How to lunge safely

Barre is quickly becoming a favorite workout for all ages due to its low impact and high intensity nature. To keep the workout low impact, most intense thigh work is done stationary with tiny isometric movements.

The lunge is one of the hardest positions to hold isometrically. There are many cues we teach to keep the intense exercise safe. This article in SELF Magazine, "If Lunges Hurt Your Knees, These Exercises for Knee Pain Can Help," backs up why barre leg work is so safe and beneficial. 

The article first explains how knee pain during lunges is very common and can come from two sources: improper form or a muscle imbalance. The imbalance comes from weak glutes and/or hips. The physical therapist quoted in the article said those with knee pain during lunging should keep lunges stationary (like most lunges in barre class) instead of forward and reverse lunges.

“A static lunge is a basic lunge where your feet don’t move. How to do it: Start standing with your feet staggered, one in front of the other. Bend at your knees and hips to lower your body down into a lunge. Pause, then raise back up. Keep your right shin vertical to the ground so that your knee doesn’t push over the right foot.” Static lunges are also great to start with for those with balance issues.

Weak hip and glute muscles can make knees push further past the foot during moving lunges. The motion of moving lunges involves momentum which makes it hard to stop and slow down your movements, which can add to the pressure on your knee.

The SELF article explains the best exercises to reduce knee pain during lunges work your inner thighs, glutes, and hip muscles, including the deep stabilizing muscles of your hip joint. “It’s the imbalances in all of these that can cause knee pain when you lower into a lunge. That might sound like a long list, but you really only need two moves to help strengthen those muscles.” The two moves they suggest are the Modified Bridge to active your glute muscles and the Clamshell to focus on the hips.

Classic Barre classes at Town Barre always contain a wide variety of exercises for the inner thighs, glutes and hip muscles including bridges and clamshell variations. The combination of static thigh work and lots of glute and hip strengthening exercises makes barre a safe workout for everyday practice. This exercise modality not only has a low chance of injury but also prevents injury. Many say barre class mimics physical therapy thanks to these exercises.

Keep these tips in mind next time you set up for a lunge in class!

Cheers, Michelle

Michelle Nigro