For stronger, more advanced athletes, lunge variations are excellent movements to include in the warm-up. In fact, many dynamic stretches have some semblance of a lunge pattern built into the movement (i.e. spiderman lunge, reverse lunge & reach, lateral lunge & slide, etc.). When performed properly these are great movements for preparing athletes for a workout, practice or competition. However, it’s important to program lunge variations appropriately for the right populations.
A common error often made by sport coaches is to program lunges into the warm-up when many of the athletes are incapable of performing a single lunge correctly, let alone multiple lunges in multiple planes. Oftentimes, athletes may struggle to lunge properly if they were never taught correct technique or if they’re simply too weak to lunge efficiently. Below are 3 common mistakes made by inexperienced or uneducated coaches that you will want to avoid making with your athletes.
Mistake #1: Thinking that because the lunge is a basic movement, that it’s an easy movement
- When performed by a competent individual, the lunge appears to be easy and effortless. Looks can be deceiving however. Much like the act of throwing a football or kicking a soccer ball is a skill that requires coaching and repetition, the lunge is a skill also requiring coaching and repetition. Developing this motor skill requires a combination of strength, mobility, stability and coordination (aka athleticism).
Mistake #2: Assuming athletes are strong enough to lunge correctly
- A proper lunge can easily expose compensation in athletes who lack sufficient strength in the posterior chain. This is typically characterized with: failure to achieve sufficient depth or range of motion, elevation of the heel to favor the quadriceps and, excessive forward inclination of the trunk or use of the hands on the thighs to assist the movement. Before you prescribe various lunge patterns in your warm up, ensure that they possess the capacity to handle them safely and efficiently.
Mistake #3: Not knowing how to coach the lunge pattern
- Oftentimes, coaches will simply demonstrate a lunge movement and expect this to be sufficient instruction for the athletes. This more often than not results in sloppy and inefficient lunge patterns characterized by: internal rotation at the hip, valgus collapse at the knee and external rotation and pronation at the foot, all occurring at the front leg. Performed repetitively over time, the athlete ingrains a faulty movement pattern which if not corrected, increases risk of injury.
Ensure that your athletes are capable of performing the basic lunge pattern in the various planes of motion prior to prescribing them with-in the warm-up. Understand the mechanics associated with correct lunging and how to coach them. Develop an eye for faulty lunge patters and be quick to correct them with appropriate cues. The lunge is a fundamental movement that appears in most sports. It is the coach’s responsibility that the athletes are prepared, both technically and physically to handle this movement proficiently for optimal safety and performance.