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The Lunge Matrix

Today we’re looking at the lunge matrix…

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Popularized by the rather exceptional Gray Cook (also well known for popularizing Bretzels and his own FMS – the Functional Movement System), the lunge matrix is both versatile and incredibly functional. Need a quick workout, here you go! Need a good lower body warm-up, right here! Need a good way to test stability and mobility in your lower body, this is your first step (no pun intended, kind of).

The lunge matrix will generally involve 4 lunges:
• Front lunge
• Lateral Lunge
• Rear Lunge
• Transverse Plane Lunge

Each of the four movements will provide their own challenges and benefits, so getting a handle on performing it correctly will provide an array of benefits, not to mention a nice segway to a more extreme warm-up for the sadists among you (like the Javorek Complex #1). The lunge matrix is also a good way to strengthen knee stabilizers (primarily the quads) as this can dramatically reduce the chance of knee injuries (considering that inadequate quad strength is highly correlated to chronic knee pain). If these hurt to do, make sure you see a physio first and clean up any other imbalances or mobility issues you might have. After that, get some healthy, strong legs!

Front Lunge: When stability is an issue, this should be done stationary with the feet already placed apart (i.e. a split squat). Do NOT start with dynamic movement drills if you haven’t even checked how static drills feel! Initially, feet should be placed so that when you drop into the lunge you create 90 degree angles with each knee (you can test this before you start). Your feet should be in line with each other, and your torso SHOULD NOT twist to compensate for any mobility/tightness issues. You should be able to lunge into position with your torso erect.

  • Do not allow your weight to shift past the center of the front foot
  • Make sure you are taking a DEEP breath (i.e. into your stomach, not chest) before you start
  • Move slowly and with purpose. There should be tension THROUGHOUT the movement

Lateral Lunge: This can be a real test of mobility (and also a great chance to create good movement patterns). Look out for back angle (if you can’t maintain a reasonably upright posture) and knee position (your knee should not collapse inwards – valgus knee position). Take this one slowly as the benefits are tremendous, but the possibility of overdoing it is also very real! The points above all apply: weight centered, deep breath, lots of tension (no bouncing).

Rear Lunge: This is, to some extent optional, in that it can be quite challenging for many people without adding a huge amount of muscular work (to burn calories) or benefit in terms of mobility. Its primary use will be to improve stability, and it’s done (as you’d expect) like a front lunge but in reverse! It can be useful for people who find front lunges aggravate their knees as the line of force is not pushing the knee past the toes in the reverse lunge (i.e. when your weight is shifting forward, their is a much greater chance of you not being in control of where the weight is and therefore allowing it to shift past your toes and putting pressure on the knee. This generally doesn’t happen with reverse lunges.)

Transverse Lunge: A diagonal lunge that will test and improve stability, which is very important for many people. The “transverse plane” part of this lunge is really just referring to the fact that it involves rotation. This lunge is usually done by stepping back and out (diagonally). The leg stepping back should turn out (ideally greater than 90 degrees with respect to the front foot) and your torso should turn to face the back leg. This is another one with a lot of benefits both in terms of stability and mobility, but take it slow until you feel comfortable with the movement and you can perform this smoothly.

Check out our next post in the Effective Exercise series, on Weightlifting Complexes!

For more information check out our HIIT page, Calisthenics page, and if you’re really interested in getting in shape, take a look at our personal training programmes!

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