Lunge Affair

Conquer the multifaceted challenge of the overhead walking lunge.

When traditional gym-rats first discover CrossFit they assume their years spent in the weight room will provide them with an advantage. For the most part they’re right. Guys who have been in the iron game can squat, deadlift, bang out a respectable number of pull-ups, and they generally have decent aerobic capacity and core strength. In some instances, however, those years spent under the bar can be a problem.

“The two biggest things we see as far as mobility issues are tight hips and shoulders. It’s a lifestyle thing. If you’ve been bench pressing your whole life, your shoulders may have really closed up,” explains Dave Lipson, a CrossFit Headquarters trainer who also teaches athletes at CrossFit Invictus in San Diego, California.

Immobile shoulders can impair any overhead move, such as the push-press or handstand push-ups, but they become a significant liability when a complex move is being performed, something like the walking overhead lunge.

“What I often see with the walking overhead lunge is people taking this crappy overhead position and then lunging around with it. That’s not going to give them a good return,” says Lipson. “The first thing we want is people moving well.”

Finding the proper mechanics for a walking overhead lunge might take some effort in the form of mobility work as a a dedicated warm-up. However, once you’re able to dial in the correct position, the benefits — lower-body strength, upper-body flexibility, isometric core conditioning, overall balance and coordination — will continue to pay off.

What You’ll Need

You can perform an overhead lunge with almost any type of weight. A barbell is the easiest since the wide grip makes it easier to get your shoulders into alignment. A weight plate can be slightly harder to get into the proper position because your hands will be so much closer together. Performing an overhead walking lunge holding a kettlebell in each hand recruits more core muscles but also demands significantly greater midline stability. After choosing your preferred weight, stake out at least 25 feet of clear and level floor space.

 

The Set-Up

Stand in an athletic position with your feet shoulder width apart. Holding the weight in each hand or with both hands if it’s a barbell, retract your scapula and press your arms overhead, locking out the elbow. Engage your shoulders and actively press them up toward your ears. Your shoulders, elbows and wrists should form a straight vertical line. Activate your core so that your spine, which should still maintain its natural s-curve, is braced and doesn’t move.

“Instead of relying on the musculature to hold that weight up, we have the skeletal structure of the bones in the arms and shoulder to give it a structural support,” says Lipson.

Execution

  1. Step forward with your right foot and drop into a lunge position.
  2. Unlike a more traditional lunge, allow your back knee to kiss the ground as your front knee flexes. Keep the front knee over the heel. Do not let it float out over the toes of the front foot.
  3. Keep your arms completely locked out and your shoulders actively driving up the whole time. Your arms should be vertical, with your ears in front of your biceps.
  4. Push up from the front foot and come to a standing position.
  5. Step forward with the other foot and drop into a lunge.

The Overhead Walking Lunge Workout

The overhead walking lunge doesn’t pop up in Workouts of the Day as often as the thruster or deadlift, but it closely matches CrossFit’s rallying cry of “constantly varied functional movements performed at a high intensity.” For a true shock to the nervous system that’ll leave you shaken and shaking, try this workout.

Perform five rounds for time

  • 45-pound barbell overhead walking lunges, 50 feet
  • 21 burpees

Coaching Clues

  • Don’t walk on a tightrope. Keep the feet at least as wide as a squat the entire time, with equal weight distribution between both legs.
  • Take plenty of time to prepare the entire shoulder girdle before attempting this exercise with weight. Perform a dynamic warm-up and include moves such as wall slides, arm circles, and overhead squats with a dowel.
  • Actively work on your shoulder mobility. Several times a week, lie with a foam roller under your thoracic vertebrae, perpendicular to your spine. Let your arms hang out to the sides and relax your weight into the foam roller.
  • “As soon as the mechanics of the overhead support start to change — if you break at the elbow or at the shoulder — stop and correct the position and possibly move to a lighter weight,” says Lipson.