Exercise! - Are lunges necessary for strong legs?




Smilla
03-14-2013, 11:52 PM
I really want to have stronger legs and glutes, but I am having a difficult time with lunges. They hurt. A lot. My knees make alarming gritty sounds and become swollen and inflamed. My form seems OK, but I have tendonitis in my ankles, so I can't bend my back leg down very deeply, although that hurts my knees more anyway. My knees are very cranky so I am finding that there are quite a few thigh and glute exercises that are painful. It makes sense, as I am a heavy person and my knees take quite a beating. This summer for a few weeks I had to avoid stairs because my knees were so sore after a lot of mountain hiking and walking up and down steep trails. I went to the doctor and was told to lose weight (no sh*t, Sherlock) and to go to physiotherapy. I can't afford physiotherapy right now, unfortunately.

I love squats and do lots of them, and I am starting to incorporate some step ups into my routine - although they do hurt my knees if I step up too high or too vigorously. I also do straight leg raises and toe raises. Is this enough for leg work? I just want to avoid joint and tendon pain (I enjoy muscle pain) and become stronger. Funds are tight, so joining a gym isn't an option for me, although I'd love to use some of those machines.


carpediem
03-15-2013, 08:07 AM
Necessary? Not at all. You have to do exercises that suit you, work around your limitations. I also have problems with my knees and I've found exercises that work for me.

For strong legs: Squats, deadlifts. For strong glutes: glute bridges and hip thrusts. Look at youtube videos to see the correct form for performing those exercises.

As you have problems with the knees, I'd recommend you to get a foam roller and try to roll your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes and particularly the IT bands. And also try to mobilise your ankles and hips through the day as knee problems very commonly come from very stiff ankles and hips. I so wish someone told me about this sooner as those exercises have really changed my quality oif life.

Good places to look for mobility exercises:

http://www.mobilitywod.com/
http://www.alignedandwell.com/katysays/

berryblondeboys
03-15-2013, 10:03 AM
I had a lot of problems with lunges when I was starting out. I don't think I have knee problems per se, but the muscles supporting them were too weak, so it caused pain.

So, what I did was google TONS of exercises I could do to build up my legs without pain. I had a Kathy Smith video with strength training and in it showed variations on lunges and squats that were easier on the knees. I didn't do things as deeply and concentrated on form (a mirror is your friend if you have one to exercise in front of)

Now I can do full lunges with weights with no pain or discomfort (and have been able to for a long time). I thought I must be defective or something. No... just poor knee support.

Just pay attention to pain. Things shouldn't hurt like OUCH hurt. There's a difference between muscle fatigue and OUCH. Never push through OUCH or you'll do damage.


Emma4444
03-15-2013, 11:21 AM
So glad to hear a person doesn't have to do lunges for strong legs because my knees hurt when I do them also. Looks like I need to try and strengthen my knees first since I don't have knee problems that I know of.

Snoofie
03-15-2013, 10:44 PM
I'll add my own "YAY!" to the fact that lunges aren't really necessary...I don't have bad knees, but (even though I realize this sounds *ridiculous*) I seem to lack the proper amount of balance to be able to perform them correctly. o_O I try to start them and, without exception, start tipping over after I've done only a couple. :D

Smilla
03-15-2013, 11:59 PM
YES. No lunges! I am thrilled.


As you have problems with the knees, I'd recommend you to get a foam roller and try to roll your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes and particularly the IT bands. And also try to mobilise your ankles and hips through the day as knee problems very commonly come from very stiff ankles and hips.

Thank you! I will look into this. I have terrible flexibility due to tendon pain petty much everywhere (it's genetic). Unfortunately I can't do those glute exercises. I can't be on the floor for too long, even with a yoga mat. I'm hoping that will change as I lose more weight.


I had a lot of problems with lunges when I was starting out. I don't think I have knee problems per se, but the muscles supporting them were too weak, so it caused pain.

I think this is the issue, or perhaps an uneven build-up of muscle in my legs. I live in a very hilly city and walk everywhere, so my quads can get pretty massive (I am kind of vain about them actually :o ). In the winter with the snow I can't walk as much, so I was trying to keep up my leg strength. I don't think I have much strength in my other thigh muscles, and maybe that is causing my knee cap to track incorrectly, leading to pain?

Thanks for the advice!

carpediem
03-16-2013, 06:44 AM
I think this is the issue, or perhaps an uneven build-up of muscle in my legs. I live in a very hilly city and walk everywhere, so my quads can get pretty massive

One of the most common knee problems, particularly for women, is being very quad dominant and having very weak hamstrings and glutes. It's important to correct that as you can injure yourself otherwise. Whenever you are standing, walking or sitting around try to activate your glutes. Think about trying to squeeze a coin with your glutes. We are meant to use our glutes. A lot of women have some kind of glute amnesia and that leads to overloading your knees with the weight of your body as opposed to load your body weight in your hips which is the way it should be.

If you walk a lot you can also look at what the correct gait pattern is. I discovered I was walking more in a line like models do and that I could try to walk with my legs further apart. It's probably not the most lady look like but that's probably why the statistics about women with torn ligaments or problems with knees is higher than men that usually walk and sit with their legs wide apart. Our hips are wider than men, and a good gait pattern should be at least walking with our feet hip width apart.

Anyway I find this a very interesting topic. Hope you can find exercises you can do and help your legs and glutes. And by the way, I always mention Bret Contreras is the coach I have found that have investigated more about glutes, he is called the Glute Guy. You can look at his youtube channel, he has lots of videos with different exercises that focus on the posterior chain.

berryblondeboys
03-16-2013, 01:44 PM
I was just going to come here and talk about how it's important to find a good muscular balance in the legs. Women are predisposed to be quad dominant and that's not a good thing, as carpediem said.

So, OP, don't ignore the other muscles in your legs - you need to develop them all, just find other ways to do them until you can do lunges better. Lunges are great exercises, but are too complex for a lot of beginners.

Smilla
03-21-2013, 04:29 PM
One of the most common knee problems, particularly for women, is being very quad dominant and having very weak hamstrings and glutes. It's important to correct that as you can injure yourself otherwise. Whenever you are standing, walking or sitting around try to activate your glutes. Think about trying to squeeze a coin with your glutes. We are meant to use our glutes. A lot of women have some kind of glute amnesia and that leads to overloading your knees with the weight of your body as opposed to load your body weight in your hips which is the way it should be.

If you walk a lot you can also look at what the correct gait pattern is. I discovered I was walking more in a line like models do and that I could try to walk with my legs further apart. It's probably not the most lady look like but that's probably why the statistics about women with torn ligaments or problems with knees is higher than men that usually walk and sit with their legs wide apart. Our hips are wider than men, and a good gait pattern should be at least walking with our feet hip width apart.


Thanks for the advice.

My glutes are very developed due to the hill walking, but perhaps not as much as my quads? It's hard to tell. When I do squats and stuff I feel it in my quads, but never in my glutes, even though I concentrate on using them. I only seem to be able to feel muscle burn back there when I walk up an extremely steep hill or six flights of stairs (which kills my knees).

My gait is fine. I have fat legs and can't cross them (this is 3fatchicks after all), so that eliminates any narrow stance problems.

My hamstrings are super tight and I have been working on stretching them. I am still trying to find exercises for them that I can do without pain or equipment. I am running into a lot of problems finding lower body exercises due to my mobility and joint issues, as well as my financial limitations.