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.
Like the lunge, this technique should be simple but is often completely butchered. Here’s what’s going wrong, and how to fix it.
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!
1. Kritz, M., Cronin, J., & Hume, P. (2009). Using the body weight forward lunge to screen an athlete’s lunge pattern. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 31(6), 15.
2. Whatman, C., Hing, W., & Hume, P. (2011). Kinematics during lower extremity functional screening tests–Are they reliable and related to jogging? Physical Therapy in Sport, 12(1), 22-29. doi:10.1016/j.ptsp.2010.10.006
3. Graham, J. F. (2007). Dumbbell forward lunge. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 29(5), 36-37. doi:10.1519/00126548-200710000-00005
4. Arlotta, M., LoVasco, G., & McLean, L. (2011). Selective recruitment of the lower fibers of the trapezius muscle. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 21(3), 403-410. doi:10.1016/j.jelekin.2010.11.006