The art of the lunge

It’s an exercise that was introduced as “everybody’s favorite” by BodyPump instructor Barbara Cookson when I lost my Les Mills virginity in the summer of 2009, taking that first BodyPump class.

No, I’m not talking about pushups, the favorite exercise of my Union Street Athletics teammate and myself. I’m speaking of lunges.

Before my BodyPump days, the only talk I heard of lunges occurred at soccer games I covered for this newspaper, when coaches would encourage their players to not lunge after the ball. My first thought was, how hard could these be? My legs are my strength from my running days, after all!

When executed properly, the lunge is one of the best exercises for your legs, and is a challenge in BodyPump. If not done properly, it hurts even worse and your legs don’t get the work desired.

Fortunately, the lunge is one of the easier exercises to execute in a BodyPump class. It comes in the back half of the workout, just as we’re about to hit the peak. We’ve already hit the legs big-time in Track 2, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work them again.

The first thing you want to do when you set up is make sure you have a long stride, and your feet are hip-distance apart. Pretend you’re a native of South Brewer, Maine, going for a summer stroll on the railroad tracks to visit your best friends. The distance between the rails is how far apart your feet should be before you take that aforementioned stride.

Now that we’ve got the distance down, it’s all about the stride. This is the difference between a successful Track 7, and a disastrous one. If your stride is too short, you’ll kill your knees. If your stride is too long, you won’t be able to go as deep and engage the glutes and hamstrings.

The stride should be about the length of the benchtops that we use in class. If your stride is at said length, both legs should form a 90-degree angle as you tread towards the floor, with the front knee tracking over the front foot, and the back knee heading towards the floor. How deep should you go? When that back knee finds a 90-degree angle, don’t go any deeper. That’s what we mean by the 90-90 setup!

Of course, there are different types of lunge tracks, as we talked about in my previous post. The training stimulus in BodyPump has changed dramatically, and we’re seeing a lot more propulsion-type moves in Track 7. That’s a far cry from the old days where we’d lunge on one leg, then the other, and be done.

Some lunge tracks even have squats involved, regular ones, that is. Since we have a lighter load on the bar in Track 7 as opposed to Track 2, the squats help us build pressure in the legs and prepare us to work really hard when the lunges come calling. For example, in BodyPump 83, we go regular squats, regular lunges, jump squats, repeat. You’re really feeling it when you hit that back half (hopefully)!

Jump squats and propulsion lunges have propelled Track 7 into the 21st century. Again, everyone has different opinions – and I welcome them, of course – but most participants and instructors across the world I’ve talked to have agreed that these cardio-heavy moves build strength and zap calories at the same time. If you’re not feeling your legs after any of the lunge tracks from Release 80 or higher, then you definitely need to load your barbell up.

I used to dread lunges. Now, they are one of my favorite exercises. Barb, with that smile on her face on that August afternoon nearly four years ago, pointed that out. While at the time I thought she was being sarcastic, I can see why we love lunges!

Don’t forget to share launch stories and photos from your club’s launch! Our club will release BodyPump 84 next weekend, so I’d love to hear your tales, and I’ll certainly share ours!

Ryan McLaughlin

About Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective with BDN readers about what's happening on the Boston professional sports scene.