Lunges are only for the serious lifter who is willing to push well through the pain barrier into the valley of unbelievable thighs.
Outstanding quadriceps separation demands freakish thigh mass that dives into deep canyons etched on either side of the muscle bellies. This kind of thigh development initially relies on regular back squats and leg presses to build great mass. However, as good of a mass builder as these exercises are, they simply do not get the job done when it comes to developing thigh separation and cuts. Achieving those deep separations requires exercises that build mass by targeting each of the bellies under near-constant tension and this means some specialization work for the middle and the lower quadriceps.
You probably are drawn to thinking about leg extensions for ripping your thigh mass. However, if you are willing to handle the work, the barbell lunge is an alternative and intensive way to blast a bulky thigh into strips of carved, sharp and lean mass. As a byproduct, lunges will greatly improve your quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal power and endurance and this will come in pretty handy when you start your heavy squat sessions for adding even greater overall mass.
To do lunges properly, you must rise above the crowd that is satisfied with a few sets of leg extensions to tighten the quadriceps. Lunges are only for the serious lifter who is willing to push well through the pain barrier into the valley of unbelievable thighs. Three sets of these will take your thighs to new contours, valleys and grooves that you did not know existed.
Muscles Activated By Lunges
The hip and hamstring muscles are affected strongly, but the greatest challenge will be felt in the anterior quadriceps muscle group. The quadriceps femoris (“quads”) is a group of four muscles that cover the anterior and lateral parts of the femur bone of the thigh. The three vasti muscles take their origin from the respective part of the femur; the vastus lateralis muscle from the lateral part of the femur; the vastus medialis muscle from the medial part of the femur; and the vastus intermedius muscle from the central, anterior part of the femur. As a result, the vastus lateralis muscle is positioned on the lateral (outer) part of the thigh, and the vastus medialis covers the medial (inner) part of the thigh. The vastus intermedius is located intermediate and deep to the vastus lateralis and the vastus medialis muscles. The tendon from the vastus lateralis muscle combines with the tendons from the other two vasti muscles and the tendon of the rectus femoris to form the quadriceps tendon. The quadriceps tendon attaches to the patella (kneecap) and continues inferiorly (toward the foot) from the patella, where it is called the patellar ligament. The patellar ligament inserts into the tibial tuberosity, a bumpy portion on the tibia bone of the lower leg.
The rectus femoris muscle is the fourth muscle in the quadriceps group. Unlike the vasti muscles, it begins on the hipbones at the iliac crest and above the socket where the head of the femur sits (acetabulum) in the hip. Its fibers run straight down from the hip to the knee. The tendon of the rectus femoris joins the tendons from the three vastus muscles to attach to the patella. Together, the three vasti and the rectus femoris form the only real manner that we have for extending the leg at the knee. The rectus femoris is much weaker when the hip is flexed (e.g., seated position such as doing leg extensions).
Three hamstring muscles sit on the posterior side of the thigh. The biceps femoris muscle has a long and a short head. The long head of the biceps femoris begins on the posterior part of the ischial bone of the hip. You literally sit on these bones when you are in a chair. The short head of the biceps femoris begins along the lateral side of femur bone of the thigh. Both heads of the biceps femoris come together to attach to a single tendon that connects to the small lateral bone of the lower leg called the fibula. The semitendinosus and semimembranosus muscles make up the medial (inside) hamstring muscles. The semitendinosus muscle attaches to the ischial bone of the hip and it becomes a cord-like tendon as it approaches the knee. The semimembranosus muscle is about half (“semi”) membrane (“membranous”) and half muscle. It begins on the ischial tuberosity and with the semitendinosus; it crosses to the medial side of the knee to attach on the tibia bone of the lower leg.
The gluteus maximus muscle is the largest and thickest hip muscle and it contains the strongest and largest muscle fibers in the body. The upper attachment of the gluteus maximus is on the major bones of the hip and the lower attachment is on the posterior side of the femur bone of the thigh below the hip joint. This muscle pulls the thigh posteriorly (backward) during the push phase of lunges.
Proper Exercise Form
Lunges, like knee extensions, can be tough on the knees, so you should carefully warm up with stretches and some moderate biking before doing lunges. Although the exercise can be done with dumbbells, as you become more experienced, you should not find it difficult to keep your balance with the barbell version of this exercise.
1. Place a barbell on a squat rack. Start with a light weight until you get the feel for the movement. Position your body in the same manner as though you were doing squats. Start with the bar across the top of your trapezius under the shoulders, in the same way as if you were to do a squat.
2. Straighten your knees and stand up vertically, so that the weight is taken on your shoulders.
3. Take a full step backward, away from the squat rack.
4. Start with both feet about shoulder-width apart. One leg will act as an anchor (e.g., the left leg). The other leg (e.g., the right leg) will be your lunge leg for the first repetition.
5. Take a step forward toward the squat rack with the lunge leg. This should be a good stride length (approximately a 3-foot stride), but it should not be so close to the squat rack that you will hit it at any point in your movement.
6. Bend the knee on the front (lunge) leg until the knee angle reaches 90 degrees. The thigh should be about parallel to the floor in the down position. At the same time as the knee from the lead leg is going forward, the thigh of the rear anchor leg should come down to almost kiss the floor. Keep your back vertical to the floor and your eyes looking forward (do not look down at the floor).
7. Step back to the starting position, then lunge forward with the other leg. Alternate between left and right legs. Start with 15 repetitions each leg (30 total steps). At the end of the set, take a step forward and return the barbell to the squat rack.
You can work up to 25 repetitions per leg, but should not need more than that. Take particular care as you are nearing the end of your set and you are fatiguing, as this is a time when your balance could be compromised. You also need to make sure that you do not bend over from the waist, as this will excessively increase activation of the gluteal muscles, not to mention increasing the chance of losing your balance.
The musculature of your middle and lower back and calves will also be activated during lunges. This provides an added bonus for increasing your body’s metabolism to maximize your ripped-to-shreds training goals. A deep lunge and greater stride will provide a superior stretch and will improve activation of all of the affected muscles. However, you must work into this slowly. You should stretch your hamstrings, calves and quadriceps prior to beginning the exercise. Be careful that you do not bend forward from the waist during the lunge. If you find yourself leaning forward, you are likely using too much weight and/or your stride is too short. It is not necessary to use squat-like resistance on lunges to get the job done. This is more a factor of sustaining constant tension throughout the range of motion than moving superhuman weights.
If you thought that leg extensions were the only way to thigh cuts, you will be surprised how quickly lunges will quickly etch striations and separations across the mass that you have accumulated in your underpinnings. Lunges are not ideal for building mass, but they are excellent for refining and adding muscle density. Once you get serious about your lunges, you will begin to see a radical transformation in the power, shape and separations in your anterior thigh and hamstrings. Your thighs will take on an all-new muscle quality with unreal, mind-blowing thigh separations with valleys and peaks erupting across your lower quadriceps.
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