How to Avoid Knee Pain With Lunging So You Can Stay Active In The Gym

The lunge is one of the most ‘functional’ fitness related exercises – meaning that it most readily translates to real world activities. Walking, running, hiking, jumping all require the same muscle groups we train with lunges.

Here’s the unfortunate truth, if you crank out forward lunges for long enough, it will eventually lead to discomfort, pain and injury to your knees. It doesn’t matter how perfect your form is - the nature of the forward lunge puts a lot of force through you knee and patellar tendon.

Today we’ll discuss variations of the lunge to help protect your knees

Pain Free Lunging

            Forward Lunging

Anterior knee pain is very common for people who do a lot of forward lunges. The reason being that the forward lunge is a ‘quad dominant’ exercise – that relies heavily on the eccentric contraction of the quad to control the movement. The repeated pull on the knee cap and patellar tendon will lead to discomfort, pain and injury.

Reverse Lunge

With that said, a safer version of the lunge is the Reverse Lunge. While seemingly similar, they are NOT the same. A few key differences

  • By stepping back, our forward leg is in a CLOSED chain (easier to control and more stability in the leg).

  • Posterior chain dominant. Meaning we’re loading our hamstrings and glutes vs. the quads.

  • No Eccentric Contraction Through the Quad - less tension over the knee cap and patellar tendon.

Lunges are one of the most functional exercises for translating to real world activities and should be part of any lower body strength and movement program to stay pain free. Knowing the difference between the two types of lunges and how to properly progress the lunge – we can continue to build strength while keeping our body safe from injury!


Evolve Performance Healthcare specializes in helping active adults stay moving and strong, keep up with their lifestyle, and do what the love without the use of pain meds, endless doctor visits, and costly surgeries.

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