The Lunge

The lunge has been part of my workouts for a long time. They seem to be advantageous to cerebral palsy improvement. The lunge incorporates the ability to challenge balance. With the movement also challenging flexibility through the hips. These positive outcomes are present when lunging down the floor. Like any exercise presented, the lunge has taken on its own set of progressions. The exercise can be developed into more challenging aspects. As Bernard has often intended, multiple lights can be turned on using the lunge. There have been multiple tasks requested of my arms and hands while engaged in the movement. Lunging has also been used to challenge my gait. We work on lunging along a straight line in the gym floor. Cerebral palsy seems to have my legs moving outward to inward. The knees tend to buckle toward the center. We work on this by attempting to have my legs move from back to front more directly. The movement places more pressure on the glute, which seems to show pattern of being weak with spastic CP. This follows along similar lines of Dr. McCracken reminding me to keep my knees pointed outward during BFR training. The hope being to strengthen the glutes, having them engage correctly, taking stress off other parts of the body.

Lunging has always been a challenging movement. Striding to place my weight on one front leg has caused balance to wobble. When beginning the lunge movement took place holding nothing. The gym has a length of floor which equals about 15-20 lunge strides to complete. The stretch also has a noticeable crease down the middle. During the years of training, each trainer has different qualifications for completing the lunge. Some have required the trail knee to touch the floor for a completed lunge. Bernard requested something different when going through the movement. The trail knee touching the ground wasn’t something inside his teaching. He was opposed to the knee touching the mat during our lunge. The main requirement of the lunge was for the front leg to reach 90-degrees. Once the 90-dgree mark was achieved, he wanted the next step to begin. Without the knee touching, the lunge was more challenging. Even with the trail knee touching for the moment, it still provided some form of stability. When the mat contact was taken, the lunge became a more continuous motion. Which, placed added pressure on the core to maintain balance. Getting accustomed to the new form of lunge took time. As, stopping momentarily during a length was required to maintain balance. It took time to learn the continuous engagement of my core. By the time, we could go down and back along the gym without breaking for balance, it became time to progress my lunge to the next step.

After succeeding with learning the unweighted lunge, we moved to another progression. The balance was there following practice with the unweighted lunge. It was working to complete the lunge without my knee touching the floor. Though the movement didn’t come naturally. With the most challenging part learning to maintain balance. So, we moved on to working on the reverse lunge. This movement was completed with one foot resting on a slider. The other foot would remain solidly planted on the floor. Our concept would be moving the foot resting on the slider to the rear. Once the planted leg went to 90-dgrees, the slider would be pulled back to an even position with the leg planted. The result would be standing back up straight and the reverse lunge would be completed. We would perform ten reverse lunges with each leg, each time the leg sliding back with one foot on the slider. It was a challenging movement when we began. The balance and coordination was different from the forward lunge. There were stumbles while learning the movement, with the backward moving leg moving in different directions. Keeping the leg moving directly behind me was difficult, as balance wavered. The major piece of working on the reverse lunge was working on knee stability. With a different lunge movement, the knee could practice stability, trying to keep the knee from moving inward as the alternate leg moved back. It took concentration to keep the knee tracking directly over the foot, keeping everything tracking with good form. Following our work on the lunge and reverse lunge, we took more steps to work on further improving balance.

Challenging balance has often seemed one of our top priorities. There have been many different ways of using the lunge to challenge balance. An aspect of those challenges has also been turning on more lights in the brain. Forcing me to use arms and hands while continuing to lunge. The added variables required increased concentration to execute the movement. One of our first progressions was holding weight at my side. In the past holding weight during a lunge had been done. Usually carrying a kettle bell in each hand, while lunging the length of the floor. Bernard chose a new form of adding weight to the exercise. He placed ten-pound weight plates in each hand during my lunge. The weight plates were more challenging to hold than the kettle bell. Each plate having three small holes around the edge, the hole was just large enough for a couple fingers. So, the balance of these plates couldn’t be fully grasp onto. The progression helped strengthen the hand along with increasing dexterity. There was challenge in grasping the weight with just a couple fingers, but once they were in hand, the lunge was relatively smooth. We followed up this progression balancing objects overhead. The extension of my arm and shoulder would add new elements to the lunge.

Our beginning venture in holding objects overhead while lunging was the purple block. The purple blocks have been used with multiple exercises. They might be four inches wide and around ten inches in length. Those seem to be random numbers, but just giving an idea of the purple block shape. The blocks don’t have noticeable weight, so using them was about finger dexterity and arm extension. The request was to hold the block using my first two fingers and my thumb. Holding it fully extended above my head while lunging the length of the floor. Once to the end of the floor, the idea was to switch hands, lunging back with the block held above my head on the other side. With an object above my head, the balance point had changed again. The stability of my lunge would waver a bit, taking time to find the fluidity of movement. It also became challenging to think about pinching my fingers in a way to balance the block. Cerebral palsy was being directly challenged with this progression. Forcing my brain to concentrate on another couple elements. Another task to focus on during these lunges was holding my arm in an extended position. Often cerebral palsy wants to pull my limbs inward, causing my arms to find comfort in a slightly bent position. To improve this, we have worked on getting the arm into a fully extended position at the elbow. This form of holding the block overhead while lunging was the first idea implemented to help improve arm extension. From this point, it was on to adding weight.

It has been the most challenging form of a lunge by far. One that had never been seen until Bernard provided the visual. The form of lunge was referred to as the halo-lunge. Every so often an exercise will be introduced and my first instinct will be no way. There seems simply no way that movement would be accomplished. This halo-lunge fell directly into the category. He wanted me to hold the ten-pound plate over my head, each hand holding one side. Following the lunge step, the weight would be used to make a circle above my head, like a halo. The circle was to start in the direction opposite the forward leg of the lunge. When the weight was handed to me with a grin, I gave the movement my best shot. To my surprise, the movement was barely within my range of capability. But, boy was the movement challenging. The challenge came in a couple different forms. The first was stabilizing the ten-pound plate above my head. Attempting, like with the purple block, to keep me arms extended at the elbow. Then, it was making the halo shape with the weight plate, while remaining stable. As the weight circled with the arms, there remained a constant feeling that balance would be lost. The largest challenge was learning to tighten the core with the rotation of the weight. There were many times a rest was taken during the lunging of one length of the gym. The feeling persists that if the movement were brought back today, it wouldn’t be much easier.

The lunge has been a valuable movement for our effort of cerebral palsy improvement. Lunging can be progressed into a variety of forms to add challenge. With balance and coordination seeming to be the important aspects of the lunge. We have made more progressions with this exercise. Recently learning to hold a ten-pound exercise ball over my head while lunging. Or, just this week, holding a kettle bell to one side while lunging the length of the floor. The fascinating thing about working with Bernard has been these progressions. We begin most movement patterns at the start. Like lunging without using the arms to hold anything. All the way to the halo-lung and holding the exercise ball overhead. Not forgetting all the steps in between, like the reverse lunge, and holding the ten-pound plates. Cerebral palsy doesn’t have to keep us out of the gym. The disability doesn’t have to hold us back from enjoying sports and athletic endeavors. The process of gaining the strength and coordination to participate might take us longer. It may require more steps along the way, but we often gain attributes from taking those steps. Like learning perseverance and persistence, taking on the challenge without shying away or giving up on ourselves. A skill learned important to my life has been learning composure, not breaking concentration when multiple challenges are required. The important skills learned might be different for you. They rarely feel easy, but we often have much to gain from taking on the challenges of life.

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