Mobilize Your Hips and Stabilize Your Core with 3D Lunges

One of the tests I use to evaluate all of my basketball players is a lunge test.

To demonstrate proper lunging technique and alignment means that the player has good thigh, hip, and glute flexibility and strength. It is also a great indicator of trunk and core stability as it will show me how well a player can hold correct upper body posture during a lower body movement.

This is extremely important for the bigger and taller players as a majority of movements on the court are single leg in nature, or split stance like in the lunge, and accompanied by dynamic arm and hand action.

If a ‘Big Man’ has a weak trunk that cannot support the many overhead movements of catching a ball, shooting, rebounding, and blocking shots during dynamic and explosive ‘lunge-type’ stances, jumps, and cuts then he is going to have difficulty playing the game effectively. So seeing how well a player can perform a lunge gives me an excellent idea of what kind of strength and mobility work they need.

When I spot limitations or difficulties during an evaluation of the lunge, such as the athlete not being able to hold his trunk upright or his feet and knees not being able to maintain sagittal plane alignment, it can mean several things; unstable and immobile ankle joints and tight calf muscles; weak or tight groin and inner thigh (hip abductor) and quads; imbalances between some glute weakness and abductor tightness, etc.

Despite the fact that most players and coaches can’t be expected to properly analyze and recognize all of the causes of a poor lunge, I find that by applying a simple 3D Lunge Series you can realize some very significant benefits and improvements.

What’s really neat about the 3D Lunge is that every time you step in a different direction you mobilize, stabilize and strengthen hip, thigh, and ankle in a much more functional and basketball specific manner then you would from simply performing a one dimensional lunge.

To perform this very effective exercise, start from an upright position, with feet hip width apart and hands on hips. The first version is a Forward Lunge. Perform them by having the athlete step forward and lower the body by bending both knees to 90 degrees. Alternate right and left leg and certify that the athlete is in proper alignment and posture.

The second version of the 3D Lunge is a Side Lunge where the athlete alternates right and left lateral steps. As the hips go back and down, it is really important that they keep their feet parallel and maintain full foot contact with the ground as they lower their body. Gaze forward to keep the chest pointed directly ahead.

The last version is a Crossover Lunge. Instead of lateral steps to the side have the athlete laterally cross-step one leg in front of the other. It is important to note that the heel of the back leg will come off the ground and be supported on the ball of the foot. The front foot however must stay flat on the floor. Pay careful attention to the athlete’s feet so that they don’t rotate out but stay pointed straight ahead. Finally, assure that the hips stay squared to the front and don’t over rotate towards the stepping foot.

Perform 1 to 2 sets of between 5 to 15 reps in each direction. For example, one set would be 5 Front Lunges, 5 Side Lunges, and 5 Crossover Lunges on each foot. The indicator of how many reps are enough is when the athlete begins to tire and loose form.

Try this and I will be looking forward to hearing your feed-back!

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