Anatomy Basics: Your Latissimus Dorsi

Let’s talk about the latissimus dorsi. Commonly known as the “lats”, this pair of muscles have a huge surface area, and are arguably one of the most influential in the body. Check out traditional anatomy websites and they’ll tell you that the lats are active in:

  • Shoulder extension and adduction (moving the arm behind the torso, and toward the midline of the torso, respectively)
  • Internal aka medial rotation of the upper arm (turning the upper arm inward towards the torso)
  • Horizontal abduction of the arm (bringing the arm straight out to the side of the body)
Movements of the shoulder joints

Movements of the shoulder joint

…via their attachment points on the long bone of the upper arm, called the humerus. However, the lat doesn’t just affect the humerus; it’s got to start somewhere. This particular muscle actually starts a lot of “somewheres”, with muscle fibers attaching to almost half the vertebrae in the spine, the sacrum and pelvis via the broad sheet of connective tissue in the lower back called thoracolumbar fascia, and the last three to four ribs. It also has a small number of fibers that attach to the lowest point of the shoulder blade, which affect the movements around that bone as well.

All of these attachment points give a great deal of versatility to this muscle. It is not only active in the above-mentioned movements of the shoulder and arm, but provides a significant amount of stability for our torso and core region, helping transfer force between our limbs and torso to complete our movements. This muscle also affects the movement of the scapula over the rib cage. Though in more of a supporting role than a primary mover, strong lats can help counteract the pull of the often-tight muscles on the front of the neck, shoulder, and chest, leading to better posture and decreased neck and shoulder tension and pain. The muscle fibers attached to the ribs even have an impact on breathing – something I think we can all agree is pretty darn important.

While keeping it basic, that’s the low-down on the lats!

Latissimus DorsiLocation: Covering much of the lower and mid-back – one one end, attaching to the lower half of the spine, the sacrum, and the pelvis via the thoracolumbar fascia, narrowing to attach to the front of the humerus.

What it does: Extends and adducts the shoulder, internally rotates and horizontally abducts the arm, and is an important core and torso stabilizer.

If you want to study up on the Latin names, scientific terms, and all the other nerdy stuff, I suggest taking a look at my favorite anatomy website here.

What that means for you: Strong, well developed lats keep your shoulder healthy – including prevention of rotator cuff tears! – as well as providing core support and stability, and assisting in correct breathing mechanics.

A good exercise for your lats: Any overhead pulling exercise will work, including the creatively-named lat pulldown. Chin ups (palms facing out) and the many variations are one of the best options for this.

 

Choose The Right Personal Trainer

Personal training is a significant investment, and as with any other, you want a good return for your efforts. The personal trainer you choose can make this a high- or low- risk venture, so you want to invest wisely. But a quick Google of “Your-city-here personal trainer” turns up dozens of independent trainers and studios, which doesn’t even begin to count all the trainers at the big gyms – easily doubling that number and potentially overwhelming you with choices. Find the right trainer for you by keeping these points in mind:

Background/Education

Don’t assume that certified equals qualified. Some personal training certification courses can last as little as three days – barely enough time to review the names of some of the largest muscles, let alone the more complex aspects of our bodies and their response to exercise. A Bachelor degree in Exercise Science or Physiology, Kinesiology (the study of human movement), or similar provides a solid background and is a necessity, as far as I’m concerned. Would you go to a doctor that hadn’t been to medical school? We’re still talking about changing how your body works – it’s more similar than you might think.

What else have they got? The science of exercise and movement is a relatively young one, and the “best practices” in assessment and training are frequently revised and improved. The best trainers work to stay current in these advances through continuing education courses and certifications. Finding these “extras” on their bio shows they’re serious about providing the best quality coaching they can. (I’ve included a list of additional certifications at the end of this article – these are the ones I’m always looking for).

Experience

Working with clients is the single best “education” a trainer can get, and an experienced trainer may be able to help you reach your goals safely and in a shorter period of time – if  they are staying current with industry advances (see above). Experienced does not always mean best though – I’ve seen experienced trainers putting their clients through outdated routines, and new trainers using best-practice methods. The best combination of education and experience means you’ll get the right exercises – basic when basic is needed, and progressively more difficult as you get better.

Communication

When you talk, they should listen. Personal training is all about you, and everything that you do together should come back around to your goals. The better your trainer understands your motivations, likes and dislikes, and needs and goals, the better your results.

When they talk, you understand it. When you ask why you’re doing a certain exercise (and I encourage you to!) they should be able to explain clearly what it does and how that relates to your and your needs and goals, without the latin or anatomical terms. Their ability to be clear and concise will be even more important when you get into training sessions: When you are tired and working hard, mental processing can take a little longer. Clear instructions will be helpful here!

Professional

It pains me to have to say this: Your trainer should not be watching TV during your session. Or talking to other clients, or checking their text messages, or doing pretty anything else that takes their attention off of you. It’s scary how much of this you can see in any gym or studio. Exercise technique is king when it comes to getting results, and they can’t help you if they can’t see you.

Professional also means delivering the right product for the right job – in this case, the right workout for you. Trainers can get bored, and sometimes add to workouts exercises that range from a little too advanced to the circus trick to end all tricks. Every exercise you do should be challenging, but something you can complete successfully, and every trainer should be able to provide that.

Do you “click”?

This can be the question to end all questions. Every trainer should be passionate and excited to help you, or at least be able to motivate you well, but finding someone you actually like can be the make or break point in your investment. To use another analogy here, can you imagine going on two dates a week with someone you don’t like? That probably wouldn’t last long. They may have the most advanced education, have years of experience specializing in your specific goal, and hand you the most in-depth workout program in the world – but if you don’t like them, none of that will do any good.

Making the investment in personal training means you’re ready for great results. Be a good investor: don’t throw your time, money, and hard work at the first thing you find. Do your homework – and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Exercise of the Week: The Incline Pushup

There are some exercises that seem to conjure up images of drill sargents in a split second.

The push up seems to be one of them.

It’s a great exercise though, if you can get past the visions of “drop and give me 20!”. We should all be able to control our own body weight, for a variety of reasons – both related to strength and the ability to get through daily life with a minimum risk of injury and maximum efficiency. Fortunately, it can be easily modified to make it achievable for any fitness level. One of my favorite variations is an incline pushup, which itself can be made easier or more challenging by the level of incline you use – great for building strength if you can’t do a standard pushup, and awesome as a backup if you have to (or want to) grind out high reps and still keep good technique!

Exercise type: Strength building

What it does: Builds strength in an upper body pushing pattern, and builds core stability

How to:

Incline Push Up

Incline Push Up – Start and Finish

– Stand with feet hip width, on the balls of the feet
– Place hands on surface edge, a little more than shoulder width apart
– Keep a neutral spine with glutes, pelvic floor, and tummy braced
– Bend elbows to lower body towards wall, then push back to starting position
– At the lowest point, surface edge should hit at mid-chest or nipple line

You should feel: Hard work through your arms and chest! But not too hard 🙂

 

Disclaimer: This does not constitute medical advice, and not all exercises may be suitable for all people. Please consult your health care professional if you are unsure whether these exercises are right for you. If these exercises increase pain or any other symptoms, please stop immediately and consult your health care professional. For best results, get your doctor, physical therapist, and personal trainer/exercise coach talking for a united approach – as well as your chiropractor and massage therapist if you see these. To find out who I refer to in the Alexandria area or the rest of Northern Virginia, please get in touch.

Food Friday: Broccoli and Cheddar Egg Muffins

I have a little bit of a love-hate relationship with cooking. I really enjoy the process and the outcomes, and I’m when I’m wasting my time on Google, it’s usually food related. But when I have a thousand other things to do, a lot of prep work and this whole business of having to eat several times per day turns into a bummer.

So I love recipes that are quick and easy, with little prep work and delicious results. These breakfast bites hit the mark quite well. With only four ingredients in this version, I went from cutting board to chowing down in about 40 minutes, most of which was hands off cooking and cooling time. And since I can make a dozen at a time, I now have a grab-and-go option that gives me my Precision Nutrition friendly protein-and-veggies-for-breakfast requirement. And T-minus zero to breakfast for the next few days!

Broccoli and Cheddar Egg Muffins

Broccoli and Cheddar Egg Muffins

2-1/2 cups of fresh raw broccoli florets (I cut the very tops off and just used them)
12 eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Generously spray a muffin pan with spray oil, and run your finger around the sides and bottom to make sure it’s entirely coated. If you need to, let some of the excess oil drip out over the sink (I know I did). Fill each cup about half full with the broccoli florets. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and then mix in the cottage cheese. Pour over the broccoli until each cup is almost full, and top some of the grated cheddar cheese. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes. If your pan was well oiled, they should come right out, but if you need a little extra help, run a knife around the edge and use a spoon to pop it out. Keep in the refrigerator in a sealed container, and reheat in the microwave for a few seconds, or just eat cold if that’s your thing.

My other favorite thing about these muffins is that they are incredibly versatile.

  • These are vegetarian, but don’t have to be – cook and chop up some turkey bacon to mix in with the veggies. Or keep them veggie with a sausage substitute – my dad and brother love the Morningstar sausage patties.
  • Don’t like broccoli? No problem. Pick another vegetable, or two, or five. Or just clean out your fridge. You can use fresh or frozen (though cooking time may need to be adjusted).
  • You can even make these dairy free for the lactose-intolerant among us. Just cut out the cottage cheese in the mix and the grated cheese on top. There’s no need to substitute anything in for the cottage cheese – the muffins will just be a little bit smaller. A little sprinkle of paprika on the top is a nice finisher as well, if you opt-out of the grated cheese.

Random notes: 

  • I was tempted to call these “pop-ups” instead of muffins – they really puff up in the over, but will deflate within a minute or so of being taken out.
  • If you’re sticking with Precision Nutrition serving sizes, a rough estimate is two per meal for ladies, and three per meal for the gentlemen.

Strength Training For Cardiovascular Benefits

One of my favorite ways to give bang for buck in my workouts for my clients (and for myself), is circuit style strength training. I love it because it helps to maximize efficiency, providing both the strength building and cardiovascular effect that most people need to maintain good fitness and meet the demands of day to day life. There are, of course, people who will argue that you can’t build as much strength during circuit work as you would working with straight, strength focused sets, or that the increased heartbeat you’ll get during this workout isn’t as good as a run or cycle session, and they are right, to a degree. Both strength and cardiovascular fitness encompass a spectrum of abilities – think an Olympic 100 meter sprint compared to a marathon – and to achieve highly specific or advanced goals, you do need to have a focused training plan. But for the rest of us mere mortals who have less-lofty goals, there’s really no reason we can’t knock out a strength and cardio fitness gains with the same workout.

A good strength-and-cardio combination – also known as metabolic strength and often as metabolic conditioning or metcon in the Crossfit world – fits together like a puzzle, with all the right pieces in all the right places. Make sure to consider the following points, if you decide to design your own.

1A. Choose the right weight. The traditional weight training continuum tells us that you build absolute strength with very few reps at very high weight, build muscle mass with less weight but more reps, and build endurance with much lower weight at much higher reps.

For a metabolic strength workout, you want to be in the middle of the pack. I aim to choose a weight that I can lift 6-8 times consistently (that is, that won’t burn me out in one set). For a lot of exercises, body weight is a totally acceptable weight choice here. Push ups, inverted rows, all of the lunge variations – great body weight choices.  Bear in mind that (ideally) you’ll be doing several rounds, so don’t get cocky!

1B. Choose the right reps. This goes hand in hand with the point above. Picking “middle of the pack” reps is not hard and fast rule, but you if you pick too few reps, or two many, even with the right weight you’ll either need more rest than desired, or you won’t really get your heart rate up enough.

Goal Reps for Strength Training Goals

The first round or two or a metabolic strength circuit gives you the opportunity to make those changes – if you’re aiming for 8 reps and hit that mark easily, you may want to consider increasing the weight that you’re using, or changing to a more challenging version of the exercise. This also goes in reverse: too hard? Make it easier.

3. Choose the right exercises. This becomes especially important if you are doing a more advanced type of circuit like a dumbbell or barbell complex, where you are required to complete all the exercises with the same weight, without putting the weight down between exercises. This is an advanced technique, and while highly effective, so is a regular metabolic strength circuit. Save the tough stuff for when the regular stuff gets too easy!

On that point, also try to choose exercises you have mastered when you’re designing a strength circuit. The goal is to keep moving at a fairly quick, steady pace, to help keep the heart rate up. To keep your injury risk down and your success rate high, don’t try to learn something new while you’re also trying to do it quickly (though there are some exceptions to this rule). Injury risk is also decreased by using a mix of upper body, lower body, and core exercises. This way one muscle group can work while the others are “resting” (at least, not working as hard).

4. Perform as a circuit. This is where it all comes together! Hopefully you’ve chosen exercises you’re comfortable with, and you know the number of reps and weight that you want to use. Alternate body parts and minimize the rest time between each exercise – you may be able to get through the first round or two without stopping. Depending on the number of exercises and reps you want to include, try to get through between two and five rounds of the circuit: Do all your exercises, resting as little as possible between each. When you’re done with the last exercise, then you get a break before you start your next round. If you wrote it down, it might look like this (I’ve added some links to give you a few ideas):

 

Strength Training Circuit

Warm up well first! Lots of options – check out our Exercise of the Week category for ideas.

Pushups x 5-8

Split Squat or Reverse Lunge x 8 each side

Band Bent Over Row x 12

Glute Bridge x 8 (10 second holds)

Complete all reps, rest, and repeat for two to five rounds.

 

Enjoy!

 

Disclaimer: This does not constitute medical advice, and not all exercises may be suitable for all people. Please consult your health care professional if you are unsure whether these exercises are right for you. If these exercises increase pain or any other symptoms, please stop immediately and consult your health care professional. For best results, get your doctor, physical therapist, and personal trainer/exercise coach talking for a united approach – as well as your chiropractor and massage therapist if you see these. To find out who I refer to in the Alexandria area or the rest of Northern Virginia, please get in touch.

Exercise of the Week: Band Shoulder Dislocates

First, a little disclaimer – you will not actually dislocate your shoulder with this!

I’ve had about a million clients tell me I should change the name of this exercise, but I love it – people always remember which one it is, and that’s half the battle. I’ve also seen them called shoulder pull-throughs, but that doesn’t make quite as much sense to me, so dislocates are here to stay.

Most of my clients also eyeball me like I’m crazy the first time I show them how to do this. Yep, I really do want you to make a huge circle with your arms and end up with a band touching the back side of your body – all without bending your elbows. You CAN do it! It’s not as bad as it looks 🙂 though you are guaranteed a heck of a stretch.

As you move through the range of motion that this exercise requires, you will stretch just about everything through the upper chest and front of the arms. I briefly mentioned Thomas Myers’ Anatomy Trains last week, and here again he gives an excellent illustration of where you should expect to feel the pull of the stretch as you move through it. (For those interested in the fascial train theories, you’ll be stretching you superficial and deep front arm lines as you go along).

Superficial and Deep Front Arm Lines

Superficial (L) and Deep (R) Front Arm Lines from Thomas Myers’ Anatomy Trains

Like all the other exercises anywhere ever, this can be modified to make it challenging but achievable, just like it should be. Also, I promise your shoulders will stay in their sockets! 🙂 Happy stretching!

Exercise type: Dynamic mobility

What it does: Increases tissue length along the front of the arms and chest, and promotes dynamic mobility through the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint

How to:

Shoulder Dislocates– Standing or kneeling on both knees, and hands outside shoulder width, hold a band in front of the body with a little bit of tension on it
Keep your arms straight and reach up overhead (pretend your elbows don’t exist – you can’t bend what you don’t have)
– Still keeping your arms straight, reach around the back of the body – this is where you’ll really start to feel the stretch
– Stop when you can feel the band at the back of the body
– Return the same way – it’s hard to keep the arms straight coming back, so think about stretching the arms out long
– If you can’t complete this without bending the arms, move your hands wider on the band
– If this is too easy, bring your hand closer together on the band
– Keep a neutral head and neck as you move through the stretch by thinking about being “long” at the back of the neck (Don’t poke your chin out)

You should feel: The biggest stretch ever through the front of the chest and arms (but not too big!)

 

Disclaimer: This does not constitute medical advice, and not all exercises may be suitable for all people. Please consult your health care professional if you are unsure whether these exercises are right for you. If these exercises increase pain or any other symptoms, please stop immediately and consult your health care professional. For best results, get your doctor, physical therapist, and personal trainer/exercise coach talking for a united approach – as well as your chiropractor and massage therapist if you see these. To find out who I refer to in the Alexandria area or the rest of Northern Virginia, please get in touch.

Food Friday: Greek Beef Skillet

I have to admit that Friday dinner is one of my biggest challenges, week in and week out. Between working long days, plenty of gym time, and a depleted stock of groceries, I often get home on Friday evening not very excited about cooking. That’s why I LOVE recipes like this one from registered dietitian and nutrition expert Georgie Fear, a quick and easy Greek Beef Skillet with a short list of ingredients (forgiving and easily interchangeable) and quick prep time. This totally saved me from a regrettable pizza binge last week!

I make a few tweaks to this based on whatever I have on hand – often using fresh bell peppers for the roasted (though those would be good as well) and always stirring through fresh copped tomatoes right at the end, rather than the canned (based on personal preference – nothing else). I’ll usually pair this with a Greek-ish salad as well – spinach, more bell peppers, cucumbers, and tomato in big chucks, kalamata olives. If I’m feeling a little more energetic, I’ll whip up some tzatziki for a salad dressing as well. And if you wanted to turn this into a great post-workout dinner, you can make it into a Greek taco of sorts: whole wheat pita bread wrapping the beef, topped with the salad – not too shabby for a half hour’s work.

Check out the recipe for Georgie’s Greek Beef Skillet here.

Ask Georgie's Greek Beef Skillet

Ask Georgie’s Greek Beef Skillet

Anatomy Basics: Your Gluteus Minimus

It’s finally time for the last little piece of the pie.

I’m actually talking about the little pie-piece-shaped muscle that is your gluteus minimus. Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked about the other two muscles in the gluteal complex – the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius. Now it’s time to shift our attention to the gluteus minimus.

As the name suggests, your glute min (the shortened form of the name, just the same as the other two) is the smallest of your three gluteal muscles. It’s also the odd one out, in a few ways. It’s a very deep muscle that actually has an attachment point on the front of the femur (the long bone in the thigh). The other gluteal muscles attach more towards the back side of the femur, and these attachment points can make all the difference. Instead of working in conjunction with the glute max and glute med, the glute min aids in performing the opposite movements of the hip, though because it’s a much smaller muscle, it doesn’t exert nearly as much force. The one function it has in common (primarily with the glute med) is it’s role as a pelvic stabilizer. Weakness or poor activation can lead to pelvic instability, often seen as a limp or a dropping of one hip when you stand on the other leg (specifically known as a Trendelenburg gait). This may or may not be accompanied by hip and/or knee pain. As with most things, more severe cases are more likely to be painful.

Gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus

From left to right: Gluteus maximus, Gluteus medius, Gluteus minimus

Location: Deep on the side and back of the hip, covered by the glute med and attaching on a bony prominence at the front of the femur (the long bone in the thigh).

What it does: Flexes, internally (medially) rotates, and abducts the hip, and is an important pelvic stabilizer.

If you want to study up on the Latin names, scientific terms, and all the other nerdy stuff, I suggest taking a look at my favorite anatomy website here.

What that means for you: Happy, functioning glute min muscles means quality movement at the hip. When this occurs and the pelvis stays stable during movement, your risk of injury, aches, and pains goes way down.

A good exercise for your glute min: The lateral band walk is a great exercise for both the glute med and glute min, working on hip stability in both legs. Use a mini-band or a theraband or theratube tied in a loop, providing enough resistance that you have to work to step out, but not so much that it will cause you to lose your technique.

 

How To Do Lunges

Let’s do some lunges – everyone’s favorite exercise!

Ok, maybe I am getting a little ahead of myself. Lunges have a bit of a bad reputation (read: hard). Some people complain that lunges hurt their knees – most often, this is an easy fix with a little technique tuneup, since lunging (done right) actually builds strength in the muscles that support the knee, decreasing stress and pain. They also give a quick little cardio boost. Even more importantly, learning to lunge correctly also teaches you to move well when you’re doing a lot of other things in daily life (stepping out of a car is a prime example), when you probably aren’t thinking about your “technique”.

Like any exercise, the lunge has progressions (makes it harder) and regressions (makes it easier). I almost never start new clients off with actual lunges – they are hard to do and even harder to do well! Fortunately, it doesn’t matter what version you do, since you’ll get the benefits of a single leg exercise no matter what, and most people can do one variation or another. I always suggest starting with the easiest version (out of this batch, that can still be quite a lot of work) and then working your way through the more challenging forms. Follow these four from easiest to most challenging to figure out where your best-fit is.

1. The Split Squat

As far as I’m concerned, lunges have a step in them, so I don’t consider this a true lunge since there’s no step involved. Some people call it a static lunge though, and really it’s just a matter of semantics. I like this as a starting point because there is no step involved. It decreases the balance aspect of this exercise slightly, which means you can worry more about the technique than about falling over. We’d like to avoid that!
Split Squat
– From standing, take a big step behind you (enough that you have room to move when you squat, but aren’t feeling too stretched out – you may need to adjust a few times).
– Feel should be hip width, toes pointed forward.
– Keep your body weight balanced between your feet or slightly towards your front heel and your torso upright, and drop the back knee down towards the ground.
– Stop the back knee a few inches from the ground. Don’t slam your knee down. Your front and back knee should both be bent to about 90 degrees as pictured.
– Push through your front heel (and a little through your back leg) to return to start position.
– Without moving your feet, repeat the movement – you’ll be going up and down on the spot.
– Your torso should remain upright through the whole movement, and your front knee should stay about in line with your ankle.
– Keep tummy and pelvic floor tight as you move.

2. The Reverse Lunge

Now we’re moving – the reverse lunge is what is sounds like: lunging in reverse by taking a step backward. This is my favorite of the lunge variations. I think it’s a little easier to achieve good technique, promotes better co-activation of the leg muscles, and basically has all the benefits of forward-moving lunges (the walking and traditional versions) with decreased knee stresses.
Reverse Lunge
– From standing, take a big step behind you. As with the split squat, make sure you have enough room to move.
– Feel should be hip width, toes pointed forward.
– Keep body weight balanced between feet or slightly towards front heel, and torso upright.
– Drop the back knee down towards the ground and stop a few inches above it (as with the split squat – no knee contact with ground). Front and back knee should both be bent to about 90 degrees as pictured.
– Push through front heel (and a little through the back leg) to step forward with your back leg, returning to the standing start position.
– Your torso should remain upright through the whole movement, and your front knee should stay about in line with your ankle.
– Keep tummy and pelvic floor tight as you move.

3. The Traditional Forward Lunge

This is the lunge everyone loves to hate. If you can maintain good technique, this a great exercise, but a lot of people don’t or can’t. It’s a very demanding exercise, both from an exertion and a technique point, and when you’re working really hard, technique usually goes out the window. (Read: your heart rate will be through the roof, so pay attention to your form.) The most common technique fault with this exercise is a weight shift that goes too far forward when you take your step forward; instead of keeping the weight in the heel, the weight often rolls onto the toes, followed by the knee and torso, shifting a lot of weight into the knee joint at an angle it’s not designed to handle. No wonder people get knee pain! Pay attention to your step, and where your body weight and knee go as you drop down.

Traditional Forward Lunge
– From standing, take a big-ish step forward. (Enough room to move – not too stretched out and not too squished).
– Feel should be hip width, toes pointed forward.
– Keep body weight balanced between feet or slightly towards front heel, and torso upright.
– Drop the back knee down towards the ground and stop a few inches above it. Front and back knee should both be bent to about 90 degrees as pictured.
– Push through front heel (and a little through the back leg) to step backward with your front leg, returning to the standing start position.
– Your torso should remain upright through the whole movement, and your front knee should stay about in line with your ankle.
– Keep tummy and pelvic floor tight as you move.

4. The Walking Lunge

The hardest version (until you make it even harder!). The walking lunge has the same potential problem of too much forward weight shift through the knees and torso, compounded by the fact that it has an even bigger cardio effect than our traditional lunge. Technique is mostly the same – pay attention to where your body weight and knee go as you drop down. The big difference is that since the point is to actually walk with the exercise, you’ll have to have a weight shift forward at some point, and that point should be AFTER your drop down, when you are on your way back up.

Walking Lunge
– From standing, take a big-ish step forward. (Enough room to move – not too stretched out and not too squished).
– Feel should be hip width, toes pointed forward.
– Keep body weight balanced between feet or slightly towards front heel, and torso upright.
– Drop the back knee down towards the ground and stop a few inches above it. Front and back knee should both be bent to about 90 degrees as pictured.
– Push through front heel (and a little through the back leg), then let the weight shift into your front toes as you step forward to a standing position. For greater challenge, take your next step without stopping at the standing point first. – Step forward with the opposite leg, and continue to alternate legs for remaining reps.
– Your torso should remain upright through the whole movement, and your front knee should stay about in line with your ankle.
– Keep tummy and pelvic floor tight as you move.

One last point about lunge technique, including the split squat: There is definitely a balance element to these exercises. Keeping your core braced will make a big difference to staying balanced. If you need to, think about “resetting” your core between each rep – including your pelvic floor (think like a kegel exercise – gals and guys both). If you’re feeling super unsteady, try doing these next to a wall or table so you can reach to the side and steady yourself if needed. Sideways is key here, since it’s much easier to maintain your technique and not lean forward too much by reaching that way instead of forward.

If you aren’t used to doing lunges, start a level below where you think you might be. You should be able to complete 1-3 sets of 5-8 reps on each side (reps, rest, reps, etc.), and not be too sore the next day. When you figure out which version is your starting point, work up to doing three sets of up to 10-12 reps each side. When you can easily do this, you can graduate yourself to the next level, decrease your sets and reps, and carry on!

Disclaimer: This does not constitute medical advice, and not all exercises may be suitable for all people. Please consult your health care professional if you are unsure whether these exercises are right for you. If these exercises increase pain or any other symptoms, please stop immediately and consult your health care professional. For best results, get your doctor, physical therapist, and personal trainer/exercise coach talking for a united approach – as well as your chiropractor and massage therapist if you see these. To find out who I refer to in the Alexandria area or the rest of Northern Virginia, please get in touch.