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Why lunges are one of the best strength moves a runner can do

Lunges are a key exercise for runners because they are a unilateral movement – ie. one leg is dominant and so replicates the running gait.

When we run, we use just one limb at a time to continuously propel ourselves forward, which requires strength, balance, stability and coordination. So, the more unilateral exercises we can include in our strength workouts, the stronger and more stable we will be when we run.

'With lunges, the front leg does most of the work and the back leg is used mainly for balance and control,' explains Graeme Woodward, a UK Athletics Level 3 performance coach, UKSCA accredited S&C coach and We Run coach for West Yorkshire. 'The muscle action involved in lunges is also eccentric in nature, which is like running downhill, and the front leg can be loaded to a similar intensity as when doing squats but with lower loads. By lunging to depth, the runner can also develop strength across an increased range of motion, which helps with flexibility and injury risk reduction.'

How to do lunges correctly

Forward lunge

  1. Stand facing forward, hands on hips.

  2. Lunge forward with your left leg and lower your body by flexing the right knee and hip until your right knee almost touches the floor. Keep your torso upright throughout.

  3. Your lead knee should point in the same direction as your foot and shouldn’t move further forward than your toes.

  4. Return to the start position. Repeat with the other leg.

Sets/reps: Two sets of 10-15 lunges.

Reverse lunge

  1. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart.

  2. Step back with your right foot and lower into a lunge – your right knee should almost touch the ground and your left thigh should be parallel to the ground.

  3. Keep your back straight and your left knee over your toes.

  4. Return to start position and repeat on the other leg.

Sets/reps: Two sets of 10-15 lunges.

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