EBENEZER SAMUEL/MEN’S HEALTH
One of the easiest mistakes you can make in the gym is letting your form slip on the simplest exercises.
Maybe your hips sink like an old ship during planks and pushups, or you have trouble keeping your spine in a neutral position anytime you pop a squat. One blunder that Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. commonly sees is in the lunge, when overeager exercisers drop too low and use the floor beneath them like a trampoline.
“The most challenging position of the lunge occurs when you’re knee’s almost ready to hit the ground,” Samuel says. “That’s also the position in the lunge that’s most frequently wasted. You see it anytime you watch somebody’s knee crash into the ground as they’re lunging; that’s partly a lack of desire to maintain control (or sometimes a lack of ability to maintain control).”
Like the other form faux pas mentioned above, the bad knee-touching lunge habit means that you’ll be leaving potential gains on the ground. “By missing control at the bottom of the lunge, you miss out on a chance to stimulate your glutes overall, and to teach them to actively maintain a truly hips square position,” says Samuel. “And if you never learn to live in the bottom position of the lunge with control, you also miss a chance to learn to generate the powerful unilateral glute contraction needed to drive up from the position.”
To combat bad lunge habits (and to give yourself a major glute-crushing finisher on your next leg day), Samuel suggests giving this hellish countdown series a shot. All you need for the cossack hover countdown are a set of kettlebells and some space to move.
- Hold a pair of kettlebells in the front rack position, keeping your core engaged to stay upright.
- Lunge out to the side with one leg to perform a cossack squat. Hold in place for 3 seconds.
- Push off the ground with your outside foot to return to starting position. Immediately lunge backward with that same leg. Again, hold the position for 3 seconds, making sure to keep your knee off the ground.
- Push off the ground with your rear foot to return to starting position. Immediately lunge forward with that same leg. Hold the position for 3 seconds, making sure to keep your knee off the ground.
- Repeat the series starting from the cossack squat, this time holding for 2 seconds in each position, then again with 1 second holds.
- Switch legs to give the opposite side a turn, running through the whole series. That’s 1 set.
Above all else, focus on staying true to the pause position. “This series is all about learning to live in the bottom position of the lunge, forcing you into aggressive and challenging pauses along both the frontal and sagittal planes,” says Samuel. “You’ll hone both strength (that powerful glute squeeze) and balance, and more core than you think, thanks to that front rack position.”
To keep yourself really honest, Samuel suggests counting through the pause periods out loud.
Use the cossack hover countdown as your leg day finisher by running through 3 full sets for each leg.
By Brett Williams And Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.