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It’s tough to get excited about a bodyweight lunge. We all know you can use it within a regular workout to build single-leg strength, explosiveness, and stability. “But you can also use it at the end of your training session as a serious conditioning exercise,” says BJ Gaddour, C.S.C.S., Men’s Health Fitness Director.
This might sound a little crazy at first, but Gaddour suggests that you literally do alternating bodyweight lunges for 10 minutes straight. Pause when you need to, but keep your rest minimal. The idea is to keep going back and forth between legs for the full 10 minutes. (Of course, you can build up to that duration, starting with 3 minutes and working up from there.)
“It’s a great way to improve your base level of aerobic conditioning,” says Gaddour. “And it also better prepares you for running. In fact, if you can’t lunge for 10 straight minutes, I don’t think you should run for 10 straight minutes.”
Here’s where it gets interesting: The challenges you can give yourself with this one simple 10-minute prescription are almost limitless. For starters, you can change the terrain you perform the movement on, from a wood floor to cement to sand, says Gaddour, who particularly likes doing the drill on grass with bare feet.
“Lunging in structured shoes allows you to strike the ground with your heel, which can cause knee pain,” he says “But lunging barefoot on grass forces you to adopt a more mid-foot strike. This causes your weight to be more balanced across your foot, decreasing your risk of injury and lending itself to better running mechanics.”
You can also vary the slope of your terrain. “You can really have some fun and do your lunging on an incline, or turn around and do it on a decline, and create a whole new challenge,” he says.
In addition, can play around with the speed at which you do the lunges. For example, you could alternate between these tempos:
Slow: Pretend like you’re moving in slow-motion. Don’t rush—make each step deliberate. “I find lifting the knee up as you step forward helps elongate each rep and extend the range of motion,” says Gaddour.
Medium: Take about 2 seconds to lower and 2 seconds to lift.
Fast: Lower and lift as quickly as possible.
Don’t worry about making the tempo precise, just think “slow,” “medium,” or “fast.”
“Take ownership of your lunging based on how you’re feeling that day and what type of training effect you’re going after,” says Gaddour. “If you’re feeling taxed and want to get more of a stability effect to bulletproof your joints, lunge at a slower tempo or do it barefoot on grass or in sand. If you’re fired up and you want to take your heart rate through the roof, pick up the speed or even do some lunging up a hill. You’ll quickly find that the sky’s the limit with this protocol.”