I don't show a lot of love to lunges in my lower-body workouts, and it's not because I don't want to feel the burn or see the booty-toning benefits. The unfortunate truth is when I do step back (or forward) for a lunge, I have a habit of falling over. Not every time, but enough to make me wary of looking stupid in a crowded gym or getting hurt.
Balance has never been my strong suit, but in an effort to improve my fitness weaknesses, I reached out to Equinox trainer Ali Cernea-Novac, CFSC, NCSF-CPT, for advice.
Her first tip? Breathe.
"More often than not, I watch people perform movements holding their breath or unaware of their erratic breathing patterns," Cernea-Novac said. "Connecting with one's breath can help create a cadence in our movement and provide stability from the diaphragm."
Ditching sneakers (or even socks) while lunging could also help keep you stable during a lunge, Cernea-Novac noted. "Improving the connection to our environment can help strengthen the musculature in our feet and help us identify dysfunction from the ground up!" she said. One of her favorite recommendations is to "grab the ground with your front foot like a monkey" in order to activate arches and stabilize the ankles.
If a walking lunge, dynamic forward lunge, or reverse lunge still feels unstable, Cernea-Novac suggested beginning with a TRX-assisted reverse lunge. "Placing an Airex pad or mat beneath the back knee can serve as support before owning this movement," she said.
Outside of just lunges, you can also work on improving your overall balance (something I definitely need to prioritize) with these simple moves.
Single-Leg Balance — TRX Assisted If Necessary
- Balance on one leg with your hip flexed at 90 degrees.
- Perform three sets of 30-second intervals per leg.
- For an extra challenge, try closing your eyes.
Knee-High Walking Lunge
- In between steps, fully extend your front knee, driving your back leg forward to a 90-degree flexed hip.
- Perform unloaded for three sets of 20 repetitions to warm up.
- Try loading the pattern with dumbbells or kettlebells to increase strength for three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.
- Begin standing tall, while maintaining one straight, stable leg.
- Laterally lunge out your other leg into a deep hip-hinge.
- Try to make sure both feet land facing forward and parallel, while shooting your hips back.
- If your range of motion seems limited and unstable, try using a TRX to help assist with keeping an upright chest.
- Grab a moderate to heavy kettlebell, and pick it up like a suitcase.
- Square off your hips and shoulders to face forward, and begin slowly walking forward, landing your heel first, toes last.
- Try to imagine you have nothing in both hands, and remain as tall as possible.
- This is an anti-lateral flexion exercise, which can help to train the core musculature and prevent asymmetries. Core stability is intrinsic to balance and should always be trained in any exercise program.
- Perform this exercise for three sets of 30-second walks on both sides.