Does Your Knee Touch the Ground During Lunges? (5 Reasons Not To)

It’s a commonly-asked question, “Does Your Knee Touch the Ground During Lunges?”

Depending on who you ask, you’ll receive a wide variety of answers.

Funnily enough, I’ve noticed that the majority of physical therapists seem to respond in the affirmative.

Whereas, personal trainers and certified coaches will say there is no need for the knee to touch the ground.

So, who’s right?

Does Your Knee Touch the Ground During Lunges?

There is no need for the back knee to touch the ground during lunges. For most people, leaving the back knee 1-3 inches off the ground would be ideal. This allows for an adequate range of motion, as well maintaining sufficient muscle tension throughout the exercise.

1. You Can Still Achieve Full Range of Motion

A Woman Doing Kettlebell Lunges

Firstly, I will say that there is no definitive right answer.

This is a matter of personal preference.

So, you can in fact touch your knee to the ground during lunges, but I prefer not to.

One of the main reasons that you may hear that you should is in order to achieve a full range of motion.

We all know that performing any exercise through the full range of motion is the best way to get positive results.

Whether you’re looking to gain strength, build muscle, or lose fat, never half-rep or “cheat” an exercise.

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However, in my mind, the full range of motion when it comes to performing lunges can be achieved without your knee touching the ground.

At the bottom of the movement, as long as both legs form a 90 degree angle at the knee, you have achieved an adequate range of motion.

In fact, dropping your knee to the floor will typically lessen this angle.

Why Full Range of Motion is Important

2. No Control Over The Descent

A Man Performing Lunges

People will often talk about whether lunges are bad for the knees.

However, this is generally aimed at the front knee, whereby the knee shoots past the toes.

By doing this, your front leg will go beyond the “perfect” 90 degree angle I’ve mentioned above, and this can put additional pressure on the knee.

With that being said, I frequently see people performing lunges and literally dropping their back knee into the ground.

In fact, it’s almost as though they are reaching for the ground in order to finish the movement.

Basically, there is absolutely no control over the descent, and this can often lead to the back knee “banging” into the ground.

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that this is not going to do your knees any favours.

And this could be a precursor for an injury, but for the back knee rather than the front knee.

So, I prefer to avoid touching my knee to the ground in favour of a more controlled descent.

Lunges should be performed slowly and under full control.

This is not a speed-based exercise, as many people believe.

3. Loss of Muscle Tension

Another problem with dropping the knee to the ground is that many people tend to relax once they hit the floor.

I agree that a lunge should be performed slowly, and that you will achieve better results by having a brief pause at each change of movement.

By this I mean:

  • Lunge forward (or backwards)
  • Slight pause
  • Drop into lunge until both legs form a 90 degree angle
  • Slight pause
  • Push back up to the top of the movement
  • Slight pause
  • Repeat

By performing lunges in this way, you increase time-under-tension, plus you keep muscle tension throughout the movement.

This is fantastic irrespective of whether you’re once again training for strength, muscle, or fat loss.

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However, there is a tendency to completely relax when your knee touches the floor.

It’s almost as though the lunge has been made into two separate movements.

A lowering movement, then completely relax, and then a raising movement.

But if your knee touches the ground during lunges and you completely relax, you’re defeating the object of the exercise.

This will immediately cause you to lose muscle tension.

So, in other words, you have decreased the time-under-tension, and therefore the exercise becomes less effective.

The reason I mentioned earlier that there is no real “right” answer is because I see nothing wrong with the knee briefly touching the floor.

Literally just grazing it.

However, many people tend to come to a complete stop once their knee touches the floor, thus removing all muscle tension.

4. Tight Hip Flexors

A Woman Performing the Pigeon Stretch For Tight Hip Flexors

Another reason not to allow your knee to touch the ground during lunges is if you have tight hip flexors.

This is certainly something that I am familiar with, so I know only too well why “ground-touching” should be avoided.

Many people struggle with lunges due to a variety of factors.

This could range from instability in the hips, ankles, or even the feet.

Remember, the lunge is a single-leg movement, so there is a certain amount of balance required.

Plus, the lunge requires a bend at the knee and at the hips.

So, this brings the hip flexors into play.

I often see people overstretching the hip flexors when performing lunges, and this is never a good thing.

However, if you’re someone who suffers with tight or even painful hip flexors then you need to be even more careful when doing lunges.

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Maintain a Slight Torso Forward Lean

In fact, I would recommend that if you do have tight hip flexors that you ensure that your knee stays at least 2-3 inches off the ground.

Whenever performing lunges, the torso should always remain in exactly the same position.

The ideal torso position is leaning slightly forward, and as you go up and down, this position should be maintained.

However, when tight or sore hip flexors come into play there is a tendency to arch the lower back, and the torso leans into more of a backward position.

This will stretch the front hip flexor, and provides some light relief in terms of tightness or pain.

But, this goes against the correct body mechanics of performing a lunge.

So, always ensure that your torso is leaning ever so slightly forward and maintain that position.

As soon as you feel your upper body starting to move backwards you know you have reached your full hip flexor flexibility.

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5. Be Careful When Fatigued

The final reason I would suggest that you avoid your knee touching the ground during lunges is due to fatigue.

Whether you’re using a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebells, or even your own bodyweight, fatigue can play a part.

Let’s say that you’re performing high-rep bodyweight lunges, 20 reps per leg.

As you begin to tire, you may find that rather than your back knee barely touching the ground, you have manifested into a bouncing movement.

By this I mean the back knee literally bounces off the ground to keep the movement flowing.

This actually takes into consideration practically everything I have mentioned so far.

There is the most obvious, but as you fatigue, this “bouncing” movement could see you banging your knee hard into the ground.

A potential for injury.

Next, you’re making the exercise slightly easier with the “bounce”.

But, rather than completely relaxing at the bottom, you’re now using momentum to get your knee back up from the floor.

Either way, this will have an impact on muscle tension.

Finally, by bouncing off the ground from fatigue you are no longer controlling the descent of the lunge.

So, your lunge form has pretty much gone out of the window.

4 Dumbest Lunge Mistakes

Final Thoughts

So, in answer to whether your knee should touch the ground during lunges, for me it’s a definite NO.

I will reiterate that there is nothing wrong with the knee literally grazing the ground, as long as you are able to maintain this form throughout the set.

However, I also think that “knee-touching” can lead to many of the bad habits I’ve mentioned here.

So, to be on the safe side, and to ensure you are working the lunge correctly, I recommend that you avoid the knee touching the ground.

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2 thoughts on “Does Your Knee Touch the Ground During Lunges? (5 Reasons Not To)”

  1. Hey Partha,

    I am so pleased that you have written and shared this article. I have told you before that I do twenty lunges every day on each leg, and I do not touch the floor with my knee. The reason I didn’t touch the floor was because I saw it as resting and I wouldn’t get the full benefit of the exercise. But, there are also the other reasons that you describe so I am even happier now.

    I am going to continue with the lunges and I will ensure to not put my knee on the floor. Especially when you say it is a definite NO.

    Thank you for sharing another inspirational article that has made me happy. Keep coming with more inspirational articles my friend.

    All the best,

    Tom

    Reply
    • Hey Tom,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I’m glad to hear that you’ve been performing your lunges “My Way”, LOL, although I know not everyone will agree with me.

      As I’ve mentioned it could be viewed as “resting” simply because muscle tension may be released.

      However, there are those who will say that in order to achieve full range of motion that the knee should touch the floor.

      But, I’m definitely not in that camp.

      I’m glad to hear you enjoy the articles Tom, that’s always lovely to hear.

      Thanks
      Partha

      Reply

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