The airborne lunge is one of the most under-appreciated exercises for the lower body. Just because it is a bodyweight exercise and it is more difficult than a barbell squat doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.
Whenever you search for a lower body calisthenics exercise to build lower body strength, you typically get pistol squats for your results. Now just to clarify, there is nothing wrong with pistol squats. Its just that pistols are very hard to do correctly. You can get away with kinda crappy form on a pistol.
With the airborne lunge, form is much easier to maintain and the benefits are unbeatable.
Nothing can draw out muscular imbalances quite as well as unilateral work. When lifters perform regular back squats, they can hide a lot of weaknesses and unfortunately those weaknesses usually present themselves as injuries.
With the airborne lunge, these imbalances can be easily spotted, diagnosed and fixed in order to improve your barbell work.
In today’s desk warrior culture, most individuals are sitting all day and creating loads of mechanical damage for themselves. Inactive and weak glutes are one of those bits of mechanical damage.
In order to jump higher, run faster and squat monster weight, you need strong and activated glutes. The airborne lunge serves as one of those ways to activate them. In fact, when I give this exercise to my clients I always hear about how sore their butt is the next day.
This exercise can also be loaded with external weight as well to get your hips as strong as possible. Here is Max Shank doing them weighted.
In his book, Ultimate Athleticism, Max Shank lists the airborne lunge as one of the four main exercises for increased athletic performance. It makes sense.
If you look at “athletic” exercises, they are exercises that are more applicable to real world athletic experiences. Most sports I know involve running.
Running is a unilateral exercise and it requires immense hip power in a unilateral stance. The airborne lunge provides that unilateral hip power required to run better.
Squatting is hard enough for most people, much less with only one leg. Continuing to train yourself with an exercise such as the airborne lunge will greatly help to increase your coordination.
Martial artists are a classic example of athletes who would benefit the most from this exercise. Delivering powerful and impressive kicks requires not just great strength, but also really good coordination.
Mastering unilateral work such as the airborne lunge gives you that coordination.
Although the airborne lunge does not demand nearly as much mobility as the pistol squat, it still requires that you are more mobile than your average gym rat.
Every structure starts from the ground up, from the feet to the ankles, knees, hips, etc. If you have an imbalance in any of these areas, then the airborne lunge will probably expose it.
Most of the reasons that lifters stall with their big lifts, like the squat, is due to imbalances because they never actually addressed them. Let’s face it, mobility work is not nearly as sexy as strength work. But with the airborne lunge you get both for the price of one.