The split squat (often called a lunge or stationary lunge) is an exercise that is revered and feared by many. There are very few exercises that have the ability to humble you or leave you as sore as a split squat. There are many variations of the split squat, but they have one thing in common: most people butcher them like crazy!
Here is a checklist of things to think about before you perform a split squat:
1) Railroad track steps. Begin with your feet about hip-bone width apart. As you get in position, imagine a straight line going forward (or backward if you step backward) from your foot, as if you were walking on railroad tracks. Your foot and knee should stay in line with your imaginary tracks. If you have hip stability issues, you will find that your legs will want to drift inward or outward from the “tracks” to compensate for the weakness and instability. Even if it means dropping the weight, keep your form. This will force the stabilizers of the hip to strengthen, allowing for bigger squat numbers, among other things!
2) Square your hips. If you had headlights coming out of your hip bones, they should be facing straight ahead. This will get your pelvis square and in the proper position for a split squat, and also ensure that you are getting proper hip extension and a good hip flexor stretch.
3) Ribs down, then get tall. That means ribs down, chest up, and spine neutral. It’s very hard to get your ribs down once you get your chest out, so many sure you think “ribs down” first. This will ensure good posture during the split squat and engage your abdominals more effectively. Some people tend to arch back or lean forward to get tall, instead of up. To prevent this, make sure that there is a straight line from the hips to the shoulders.
4) Squeeze the glute of the back leg, and pull your hips under using your abs. This ensures you are getting extension from your hip and not your lower back and keeps your pelvis stable and in the correct position throughout the split squat.
5) Drop straight down. Most people have a tendency to lunge forward because they are quad dominant. Your shin should be vertical and perpendicular to the floor. This will force you to engage your glutes and hamstrings more, and it will give you a better hip flexor stretch and take some of the shearing force off of your front knee.
6) Prevent knee cave. You should picture keeping the front knee towards your pinky toe. Forcing the knee out will engage the medial glute during the movement, providing stability and strength during the split squat.
If you didn’t hate split squats before, you will now that you’re attempting these correctly. However, going through this checklist in your mind before you perform split squats or lunges will help you get stronger, and it will put some meat on even the flattest derriere! You’re welcome.