Squat and Lunge Exercise Page

Exercise 101 – The Squat and Lunge

Squat & Lunge Patterns

The squat and lunge movement patterns are the cornerstone of any exercise programme to strengthen the lower body and build or maintain muscle mass in the thighs and hips.

At its simplest level, the squat is a multi-joint movement that involves flexing at the ankles, knees and hips whilst maintaining a stiff, neutral spine.

The lunge is, in essence, half a squat. The front leg should have the same movement characteristics as the squat but with the back leg extended behind the torso or abducted to the side.

To help you perform the squat and lunge efficiently and maximise the effectiveness of the movements, this article will briefly discuss and show what should happen and the foot, ankle, knee, hip and spine.

The key to reducing the risk of injury and helping strengthen the body safely is understanding how to interact with the ground below us. When we correctly interact with the ground or surface below us, the moving parts above will be easier to align correctly, and force production will be more efficient.

However, suppose we fail to interact with the ground or surface below us correctly. In that case, the risk of injury is increased either in the short term with a soft tissue strain or in the long term via the development of a dysfunctional movement pattern that leads to the risk of muscle imbalances forming and associated postural-related soft tissue strains and or joint pain.

The Foot

The foot is the most critical component to control to perform an effective squat. This is where most people need to understand that they are doing more than just balancing on the ground; they should use the ground to create or reinforce the arches of the foot, particularly the medial longitudinal arch, which is commonly weak and loses height.

Personal Trainers St Albans Arches of Foot

The Knee

The knee is often referred to as a slave joint in that what happens at the foot and the hip affects the knee. In most cases, if you use the tripod of the foot correctly and the hip abductors to reinforce this, the knee position will improve, and so will function.

The Hip

As shown in the foot tripod (above) and squat videos (below), the abductors of the hip are recruited to help maintain proper foot mechanics and function. When the hip muscles are correctly integrated into squat and lunge patterns, this will help with joint alignment below the hip and the position of the pelvis and spine above the hip.

The Spine

If the foot, knee, and hip are aligned correctly, the pelvis can maintain a better relationship with the femur and the spine, which sits on the sacrum. The sacrum is formed from five fused vertebrae on which the fifth lumbar vertebrae sit, and the two pelvic bones attach to the sacrum via thick, strong ligaments.

When the pelvis can move appropriately in relation to the hips and femurs, eliminating unwanted spine motion is easier. This is done by bracing the core and stiffening the spinal muscles, as shown in the video below.

A good coaching point is to consider that the pelvis and rib cage are two boxes that stack on top of each other, and when performing squats and lunges, the goal is to maintain these two boxes on top of each other without any tilting backwards or forwards.

Stacking Boxes

Additional loading via a kettlebell, dumbbell, or barbell can safely load the spinal column and reduce the risk of injury when this can be achieved during the squat or lunge.

Squat and Lunge demonstrations with coaching points

Lunge Anatomy Review

If you need additional support to implement the information on this webpage, I provide personal training and accountability coaching to help clients exercise correctly and achieve their health and fitness goals.