Leg Exercise: The Jumping Lunge

What is it for?

The jumping lunge is very similar to the standard lunge. However it is far more intense, uses far more energy and requires a lot more skill. It is a functional movement as it uses the same muscles we use in our day to day lives’ but takes it above and beyond what a normal day may consist of. It is far more functional to the sports person who needs to improve on power in their legs (power is the speed you can access your strength). It is a very good example of plyometric exercise as it really does spring-load the muscles ready for an immediate surge of power. The muscles it focuses on are the thighs (front and back), the glutes and the calf muscles (this exercise uses the calf muscle much more than the standard lunge due to jumping). It uses the same supporting muscles as the standard lunge but even more so due to the jumping movement, time in the air and impact on landing. We use the muscles in the lower leg and around the ankle for support in take off and landing and our core muscles (hip, stomach and spine muscles) during the whole exercise to aid with balance and control throughout the movement.

In the diagram I have shaded the main muscles used in red and the secondary supporting muscles in yellow.

Technique

I stated on the standard lunge exercise that it was the exercise that I see most mistakes made on, well if you can’t lunge with good technique then don’t even attempt this as each time you land you need to land perfectly. Each time you land you need to be in your strongest position with your front leg at 90 degrees at the hip and knee, your rear leg directly below your body so that your shoulder, hip and knee are in one vertical line and 90 degrees at the knee so that your foot is behind you (a bit like you are proposing to your loved one, without your knee touching the ground). You must also remember to breathe on this exercise, sounds silly but with all the concentration on technique you can end up holding your breath which will make this exercise that much harder.

Video Guide

If you watch the video below you will see that you are more than likely going to stand out at your gym, potentially as a member of ‘The Ministry of Silly Walks’ (Monty Python fans will know what I mean). Remember though that these people watching you bounce up and down will just be jealous of your new exercise technique and the power and fitness benefits you are going to gain over them. You will also be able to see the similarity with the normal lunge  which it has been taken from. To start the movement I always start at the bottom of the movement and power up into the jump. This is to make sure that I get my foot position perfect which in turn will help my technique. After powering up and entering the air you need to take your front leg to the back and your back leg to the front, trying to get your feet at the same distance as before. On your way down keep your legs slightly bent at the knee, do not lock your knees out (meaning; don’t keep your legs completely straight) as one you will lose momentum and two it will really jar your knees. Also do not get into the lunge position before you land as you will really hurt yourself and miss the whole spring loading effect we are looking for. As your feet touch the ground your slightly bent knees should allow you legs to bend underneath you slowing your movement down until you are at the lowest point of the lunge or the starting position. At which point, do not wait, you have to power up immediately (like a spring) and repeat the process all over again. With this exercise it is very tempting to lean forwards but don’t as this will really affect your technique all round. Really try and concentrate on keeping your upper body upright, for me it can feel like I am leaning backwards but with the use of a mirror you will be able to watch yourself.

The Do’s

Get into the lower lunge position to start
Breathe
Power straight up
Use a mirror to perfect technique
Jump immediately when you reach the lowest point
Make sure your legs go to 90 degrees at the joints on every landing
The Don’ts

Don’t land with straight legs
Don’t lean forwards
Don’t lock your knees
Don’t let your knees touch the ground
Don’t let your front knee travel past the line of you toes
In your Program

Plyometric training is very extreme and if you want to introduce it to your workout I would only bring in one or two of these styles of exercises to each session. Start by doing 20 repeats, 10 each leg and build up from there.

And a Warning…

This is a very hard exercise and should not be taken on by anyone who has high blood pressure (more than 135/85), is unfit, has asthma, carries an injury, is very over weight or knows any reason that heavy impact and very hard exercise will be damaging to their health. If you are unsure please check with your doctor before undertaking any form of exercise. If you are ever unsure if you are capable of a certain type of exercise then my advice is don’t do it as there are plenty of different exercises out there that you can do instead.

Enjoy this exercise but be safe as a priority, you can’t achieve your goal if you can’t exercise due to injury. Exercise within your limits.