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Warm-up With a Lunge Matrix to Become a Stronger Runner

This simple, pre-run lunge matrix gets your brain, muscles, connective tissue and joints talking to one another, and will make you a stronger, more durable runner.

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A proper warm-up is specific to running. It’s dynamic, not static, and takes you through the three planes of motion: sagittal, frontal and transverse. It brings the nervous system online and gets the brain, muscles, connective tissue and joints talking clearly to one another. This lunge matrix addresses all the above.

Running is a complex physiological activity. Successful running requires both mobility and stability of the joints and limbs. This warm-up combines dynamic mobility movements with body-weight strength exercises to not only get your body ready to run but make you a stronger, more durable runner.

The Lunge Matrix

The lunge matrix is a series of lunges in different directions, stretching and mobilizing different muscles and joints. Perform 5–10 lunges on each leg, for 10–20 total controlled reps of each type of lunge. You may alternate your lunges from left to right or you may do all your lunges on one leg then lunge with the other leg. Do whatever feels best. You should be able to lunge out and return to your starting position in a stable way. Experiment with short-, medium-, and long-range lunges to ensure good control.

Do one set of reps of each of the following lunges in the matrix:

Forward Lunge With Overhead Reach: Lunge forward and reach high overhead as your foot hits the ground. You should feel a stretch in the hip flexor of the trail leg. Keep your front knee aligned over your foot. The overhead reach will create a good stretch through the abs and further stretch in the rear leg.

Same-Side Lateral Lunge: Lunge directly sideways while keeping both feet forward. Keep the knee stacked over the foot of the lunging leg. You should feel a groin stretch in the trail leg. Reach your hands high overhead for more groin stretch.

Opposite-Side Lateral Lunge: This is a crossover lunge. Lunge by stepping across and slightly in front of your other leg. You won’t be able to go very far, and that’s fine. You’ll probably feel a stretch along the outside of the non-lunging leg.

Same-Side Rotational Lunge: Lunge while rotating and aiming your foot the direction you’re moving. Keep your trail foot planted. Depending on your mobility, you may be rotating 90 degrees from your start position or further around behind you. Think of how you step out of a car or think of a soccer player stepping to change direction and pursue a ball or opponent speeding past him or her. You’ll probably feel a groin stretch.

Reverse Lunge With Rotation: Take a long lunge step behind you. You’ll arrive in a similar position as the forward lunge. Drive your elbows and torso to the non-lunging side as your foot hits the ground. This should result in  your trunk rotating toward the front leg. You’ll probably feel a stretch in the glute of the front leg. Keep your eyes and head dead ahead. This will help keep you stable and provide a some running-specific neck mobility.

Expand the Repertoire: These are just a few lunge-and-reach combinations. You are free to experiment with the direction in which you lunge and where you reach your hands to expand the lunge matrix. By doing so you’ll ask your joints and tissues to react differently. You can also play with the speed of the lunge. You may lunge while holding weights or wear a weight vest if you want to turn this lunge matrix into a gym workout. Finally, always be in control of the exercise. Don’t let the exercise control you.

Kyle Norman, MS, is a Denver, Colorado-based personal trainer, strength coach and running coach with 20 years of experience. He specializes in helping people move well, get strong and get out of pain. You can follow his blog at www.denverfitnessjournal.com