Many anatomical differences mean each person will need to move in a customized way that suits their body, and unless you’re ambidextrous you shouldn’t expect to move the same way with each side of your body.
For nearly all of us, there is one muscle group that’s often ignore which can keep our backs looking good and shoulders strong.
With so many variables to consider, how can anyone claim to really know what’s supposed to happen when any given individual moves?
The dynamic duo of fitness dominance, the walking lunge and renegade row!
Today’s topic is exercise! For those of you who don’t know what a super set is, I recommend you read my prior post discussing them in detail, as well as this blog post on the basics of training for beginners. The TL;DR version can be described as exercises targeting unrelated muscles done back to back. And today’s super set is one of my favorites… The walking lunge and renegade row! So let’s dive into the details of this dynamic duo of fitness dominance!
Deconstructing The Walking Lunge
If you have ever seen me at the gym shuffling around and looking like I’m straight out of an episode of The Walking Dead, it’s probably because I just finished doing some walking lunges. That’s because the walking lunge uses loads of muscles including the gluteus maximus, iliopsoas, quadriceps (vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, rectus femoris), hamstrings (semimembranosus, semitendinosus, biceps femoris), calf (soleus and gastrocnemius), and all the muscles of the trunk (1).
When done properly, the lunge is an excellent exercise to increase the strength of the leg and reduce the likelihood of injury for runners, field sports athletes, and those who actually do “leg day” from time to time (1,2). But, it needs to be done properly. So let’s go over how to do it right. Then, let’s go over how most people lunge.
The Correct Form
Begin By – Feet are between hip- and shoulder-width apart and pointing forward. Torso should remain erect. Keep chest out and up. Shoulders are back. Keep head and neck straight with eyes looking straight ahead. Before stepping forward, breathe in and hold it.
The Descent – Take an elongated step straight forward with one leg (lead leg). Keep your arms straight, with the dumbbells held firmly at your side and your torso in an erect position, as the lead foot goes forward and comes in contact with the floor. The rear leg (trail leg) remains constant in the starting position, but as the lead leg moves forward, balance should shift to the ball of the foot of the trail leg as the trail leg begins to flex. Place the lead foot flat on the floor with the foot pointing straight forward. Once balance is established on both feet, flex the lead knee to enable the trail leg to bend towards the floor. The trail leg should flex to a degree slightly less than the lead leg. The lowest finish position of the descent should occur when the knee of the trail leg is 1–2 in. from the floor, the lead leg is flexed to 90°, and the knee is directly above or slightly in front of the ankle. Continue to hold your breath throughout the descent.
Rise Up – While maintaining an erect torso, shift the balance forward to the lead foot and forcefully push off the floor with the lead foot. As the lead foot returns to the starting position, balance should shift to the trail foot, resulting in the trail foot regaining full contact with the floor. The lead foot should be lifted back to its original starting position, with
feet between hip- and shoulder-width apart and pointing forward. Avoid touching the lead foot to the floor until it is returned to the finish position (unless balance is lost).
While these instructions are very specific and technical, they are important and correct (3). Of course, lunges won’t work for everyone. But, under proper supervision, you can modify the lunge to work for you even if you have pain in your knees or hips. Now let’s take a look at what most of us struggle with!
Leaning Back – When you lean back too far, your rib cage flares and your spine hyper-extends. This is so bad for your back that it hurts the guy watching you from across the gym! Work on that core control ASAP!
Side To Side Knee Movement – When your knee caves in or flops out, it is often the telltale sign of weak glutes. And there are lots of fun ways to fix that!
Poor Balance – This ties in with the knee movement because they both can be caused by weak feet. Weak and unstable feet will cause a chain reaction of instability and dysfunction throughout your entire body. Just another reason to have strong feet!
The Renegade Row
The jig is up. The news is out. They finally found me… on the floor doing renegade rows! If you don’t know what song I’m referencing then shame on you! Okay moving on. The Renegade Row is a tremendously effective exercise that develops upper body pulling strength (back and biceps), lumbo-pelvic (abs and hip) strength and control, as well as shoulder stability, a quality that is lacking in most people. In fact, it is one of the best exercises to do for the prevention of shoulder pathologies such as impingement and rotator cuff tears (4). This is because the renegade row has all the benefits of a plank while making you feel like a beast from lifting weights. But once again, if you’re not doing it right, you will pay the price!
Start – Get into a plank position with feet shoulder-width apart, maintain neutral spinal alignment for the duration of the exercise. Each of your hands should be gripping a dumbbell directly under your shoulders.
The Up – Keeping your hips and body completely neutral by actively tucking your rib cage towards your hips, row one dumbbell up to your ribs by initiating the pull with the muscles in your mid-back, not your arms. Be sure to end your rowing motion when your elbows are around the height of your ribs.
The Get Down – Bring the dumbell back to the start and repeat with the opposite hand without rocking from side to side.
Poor Hip Control – If your butt is way up in the air, down near the ground, or twisting all over the place, you’re doing it wrong. The arms are the only part of the body where the movement should be occurring. Practice being a plank for a while and consider using less weight if you struggle with these issues.
Using Momentum – If your elbow travels well past the ribs during the rowing movement, body twists, or hips collapse and/or pike, you’re swinging for the fences too much. Use less weight, so you can control your body. That’s the name of the game, control.
Poor Shoulder Stability – Shoulder instability might be due to a past injury, an unbalanced training program, or weakness in general. Get your shoulders checked out by an exercise pro if they are causing you problems.
Super Set Super Ending
So, back to my original point. These exercises make for a great freaking super set. When done correctly, they both promote dynamic control of the hips, prevent future injury of almost the entire body, and burn some major calories. They are also fantastic for posture and getting out of the bad movement habits that sitting at a computer all day long creates.
If you want strong and sculpted legs, glutes, abs, arms, and back muscles, be sure to super set walking lunges and renegade rows. Four sets of 10 reps with a low weight for each should do it at first. So get moving!
The core is the keystone to a strong body, but there is so much more to it than that.
How to maximize your shoulders’ ability to move in a safe and injury resistance manner.
How are you going to translate the force produced from those strong legs to the arms? By utilizing the Serape effect of course!!!!
Imagine your body is made up of two big blocks of meat. You have your upper body and you have your lower body. Now imagine you want to use both of those big blocks of meat simultaneously to do something like throw/hit a ball, dig a hole or golf , push a cart full of groceries, or punch a heavy bag. How are you going to translate the force produced from those strong legs to the arms? By utilizing the Serape effect of course!!!! The Serape effect is basically the use of the core to translate force from the lower body through the arms. There are a variety of “functional” exercises that you can, and should, be doing to make sure you’re not overusing joints which can lead to injury. So now that you have a little background knowledge, let’s dive into today’s post!
The term “functional training” is a bit of a buzzword garbage term. My favorite quote regarding this is from James Fell that says “It’s meaningless. Any time someone says an exercise is functional it means they don’t know what they’re talking about. All exercises are functional. Your mom is functional.” Funny and true. All exercise has function, and a variety of exercise is important to maintain function. For instance, if you exclusively use exercise machines, you may lose the ability to use those strong muscles in a rotational fashion. That’s where the functional aspect of training the Serape comes in. Broadly, the core can be described as being between the joints of the shoulders and hips.The muscles that attach the pelvis, spine, and rib cage perform many functions. Hip musculature generates the majority of power, then transfers it upward through the linkage to the arms through a “stiffened” core, which creates efficient transfer of forces, and is one of the keys to injury prevention. The Serape involves these features from both ends of the core in a spiral pattern (1). It actually wraps itself around the trunk of the body, perfectly designed for rotating the hips and shoulders in an opposite direction allowing the hips to lead and the shoulder to follow in many ground-based activities such as throwing, batting, golfing, or punching (2). Take a look at the pictures below and/or this video for a good visualization of how it works.
If you’re a nerd like me and want to know what exact muscles are involved, here are some pictures detailing the exact muscles used with the Serape.
Serape Training For Beginners
Training the Serape muscles is easier than it looks. Yes, there are a lot of muscles involved. But remember, we are not isolating any single muscle in particular, we are learning how to use them all in an efficient manner. If you’re not doing so already, you will want to start doing Olympic-style lifts and traditional strength lifts such as squats, bench press, and pull-ups. These are non Serape specific exercises, but if you don’t have strength in the upper and lower body then you won’t have strength to translate through the core to begin with! You will also want to start by training the four basic trunk movement patterns with dynamic and/or static exercises. Beginners should do exercises that train in what we call single-plane basic movement patterns. Single-plane exercises are usually easy to learn and include exercises such as the crunch (trunk flexion), back extension/hyper-extension (trunk extension), Russian twist (trunk rotation), and side bend (lateral flexion) (3).
For those more advanced, you may want to consider multi-plane exercises that target areas you’re not getting with your standard training. This is because there is huge inter-personal variety in terms of which ab-exercises work best for whom (4). By simply extending your arms over your head during a crunch, you can drastically increase abdominal muscle involvement. Take a look at the chart below to get an idea of what exercises work for different parts of the core (the lower the number the better). Before we move on to the last section of this post, I think it’s important to note that any exercise performed for abs will always use all the muscle groups that compose the abdominal wall when done correctly. Proper technique is paramount to all exercise, so make sure that you consult a professional if you are a novice, are unsure of what you’re doing, or experience pain during exercise.
Hard Work Pays Off
While it’s been long proven that abdominal exercises won’t turn a beer belly into a six pack, we do know that core exercises are paramount for a healthy body and for safety during exercises that will get you strong and help you lose weight (5). Core stiffness enhances athletic performance, and guess what your doing at the gym?… performing athletically (6)! So once you have set the foundation of a strong body, you can get into the fun exercises that greatly enhance your athletic performance on and off the playing field, (aka daily life activities). Here are some of the best ways to train the Serape movement pattern:
– Rotating exercises done from a standing position and alternating punching/pressing and pulling
– Utilize various stances, 2-arm and single-arm loading
– Alternating pressing/pulling patterns, as well as different stepping movements
I’ll finish up by reminding you of why we are working on the core and Serape. Muscles of the Serape form a spiraling system that enhances the efficiency of cyclic activity such as walking, together with power and speed activities such as throwing and golf. The stiffened core enables power produced in the lower limbs to transfer to the joints of the upper end of the core (or vice versa) forming a whip. So get of those machines and start whipping yourself into shape!
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- Santana, JC., McGill, Stuart M., Brown, LE., (2015). Anterior and Posterior Serape: The Rotational Core. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 37(5), 1519
- Santana JC. The serape effect: A kinesiological model for core training. Strength Cond J 25: 73–74, 2003.
- Willardson, Jeffrey M., editor of compilation, & ebrary, I. (2014). Developing the core. Leeds: Human Kinetics.
- Boeckh-Behrens & Buskies, Fitness- Krafttraining. Die besten Übungen und Methoden für Sport und Gesundheit, 2000
- Vispute, S. S., Smith, J. D., LeCheminant, J. D., & Hurley, K. S. (2011). The effect of abdominal exercise on abdominal fat. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(9), 2559.
- Lee, B. C. Y., & McGill, S. M. (2015). Effect of long-term isometric training on core/torso stiffness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(6), 1515.