lunge is sort of applicable as a training exercise. Then again, from what I can see they lunge and then let go of the rock. They don’t lunge and pick up the rock, so once you’re flexible enough to get into that position, your strength in that position isn’t even an issue.

Let me clarify a couple of other exercises here that are not lunges, although they look similar. A split squat is not a lunge. It’s a one legged squat. There’s a big difference. Other than getting into and out of the split squat position, there is no lunging. You set up for the exercise, remain in that position, then get out of it when the desired number of reps are completed. This exercise is great as a single leg exercise, and it can be completed to failure. I guess you could lunge to failure, but I’ve never seen it happen. Too many moving parts.

Step ups are also not lunges. They are used every time you are carrying something heavy up a flight of stairs, so there’s clearly a good reason to being good at step ups. There’s also a good degree of explosive power and the concurrent contraction of the quads and glutes occurring during a heavy step up, and similar to the split squat, you can do one leg at a time until failure. You can’t lunge all right side, then all left side if you’re walking. Standing lunges yes, but with split squats or step ups as options, why ever would one do a standing lunge?

They say that there’s truth in every joke you make and while these posts are meant somewhat to be in jest, there is definitely a curiosity on my part especially when it comes to lunges. Of course if you really enjoy doing them or feel you’re getting great results from them then keep doing them. It’s from my perspective that we as humans have a somewhat limited amount of energy to really train hard and a corresponding amount of recouperative reserves to recover from such training, and the best course to follow is to choose only those exercises which are the most effective. Lunges are more a moderately effective exercise and at most should be used as a way of adding a little variety to a monotonous routine or possibly during a de training phase. Lunges are still a lot more effective for progressing your physique and athleticism than say…most abdominal exercises. Until next time then,

Happy Lifting

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2 comments for “Exercises You Don’t Need To Do Part III

  1. Sean
    November 3, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Hi – I see this article is a few years old now, but I just found your site. I have greatly enjoyed all of the info I’ve read, especially the comparison of exercises. Great stuff!

    I thought I’d contribute by posting n defense of lunges, walking lunges in particular. They are GREAT for strengthening the front hip stabilizers. I have tried most other hip exercises and nothing compares in terms of realizing benefits. I have unstable hips from a previous life of over-training as a middle distance runner with slightly different leg lengths. I went through a period where I would literally have to pop my hips back in place frequently, and I sought to strengthen the supporting muscles so I wouldn’t have to do this. After making walking lunges a regular part of my workouts I never had to pop my hips back into place after having to do so for years, and during that time trying literally every other hip iso.

    I 100% agree they aren’t nearly as effective overall mass builder as split squats, SLD’s or anything else. But they make me feel great, and that is why I always end leg day with them.

    • Matt Taylor
      November 3, 2015 at 6:52 pm

      I was just having fun with those posts. The truth is you could arguably develop better quads/hamstrings by doing only lunge variations. If the intensity, variety and rep range are equal, chances are so will the results.

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