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The Science of Safe Lunges: Tips for Preventing Knee Injuries

  • Dr. Steve Young
  • 3 Apr, 2023

Lunges are a great exercise for building strength in the lower body, but they must be done correctly to prevent knee pain and injury. In this article, I’ll teach you how to properly perform lunges to avoid harming your knee joint.

One of the most important things to remember when performing lunges is to lean forward to load the hip rather than staying upright. When you stay upright, the center of mass of the body is loaded unnaturally. When you force yourself to stand up straight, your knee joint slides forward. This causes friction, which can speed up arthritis. Leaning forward to load the hip balances the hamstrings and quads, reducing the stress on the knee joint and helping to prevent ACL injuries.

Here are the steps to properly perform a lunge:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips or at your sides.
  • Take a step forward with your right foot, placing it about 2-3 feet in front of your left foot.
  • As you step forward, lean forward from your hips, keeping your core engaged.
  • Bend your right knee, keeping it in line with your ankle. Your left knee should be lowered towards the ground, but not touching it.
  • Push through your right foot to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat with your left leg.

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when performing lunges:

  • Keep your core engaged throughout the exercise.
  • Make sure your front knee does not extend past your toes when you lunge.
  • Avoid pushing off with your back foot when returning to the starting position.
  • If you feel pain or discomfort in your knees, stop the exercise and consult with a healthcare professional.

By following these steps and tips, you can safely perform lunges and build strength in your lower body without harming your knees. You might need to gently tell your trainer that leaning forward is natural, but standing straight up is not, and it can hurt you. Remember, proper form is key to preventing injury and protecting your joint health.

References:

  • Moreside JM, McGill SM. Hip joint range of motion improvements using three different interventions. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Jul;27(7):1762-9. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182736d6d. PMID: 22990555.
  • Yeung SS, Suen AM, Yeung EW. A prospective cohort study of hamstring injuries in competitive sprinters: preseason muscle imbalance as a possible risk factor. Br J Sports Med. 2009 May;43(5):589-94. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2008.050401. Epub 2009 Feb 10. PMID: 19208672.
  • Escamilla RF, Lewis C, Bell D, Bramblet G, Daffron J, Lambert S, Pecson A, Imamura R, Paulos L, Andrews JR. Core muscle activation during Swiss ball and traditional abdominal exercises. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010 Apr;40(4):265-76. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2010.3094. PMID: 20373288.

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