Ah, how many times I've heard this question. Among all of the exercises in a personal trainer’s arsenal, few are more disliked than lunges (though they might be a close second to burpees!).
So why do we make you do them? Why do we go through the time of explaining each component, viewing you from every angle, and putting you through numerous holds and reps?
The reason comes down to what a lunge actually is. It’s basically a long step. Needless to say, stepping is something that most of us tend to do a lot of! So it helps to be good at it. “But who steps like that?” you might say. Well, if we all did, we might arrive late everywhere we went but we’d all be a whole lot healthier. But that’s beside the point.
Believe it or not, stepping with your feet is actually a pretty complex physical process. Certain muscles contract while other muscles lengthen to move the legs forward and backward, and when a certain muscle is too weak or too tight, it can cause injury-prone movement patterns.
Lunges strengthen the muscles that need to be strong to produce quality steps, while stretching the muscles that need to stay mobile, especially in the hips. In addition, good lunge movements help certain muscles work together properly, or "synergistically," specifically the hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteus maximus and medius.
You might say this synergistic quality is the hallmark of good lunging. In this way, having you do lunges and observing you helps us identify areas of your movement pattern that might need special attention.
If all that wasn’t enough, lunging also builds balance and endurance, translating directly into more stability and strength while walking, standing, and climbing stairs. Strength like this, what we sometimes call “functional strength,” helps to preserve quality movement patterns, reduce your risk of pain and injury, and improve your quality of life.
So the next time your trainer says, “okay, now we’re going to do lunges!” simply say to yourself, “All right! I'm ready to build quality steps, obtain muscular synergy, and increase my functional strength!”
And if that doesn’t work, just think: well, at least it's not burpees. :)