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The levitation lunge is a key indicator for a triathlete’s single-leg strength. Being able to perform this movement with confidence and control tells me that an athlete has coordinated engagement through their entire chain from the core down to the ankle. When the hips, quads, calves, and feet are all moving together, you’ll be able to properly absorb impact on the run, and apply force on the bike. If you aren’t able to engage these muscles in a coordinated fashion, you’ll lose power and risk injury.
A lot of athletes can’t perform this movement at first, let alone hit the gold standard of our gym age test. That’s why I have variations for athletes of all levels that will progress you toward performing this powerful strength movement.
How to: Levitation Lunge
First, we’ll start with the goal movement pattern that you’ll be shooting for eventually. You’ll want to use a dumbbell at about 10% body weight. The weight will act as a counter balance, allowing you to hold the proper posture and perform the movement more easily. You’ll start balanced on one foot, trying to maintain equal pressure through the tripod of your foot (big toe, little toe, and heel).
To start the movement, hinge through your hips, and lower your other leg until your knee lightly taps the ground. It will be a bit like doing a lunge, where your back foot never touches the ground. Breathe in through your nose while you lower and breathe out strong through your mouth as you push into the ground and return to the starting position. It’s important to keep your knee neutral, not caving in, as you do this movement.
If your knee caves in, you are reinforcing bad mechanics in your run and bike, so make a conscious effort to correct these bad habits in your movements. If you can’t do the movement without your knee caving in, or can’t lower into that deep of a range of motion with control, you’d benefit more from one of the variations below that will help you progress in this movement pattern.
In each of the variations below, remember to focus on your breathing, your knee position, and keeping your chest lifted and shoulders back and down so you are pushing straight up and down.
Levitation Lunge Variation 1: Hand Support
If you were having trouble maintaining good form in such a deep range of motion, this variation will give you a chance to progress with a little extra support. In this variation, you’ll grab on to something stable as you go through the movement. Try to use the hand support as lightly as possible, but when you notice your form is starting to sway, put some pressure on your hands and correct your form. Maintaining solid form and mechanics is much better than building strength in a faulty movement pattern, so take support when you need it and trust that you are getting better.
Levitation Lunge Variation 2: Smaller Range of Motion
For some athletes, getting into a deeper range is quite hard. This variation on the levitation lunge will allow you to progress to a lower and lower lunge. The set up is the same as the original, only this time you will need a stack of books or boxes as a reference point right under your lifted leg. You’re going to do the levitation lunge, tapping your knee to the stack you’ve made instead of the floor. As you gain confidence, you can start to remove objects from the stack and get closer and closer to the floor. This is a good way to progress your range of motion toward the goal movement.
Reps and Sets
Our gold standard for this movement is being able to do 20 reps in one minute on each leg. If you want to begin working this movement into your strength circuits, start by doing 4 sets of 20-40 seconds of whichever variation you feel most comfortable in. Over a few sessions, work towards doing 40-60 seconds.
As a former hotshot firefighter who found himself injured, Matt Pendola relied on strength and mobility training to rehab his own injuries and get back to running pain free. Inspired by the huge impact that strength and mobility had, he has gone on to become an EXOS Performance Specialist and Licensed Massage Therapist with a focus in manual sports massage therapy. As a strength coach, he’s worked with the likes of Gwen Jorgensen and Ben Kanute, who this year, under his guidance, placed 2nd at the 70.3 World Championships. Despite his success with high-performance pros, Matt’s greatest thrill is getting to teach athletes of all levels how to perform with more confidence and control.