Split squats and lunges are used in a lot of training programs and fitness classes.
And with good reason - they are fantastic leg exercises.
They work a lot of muscles and can really get the heart rate going.
However, they aren't necessarily a first option if you are new to the gym because they require a good amount of leg and core strength, along with balance and coordination
With that in mind, I've put together this thorough guide on how to:
a) build up to doing split squats and lunges if you're completely new to exercising
b) perform them with good form so you're getting the most out of the exercises
Before we get into it all, it's important to give 2 disclaimers:
1) Any lower body issues that may prevent you doing this exercises, speak to a doctor or physical therapist first
2) The guidelines I give for progressions are approximate - you might be ready to progress before you reach that level. You might need longer before you get there. I just gave some figures based on what I generally see with my clients.
Before we think about doing the split squats, let's look at what you should start with:
Squats are performed on both feet and so are a stable exercise to start building up the leg strength.
As per the video, the main technique to focus on is:
1) Play around with foot stance to see what feels comfortable for you
2) Brace stomach muscles
3) Keep chest up
4) Push hips back and down whilst bending through the knees
5) Keep knees in lines with toes
6) Lower as far as comfortable and then reverse the movement to push yourself back to standing
Once you can do bodyweight comfortably, add weights to the exercise to help build up leg strength further.
You have to understand that if your legs do not have the strength to do squats well, trying to do exercises on one leg at a time will really tough.
It's important to have strong stomach muscles as they will help to support your body and assist your balance when you come to doing split squats and lunges.
When you look at those exercises, you're basically holding a plank position whilst moving your legs.
The 90 90 or half kneeling position is important to get comfortable in as it mimics the bottom of the split squat and lunge exercises.
For many people this position can feel really tight on the legs to begin with.
Stick with it and that tight stretch will improve over time!
This blog post goes more in-depth on the "Feel the whole foot" concept you'll hear me talk about in the videos. It's highly worth your time practicing this as you hold these positions - https://www.joncoulson.co.uk/blog/feeling-the-whole-foot-important-cue
If you feel that your hips are really, really tight then this blog post gives you some good exercises to help your hips loosen up and feel better - https://www.joncoulson.co.uk/blog/improving-your-hip-mobility
Once you reach the stage of being able to do squats with a good weight and your legs feel strong, you're holding front and side planks with ease and the 90-90 position doesn't feel like it's trying to ping the muscle off your legs.
Then it's the right time to start practicing the splits squats
Balance is often an issue to begin with.
Usually this comes down to finding the right foot position and your body figuring out what the hell is going on.
As with all other exercises, this is a skill and it takes practice so don't give up on your first try.
One word of caution - these can be tough on your legs to begin with so don't try and perform all the reps ever on your first try.
Well you can, but enjoy having to crawl everywhere because your legs will be total Nope.
It can take from a few weeks to a few months to build up solid, stable split squats.
Everyone is different so do not get disheartened if they're tough for you.
Remember the key cues from the videos:
1) Whole foot
2) Split stance, not too short
3) Stomach muscles braced
4) Upright or slight forward lean
5) Bend through knees and move hips straight up and down, not forward
Once mastered, it is then time for:
There are two main lunge variations - Reverse Lunges and Forward Lunges (and then advanced versions not shown such as Walking Lunges and Forward to Reverse Lunges).
My preference to begin with is reverse lunges because I find them a little easier on knees.
Once you are comfortable with reverse lunges, then give forward lunges a try.
These are the main starting points and progressions I use with clients who come to me. We work on them and build up their exercise capacity over time.
I've tried to give key details and troubleshoots for building up to safely doing split squats and lunges.
I tried not to completely overwhelm you with technique, plus without seeing you in person or seeing videos, it's impossible to tweak the exercises to you.
Give this a try and if you get stuck, you're welcome to drop me a message!
This is my, mostly, Personal Trainer musings and information which I hope you'll find helpful!