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  • Nathanael Littauer, CSCS

Maximizing Muscle Fiber Recruitment With Walking Lunges

In the coaching industry, we rarely make something new. Exercises, protocols, and programs have mostly all been thought of and created. So instead of claiming I created the following approach, I'll tell you exactly where I found it, but I'll explain how it works and why you should do it to. This is called borrowing with credit, and the credit for what I'm about to tell you comes from Cory Gregory and Travis Mash

A few years ago, I ran a few cycles of Travis Mash's (Mash Elite Performance) eBook "Squat Everyday." In running through the program, an approach that he credited to Cory Gregory was implemented on a fairly regular basis: walking lunges performed as bodyweight movement and performed as long distance. The program progressed from a few hundreds meters every other day, to a few hundred meters everyday over the course of the program. I set tons of Personal Records while on that program.


Now, in diving into Louie Simmons writings a few years later, and having dropped the lunges out of my program, I started to understand why the lunges were truly incorporated into Squat Everyday and why I set so many PR's over the span of 3 months. It has to do with repeated efforts.


Simmons often refers to repeated efforts on part of their dynamic days at Westside (based on his writings, so those who know Westside better may be able to refute this), in which essentially a lighter movement is performed in low reps, and high volume with little time between sets. Essentially, the major working muscle fibers fatigue with the little rest between sets and the lifter has to recruit smaller muscle fibers to complete the reps. This is where the "walking lunge method" works its magic.


When you do high frequency with walking lunges, especially at bodyweight for a long distance multiple times per week, you fatigue major muscle groups within the first dozen reps per leg or so. As you continue lunging, fatigue sets in and you are forced to recruit more muscle fibers with each step. Over time, what you end up realizing is that your muscle fibers start to react to less and less nervous system stimulus, especially when recovered. This is crucial in performing strength movements, because your body adapts to lower neural outputs and can then recruit more muscle fibers during major lifting movements such as squats, deadlifts, snatches, and cleans. The more frequently you end up lunging, the more your body adapts to firing on all cylinders even on less "gas".

The great thing about the walking lunge method, is that if you really wanted to, you could start at the beginning with low loads and repeat the process

This is why I love the walking lunge method, and one of the reasons I brought it back to my lifter's programs, which eventually sparked a trend in our home base gym. It's also great, because you can layer it into any workout program and still reap the benefits. Here's how (based on a 5-6 day/week training schedule):


Week 1: Perform 150 yards of walking lunges on 3 of your training days during the week

Week 2: Perform 100 yards of walking lunges on every training day during the week

Week 3: Perform 200 yards of walking lunges on 3 of your training days during the week

Week 4: Perform 150 yards of walking lunges each training day during the week


Repeat this pattern until you get to 250 yards every single day.


Personally, I stop athletes at 250 yards performed every day for time's sake and for their mental health (because it does get repetitive and may feel redundant). But for myself, and many of my athletes, they have found that their lifts went up and their lower extremities start to feel really good. However, I've heard of Cory Gregory doing up to, or more than, 800 meters (about 875 yards) of walking lunges daily. The most I've done is 600 meters a day, which happened after an injury where all I could do was walking lunge.


So there you have it. The Walking Lunge method, a different way of using Louie Simmon's Repeated Effort approach, by utilizing bodyweight over long distances and frequently throughout the week.

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