There are three things you need to know:
- Most lifters skip crucial developmental exercises.
- Having range of motion doesn't matter if you can't control it.
- Chasing numbers before stability is a fast track to injury.
I've lost count of the number of lifters I've met over the years with back and knee problems. Why so many? Because people can't control themselves without using weight.
Wait, what does that even mean? It means that most lifters get so caught up with increasing their numbers and getting stronger on paper, that they completely neglect the strength it takes to control their own body weight.
This takes stability, and they have no idea they lack it because they never test it, which isn't that hard to do.
The Lunge Test
Now, I'm not inventing some new-fangled "one exercise to fix all" here. This is a lunge, done slowly. So what's the significance? All the lifters that come to me with long-term back or knee issues can't do it. Even with impressive totals on their main lifts, they struggle to do one controlled rep on each leg. Can you do it?
- Set up by doing a lunge first so you know where to comfortably keep your feet.
- Extend both your knees so your legs are straight.
- Over 30 seconds, lower yourself down to the bottom of the lunge, keeping a consistent speed.
- Tap your knee gently to the ground while maintaining tension.
- Rise up slowly, taking another 30 seconds until your legs are straight again.
- Repeat on the other side.
Tips and Reminders
If it's not challenging, increase the range of motion required by elevating both feet on plates or boxes.
Remember, the purpose of this exercise is to have full control through complete range of motion. If you suddenly speed up a bit to avoid a certain position then that's where your weakness lies.
You may not completely lose balance or drop all the way to the floor, but if at any point you lose the consistent slow speed you can't count that as a completed rep.
Now take it a step further. Aim for 5 reps minimum on each side with no problems. If you can't complete them, you've got your work cut out for you. Just add it to your warm-ups for a while and you'll master it.
The elevated version isn't essential but it's a nice way to improve your overall hip mobility and push that stability further. Don't be afraid to push your body with more stability exercises. You'll get that same satisfaction of being able to do something a lot of others can't.