Fix Your Lunge Technique With This Anti-Sliding Split Squat
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
In today’s post, I’m going to highlight a quick and incredibly effective method for cleaning up your lunge and split squat mechanics literally within seconds. Here are two of my NFL athletes Jarius Wynn and Jake Banta performing an anti-sliding goblet lunge on the slide-board.
There are 5 reasons why this anti-sliding lunge is so effective.
1. It forces the lifter to maintain a forward torso lean rather than an upright position (a very common lunge mistake). Anything less during this specific variation and your back foot will start to slide backward and out of control on the slide board. This forces the lifter to lean onto the front hip and lean over slightly which is ideal as the force vector produced from your back leg is perfectly vertical into the ground (rather than horizontal which causes it to slide).
Most people think a lunge or split squat is an upright movement with the torso perpendicular (or close to perpendicular) to the ground throughout. However this represents flawed mechanics. Maintaining a forward torso lean onto the heel of the front leg is essential for proper lunge technique. In fact if I had to recommend just one cue for the lunge this may be the most critical as it ensures the hips are pushed back posteriorly and actively engaged throughout the movement.
Simply put, a proper lunge involves solid hip hinge mechanics. An overly upright torso position places greater stress on the knees and low back while minimizing stress to the glutes and upper thighs. Achieving a hip hinge position necessitates a slight forward lean in the torso similar to the beginning phase of a Romanian deadlift or proper squat. Start the lunge with a solid torso lean and keep that same position throughout. If you have trouble feeling your glutes on lunges or tend to experience knee pain while performing them, you’ll want to emphasize this cue. The beauty of using the slide board is that it begins to immediately correct this.
2. The anti-sliding lunge also helps optimize weight distribution between the front and back leg. Although it will vary slightly from individual to individual as well as from variation to variation, a significant portion of the weight during a lunge will be placed on the front leg. After doing some basic pilot investigation on a force platform I found that the common weight distribution was approximately a “70-75/25-30” split with 70-75% of the weight on the front/plant leg and 25-30% on the rear/support leg. Faulty lunge and hip mechanics will alter these numbers significantly often times placing too little or too much stress on one extremity. However the most common error is placing too much weight on the back leg as a result of staying overly upright. Using the slide-board while trying to resist the sliding effect forces the lifter to use optimal weight distribution with a majority of the weight on the front leg. Simply put, too much weight on the back leg will cause the back foot to slide backward.
3. Performing anti-sliding lunges on a slideboard teaches the lifter to avoid the all-too-common mistake of trying to squeeze the glutes. If you want to work the glutes during the lunge the single worst thing you can do when lunging is to squeeze the glutes. Yes that sounds completely contradictory but it isn’t. Here’s why. As previously mentioned a proper lunge requires strong hip hinge mechanics particularly during the eccentric phase of the movement. In order to tax the glute muscles they must be eccentrically elongated during the negative phase of the movement. That means the hips have to sit back posteriorly rather than allowing them to drift forward.
Squeezing the glutes during a lunge facilitates an overly-upright body position that eliminates the all important hip hinge. In addition it minimizes the degree of eccentric elongation of the glute muscles. As a result squeezing the glutes during a lunge not only degrades optimal body mechanics and destroys the knees but eliminates the ability to fully tax the posterior chain. You’ll also find yourself sliding backward on the slide board due to faulty force vectors created by dysfunctional positions.
A proper lunges is one of the single most effective exercises you can do to tax the glutes but it requires the technique adjustments presented in this article. In essence, when performing a lunge, think about sticking your butt out (without letting the chest drop). Just be prepared for extreme muscle soreness in your glutes.
On a side note many lifters believe that it’s necessary to squeeze the glutes as they drive up away from the floor on the concentric phase of the lunge. This is unnecessary and oftentimes counterproductive as proper eccentric positioning will result in optimal muscle recruitment on the subsequent concentric phase of the lift. Squeezing the glutes on any portion of the lunge including the concentric phase will pull the body out of it’s ideal alignment.
4. The anti-sliding lunge on the slide board forces the lifter to move in a perfectly vertical motion. When performing a stationary lunge or split squat, the torso should move straight up and down while maintaining a continuous forward lean. Any horizontal displacement of the torso indicates faulty hip mechanics and lack of spinal rigidity. In other words if you were to take a snap shot of the top of a lunge and the bottom, the torso should remain at the same angle (constant forward lean) with the only difference being the movement in the lower extremities.
Another way to think of this is once you set your starting position, the hips should move straight up and down not forward or back. This also helps to reinforce optimal balance and stability as your center of mass is positioned ideally relative to the rest of your body. For athletes this can have tremendous transfer to quality of movement on the playing field particularly when it comes acceleration, deceleration, and agility.
5. This variation teaches the lifter to maintain constant tension on the legs by avoiding an overly upright finishing position at the top of the movement. In essence if you become overly upright, the back leg will slide out. One of the most effective cues I use with my athletes on lunges is telling them to only come up ¾’s of the way and pause at the top before the front leg fully straightens. Besides placing constant tension on the quads, glutes, and hamstrings which produces incredible functional strength and hypertrophy, this also reinforces proper forward lean and hip hinge mechanics. That’s because the lifter can simply maintain the same amount of lean without ever having to re-set throughout the entire set. Moving to an overly upright position at the top of the lunge forces the lifter to have to reset their hips each rep not to mention it can place undue stress on the low back due to excessive lumbar extension. Simply put, come up to the highest point on a lunge (during the concentric phase) until it feels like your forward torso lean begins to diminish.
I generally recommend 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps with this movement. In addition the anti-sliding protocol can be applied to any lunge or split squat variation including barbell, dumbbell, and other loading methods. I also recommend performing these in an eccentric isometric fashion as shown in the video to help maximize proprioceptive feedback from muscle spindles and dial in mechanics.
Lastly, both feet can actually be placed on the slideboard to make the anti-sliding effect even more challenging. However It can make the movement feel slightly dangerous as the lifter could easily lose control of the movement as he or she does not have any firm anchor point. Placing the front leg on a standard surface produces 90% of the same effect while avoiding the potential for injury.