By Tony Gracia, Head Coach and Co-Founder at Industrial Strength.
This series of articles will highlight fifteen of my favorite exercises that I think are awesome and do not get the appreciation they deserve. The first week of installments focused on major lower body strength developers, the second week on upper body strength movements, and this week will emphasize unilateral lower body strength exercises.
UNDERRATED EXERCISE #9 = Overhead Traveling Lunges
The previous two installments have covered unilateral exercises where the foot of the working leg does not move once the set has started. Once someone has a certain level of competency and strength with those movements then we can explore other exercises that increase the balance & stability demand (I recommend you do them in that order and do not put the cart before the horse). Once you are at a point where basic split squats and single leg deadlifts are comfortable you can really test yourself with overhead traveling lunges.
This lunge variation offers a great ratio of balance & stability challenge with the ability to still load it heavy. For example, at our facility it is not uncommon to see women do this with 28-32kg (62-70 lbs) and men to do it with 40-48kg (88-106 lbs). What I love about these is that they challenge the entire kinetic chain from the hands to the toes and everything in between. They can really teach people to link up their core and make sure their upper body and lower body are connected through a strong, stable midsection. At the same time, they force the lifter to move gracefully with respect to their own body, because disjointed and uncoordinated movements will now allow the lifter to stabilize a weight held at arm’s length overhead. If I had to come up with a short list of “athlete developer” exercises and assessments I would 100% include this on it
HOW TO DO THEM
- I prefer using a kettlebell for this, however a dumbbell, a fatbell, or a variety of other implements could be used.
- I recommend sticking with only one arm at a time for most people; only a very small percentage of people have the combination of mobility, balance, strength, and stability to do both arms at the same time without some serious compensations in their form
- Get the weight overhead by any safe method of your choosing; once it is overhead the wrist and elbow must remain completely straight for the duration of the set and the shoulder must remain packed
- Taking forward strides and alternating legs every rep proceed through a set of 10-20 lunges before trading arms
- The bottom position of each lunge should look like the split squats discussed in installment #7, both knees bent to about 90°, the front foot is flat on the floor, the back knee gently touches the floor, and the hips are directly below the shoulders
- This version of lunges is unforgiving when it comes to room for technique errors and/or compensations; you need to make sure that your hips and shoulders rise together as one unit … if you cheat by leaning forward then you will not be able to maintain a vertical arm and you will probably drop the kettlebell
- At first it will be easier to bring your feet together each step to gather your balance before stepping forward into the next lunge; once you get better at the exercise you should try to make it one seamless motion where the feet never come together and there are no pauses or hesitations in the motion