(Last Updated On: April 13, 2019)
What are the most common exercises people do for lower body strength and hypertrophy gains? Squats and lunges, of course! No one can deny the benefits that squats offer and the fact that they work so many muscle groups. But, lunges have some of the same perks. Like squats, they’re a functional exercise that works all the muscle groups in your lower body. Plus, you can do squats and lunges using your own bodyweight or with added resistance. You’re working big muscle groups with both exercises, so they burn significant calories as well. Therefore, both of these “workhorse” exercises should be part of your lower body workout. But, today, let’s focus on the lunge and see what the advantages and disadvantages of the two main types of lunges are – front vs back lunges.
As you know, there are a variety of lunge variations. The two “basic” ones are front lunges and back lunges. The big difference between the two is with a front lunge you step one foot forward as you lower your body while with a reverse lunge, you step a foot behind your body when you lunge. You might wonder whether one lunge has benefits over the other. It really depends on your objectives, how orthopedically sound your knees are, and your sense of balance. Let’s look at each.
- Front vs Back Lunges: Is One Lunge Better Than the Other?
- Back Lunges Are Easier for Balance
- Front vs Back Lunges: Why Not Do Both?
- The Lowdown on Lunges: Forward Lunge vs. Reverse Lunge
- Pain-Free Lunging: The Forward vs. Reverse Lunge
- 6 PHASES OF THE PERFECT DYNAMIC WARM UP
- Reverse Lunge Exercise Guide
- How to Do the Reverse Lunge – Form and Technique
- Reverse Lunge – Muscles Worked
- 3 Benefits of the Reverse Lunge
- Who Should Do Reverse Lunges?
- Reverse Lunge Sets, Reps, and Weight Recommendations
- Reverse Lunge Variations
- Reverse Lunge Alternatives
- What’s the Difference Between Front and Reverse Lunges?
- Forward Lunge
- Reverse Lunge
- What the Two Lunges Have in Common
- Should you do forward or reverse lunges?
Front vs Back Lunges: Is One Lunge Better Than the Other?
Do your knees hurt when you lunge or squat? If you have knee problems, the back lunge is the safer bet. The reason? When you do a front lunge, you step one leg forward and place it in front of you, but then you have to push off that leg to propel your leg back to the starting position. The pressure you apply when you push off of the leg places added stress on the knee. Plus, with a forward lunge, you shift your center of gravity in front of you as your knee moves closer toward the toe. This, too, places more stress on your front knee.
Also, with a forward lunge, your weight shifts toward your toes and the ball of your foot, whereas with a backward lunge, the weight is more on the heel of your foot, a healthier place for it to be. Reverse lunges also keep your spine in a more neutral position. This is helpful if you have back problems and is also a safer position for your spine. So, reverse lunges are safer for your knees and spine relative to a front lunge.
On the plus side, studies show that forward lunges, although predominantly a quadriceps exercise, are also effective for targeting the hamstrings and glutes. According to an ACE study, lunges are even better than body-weight squats for activating the glutes. Plus, you’re in a more unstable position when you lunge than when you squat, so you work more stabilizing muscles as well.
Therefore, for hamstring and glute strength, front lunges are an asset, assuming you don’t do them too often or use poor form and end up with knee pain. You also should avoid doing them if you have pre-existing knee pain. The other upside of front lunges is they’re a natural movement. In fact, front lunges are similar to the movement we do when we walk. In contrast, back lunges feel unnatural. How many times do you extend a leg back behind you and lunge or walk backward?
Back Lunges Are Easier for Balance
However, front lunges are challenging in another sense. When you step forward your center of gravity shifts forward, and you may have problems keeping your balance when you first start out. In contrast, back lunges are a bit more balance-friendly for beginners. On the other hand, doing front lunges regularly can help you develop your sense of proprioception and balance.
One way to make forward lunges more knee and balance-friendly is to lean your torso forward slightly onto the heel of your front leg when you lunge. But, don’t go TOO far forward. Your knee shouldn’t extend past your front toe when you lunge. However, a slight forward lean makes it easier to balance. It also removes some of the stress on your knee and it works your glutes and hamstrings more. Your torso should move straight up and down when you lunge. Another way to make it easier to balance when you front lunge is to avoid placing your front foot directly in line with your back foot when you step forward. Placing your foot a little wider in relation to the back foot creates greater stability and helps you stay balanced.
When you first start out with front lunges and are struggling to balance, don’t take a huge step forward as this too makes it harder to stay stable. A good stepping distance is about the length of your leg. As you become more comfortable with the exercise, you can shift the focus more toward your glutes and hamstrings by stepping out further. A bigger step forward places less emphasis on the quads and more on the hamstrings and glutes.
What about reverse lunges? The reverse lunge also targets the hamstrings and glutes and, when you do them correctly are an effective exercise for building glute strength. The other advantages, as you now know, are that it’s easier to stay balanced when you do a back lunge and they’re safer for your knees and spine. They’re also a better option for beginners, especially if you’re doing them holding weights.
Front vs Back Lunges: Why Not Do Both?
If you have healthy knees, why not include both front and back lunges in your workout? Plus, you can include other lunge variations in your workout as well. For example, curtsy lunges work your inner and outer thighs more than front and back lunges. Walking lunges and jump lunges add a cardiovascular component to the exercise. So, add more variety to your lunges and reap the rewards!
ACE Fitness Matters • January/February 2006.
Stack.com. “Why Reverse Lunges Are Better Than Forward Lunges”
American Council on Exercise. “Are All Lunges Created Equal?”
J Athl Train. 2012 Aug; 47(4): 372–378.
ACE Fitness. “Glutes to the Max: Exclusive ACE Research Gets to the Bottom of the Most Effective Glutes Exercises”
5 Movement Patterns to Master for Greater Functional Strength
More Than a Leg Exercise: 5 Reasons to Love Lunges
Do You Hate Squats and Lunges?
Are You Making These Common Lunge Mistakes?
Squats vs. Lunges: Which is Better for Glute Development?
How to Get More Out of Lunges
Related Cathe Friedrich Workout DVDs:
STS Strength 90 Day Workout Program
All of Cathe’s Strength & Toning Workout DVDs
Total Body Workouts
Lower Body Workouts
The Lowdown on Lunges: Forward Lunge vs. Reverse Lunge
If you’re in the market to strengthen and sculpt your lower body while also functionally preparing for the activities of everyday life-like walking and climbing up stairs-the lunge should be a part of your workout program. This bodyweight exercise can be performed in a number of different ways, including moving forward or backward, and while stepping in one direction or the other might not seem to make that much of a difference, there’s more than meets the eye. Top personal trainers break down the advantages and disadvantages of both lunges so you can determine which option may best suit your current fitness needs.
This tried-and-true move has long been a staple in workouts, and with good reason. A research study by the American Council on Exercise found the forward lunge to be one of the most effective exercises for eliciting a high level of muscle activity in the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and hamstrings-significantly more than other common lower-body exercises such as the bodyweight squat offer.
In addition to being highly effective, the forward lunge is also quite functional, as this movement closely mimics our walking pattern. Since our brains are accustom to putting one foot in front of the other, one of the benefits that the forward lunge offers is reinforcing the gait pattern in a way that challenges balance and the muscles of the lower extremities, says Sabrena Merrill, exercise scientist and ACE master trainer based in Kansas City, MO.
RELATED: The 2-in-1 Lower-Body Workout
This added challenge, however, can have implications on the knee joint. Jonathan Ross, award-winning ACE-certified personal trainer and author of the book Abs Revealed, says that this version of the movement can be thought of as an acceleration lunge, being that the body is moving forward and then backward, which results in a greater challenge since the body is being propelled forward through space, and upon returning from the bottom of the movement must use enough force to successfully return the body to the starting position. “The increase in challenge can make this lunge a problem for people with any knee pathology since in order to perform it properly, a higher amount of force and/or more range of motion is required,” he says.
This twist on the lunge offers the body an opportunity to move in a direction that most of us do not spend much time-if any-traveling in, offering a new challenge. However Merrill says it’s less difficult to balance in reverse lunge because the center of gravity always remains between the two feet. “For the forward lunge, the center of gravity moves forward of the body during the forward stepping motion, so the reverse lunge may be an option for people who have problems with balance.”
RELATED: 10 Moves for Thinner Thighs
Part of the ease in performing this movement compared to the forward lunge is that you are moving your body up and down and not through space, adds Ross, making this more of a deceleration lunge. “The strictly vertical nature of the movement requires less force than a forward lunge, which allows for an opportunity to train the muscles of the stance leg with less stress on the joints.” International fitness educator and senior manager of training and development for TRX Dan McDonogh says that this variation on the lunge can be a suitable option for both those individuals with knee issues as well as those lacking hip mobility.
The Bottom Line
The lunge-however you choose to perform it-should be a staple in your workout routine given the focus on hip mobility and the translation to movement patterns in everyday life. In addition to providing great strengthening benefits for the muscles of the lower body, these two versions require a significant amount of core control and engagement. “Both types of lunges, when performed correctly, require one hip to flex and the other to extend while also controlling the pelvis through proper core activation,” Merrill says. “The hip, abdominal, and lower-back muscles must work in a synchronized fashion to control the tilting of the pelvis.”
RELATED: 10 Knee-Friendly Lower-Body Toners
Try This Lunge
For a greater focus on technique and comfort when performing the lunge, Ross recommends adding the bottoms-up lunge to your exercise arsenal to allow for learning proper movement first without the need to pick up and put down a foot during the movement, as done with both the forward and reverse lunges.
To perform this static movement, begin with right foot forward and left foot back with left knee resting on a balance pad or Bosu balance trainer directly under left hip. Keeping spine straight, create the upward movement by pushing right foot into the ground and straightening right leg using hamstrings and inner thigh muscles. Reverse the movement by using right leg to slowly lower left knee back down to the pad or Bosu with control. Alternate legs.
- By Jessica Matthews
Pain-Free Lunging: The Forward vs. Reverse Lunge
6 PHASES OF THE PERFECT DYNAMIC WARM UP
Perform at maximum capacity while keeping yourself injury-free. Completely FREE for you to download.
Here’s What You Need To Know…
1. If you crank forward lunges out long and hard enough, they will catch up with you, and that’s a fact. No matter how pristine your forward lunge technique, time only leads to discomfort, pain and injuries. Enter the reverse lunge!
2. The reverse lunge can be a great alternative to the traditional forward lunge without the anterior knee pain. It will also produce a brutal training effect.
3. The reverse lunge is a hip hinge dominant movement, and will activate the posterior chain musculature significantly more than it’s counterpart. It will achieve a slightly higher front side hip flexion angle when the lunge is completed.
It’s been said that in the world of lower body strength and conditioning, there are only two fundamental movement patterns that need to be trained; the SQUAT and the LUNGE. The lunge has been a popular way to overload the quads for hypertrophy and strength development, while also incorporating the posterior-lateral chain muscles to kick in during dynamic stabilization of the hip and knee joints collectively.
Basic forward lunge training can pack some serious size to your thighs, but due to the single leg nature of the motion, it also has the ability to piss off your knees a bit. With all the added advantages to lunging, it’s almost a sin to ax it from your training regimen due to discomfort. The key to long term success and constant periodized long term progressive overload is in the many simple, yet effective variations of the lunge.
Problems With The Forward Lunge
If you crank them out long and hard enough, lunges will catch up with you, and that’s a fact. No matter how pristine your forward lunge technique, the actual mechanism of motion is the causal factor for joint discomfort, especially in the knees.
Anterior knee pain during and after lunges is very common, ask anyone with tree trunks for legs. The difference between discomfort and pain is defined by a sharp, radiating feeling through your bodies tissues that stimulates over the top soreness which is amplified by specific motion. Lunges can cause pain, no question about it. But why? They aren’t really that different than a squat, right?
Lunge Pain Free with Functional Hypertrophy Training
Wrong! The lunge focuses on a hard eccentric quad contraction on the step leg to stabilize the foot and ankle, while still staying upright at the hip and trunk. This eccentric loading of the quads (remember they attach to the knee cap, or patella) causes a huge amount of strain through the patella and other regional structures including the patellar ligament. Repeated front loading of the knees approximate that knee cap on the lower end of the femur, making the motion feel even worse. On top of everything else, joint effusion and swelling can cause friction in the joint space and surrounding muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascial layers. Pretty shitty, all in all. Check out this demo from the front and side below.
Optimal Form & Technique – Forward Lunge
The forward lunge is taught from a neutral starting position at the lower body and spinal column. This neutral position at the spine and core is maintained throughout the dynamic lower body portion of the movement, integrating static stability of the trunk with dynamic stability of the hips bilaterally. Throughout the motion, the spine should stay in a straight line that is perpendicular to the ground. This upright posture allows all 4 heads of the quadriceps to activate and fire, intensifying the training stimulus of the movement. There you go, your knees are killing you while lunging because 4 of the thickest, strongest muscles in your body are all pulling on a small bone, over and over and over again.
Alternative To The Forward Lunge
This isn’t the end of the story. I’m not going to tell you to go get on your lunge grind, and rip apart your knees step by step. That being said, I am also not going to hate on the lunge. This movement is far too advantageous for muscles and strength building, not to mention single leg loading, to just throw away and forget about completely. Like with anything in fitness, there always has to be a risk:benefit ratio for each movement. Simply said, is an exercise going to get you the gains your are shooting for without driving you down into the ground and leading you to injury before you get there. Enter our compromise on the lunge…the REVERSE LUNGE.
Optimal Form & Technique – Reverse Lunge
Looks pretty similar to the forward lunge, just going backwards, right? Look a bit closer, because it is NOT the same! The mastery is in the acute details and mechanism of motion. The starting position will be identical to the forward lunge, and obviously various upper body loading (dumbbells shown in the video) can also be programmed. Because the first action of the reverse lunge is a backward step, the front leg maintains reflexive stability throughout the hip and knee joints, and does not have to go into an open chain to achieve that position, unlike the forward lunge.
The step length of the reverse lunge will also be identical to the forward, and for that matter, the step width and neutral spinal position will also be that of the forward lunge. The key difference is the maximal hip flexion angle that the front side leg achieves, and the position of the hip throughout the concentric and eccentric portions of the movement.
Key Differences Between The Two Variations
There are a few differences in the way we coach and perform the reverse lunge as opposed to the forward lunge, but for the sake of knee health and programming a kick ass alternative to the forward lunge that yields 90% of the results, we will stick to the absolute basics!
*KEY POINT– The reverse lunge is a hip hinge dominant movement, and will activate the posterior chain musculature significantly more than it’s counterpart. It will achieve a slightly (10-15 degree) higher front side hip flexion angle when the lunge is completed. This higher hip flexion angle will allow the rectus femoris (double joint encompassing quadriceps muscle) to be slightly slackened when the back foot is placed behind the front, and the eccentric (first half) portion of the lunge is done. Without the strain from this muscle, the patella is more likely to respond favorably to the training forces through the quads rather than the strain on non-contractile tissues such as the patellar ligaments and fascia on the front side of the knee.
One of the best things about the lunge is it’s versatility in programming. It has the ability to be programmed at high rep ranges in it’s most primal state, bodyweight, all the way up to loading for power triples with the barbell. Here are a few tips for finding the perfect variation of the REVERSE LUNGE:
1. Loading Apparatus- bodyweight, dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, medicine balls etc.
2. Loading Position- neutral (arms at side), Goblet Position, overhead, barbell front, barbell back etc.
3. Set/Rep/Rest Schemes- various (the heavier the load, decrease reps and increase rest). A good starting point for strength is a classic 5/8/60, and for hypertrophy 4/12/45. Give those a shot, and vary accordingly.
4. Frequency- lunge patterns can be trained at a minimum of 1 day per week, and a maximum of 4. Optimal rest, recovery and regeneration is a priority to optimize training effects.
Conclusion On The Lunge
Lunges are great, and with a few key tweaks to your technique and programming, you can be programming them as a go to lower body strength pillar in any type of training. Mastery is in the details, and adding the reverse lunge to your program will help you build stronger lifts overall, mostly due to the fact that your knees won’t be barking. Master the hip hinge action of the lunge, program into your lower body routine, and enjoy your pain free gains!
About The Author
Meet Dr. John Rusin | The Strength Doc
Dr. John Rusin is an internationally recognized coach, physical therapist, speaker, and writer, whose published over 200 articles in some of the most widely regarded media outlets in the industry like Testosterone Nation, Mountain Dog Diet, Breaking Muscle, and Muscle and Strength, to name a few.
Along with an impressive laundry list of publications, Dr. John works with some of the world’s most elite athletes, including Gold Medalist Olympians, NFL All-Pro Quarterbacks, MLB All-Star Pitchers, Professional Bodybuilders and World Class IronMan Triathletes.
He takes pride in offering uniquely customized programming to clients of all walks of life in the exact same detail and passion as the Pros! Dr. John’s 12-Week Bodybuilding Program is now available to you.
Perform at maximum capacity while keeping yourself injury-free. Completely FREE for you to download.
Reverse Lunge Exercise Guide
The reverse lunge is a unilateral exercise than can be used to build strength, muscle hypertrophy, and enhance movement mechanics for strength, power, and fitness athletes. While most athletes spend a good amount of time training the squat and deadlift, the reverse lunge (and other unilateral leg exercise) should be incorporated into a strength training program to maximize muscle development, decrease movement imbalances, and increase injury resilience.
Therefore, in this reverse lunge exercise guide, we will discuss:
- Reverse Lunge Form and Technique
- Benefits of the Reverse Lunge
- Muscles Worked by the Reverse Lunge
- Reverse Lunge Sets, Reps, and Weight Recommendations
- Reverse Lunge Variations and Alternatives
How to Do the Reverse Lunge – Form and Technique
Step 1: Start with the barbell on you upper back/traps, similar to a back squat.
You can do this from the rack or simply cleaned and placed across the back. You can also choose to place the load in the front rack positions (depending on your variation).
Reverse Lunge Start
Step 2: Set the back and place the majority of the loading in your right leg as you step your left leg backwards.
The distance you step backwards will depend on the amount of hamstring and quadriceps involved. Be sure to step back enough that your back left knee (when on the ground) is in line or behind the right heel.
Reverse Lunge Middle
Step 3: With the hips loaded underneath the torso, and weight properly dispersed in the right heel and midfoot, stand up with a vertical torso.
You may have a slight forward lean with the torso, similar to an angle that would happen in the back squat.
Reverse Lunge Bottom
Step 4: As you stand back up, bring your left leg back to the original position.
The lifter should maintain proper balance and avoid leaning or loss of balance throughout the movement.
Reverse Lunge Step Up
Step 5: Repeat for repetitions on each leg either in alternating fashion or complete all one side, then switch.
Be sure to follow the sets, reps, and loading guidelines listed below.
Reverse Lunge End
Reverse Lunge – Muscles Worked
The reverse lunge targets the muscles in the lower body, primary the ones below. While there are other muscle groups that may be affected based on loading (for example front rack reverse lunge vs overhead reverse lunge), the below muscles are worked the most.
The hamstrings are used to eccentrically control the load as the lift descends as well as help to extend the hips in deeper reverse lunges. Like most lunges, the hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps are targeted.
The glutes work to extend the hips and stabilize the movement as a lifter descends down into the reverse lunge. Additionally, glute activation and strength can play a role in knee stabilization.
The quadriceps work to extend a flexed knee, which can be targeted to a greater or lesser extent based on the distance at which a lifter steps backwards (longer step back will result in more hip flexion rather than knee flexion, hence less quadriceps involved). Additionally, a lifter can perform front foot elevated reverse lunges (see variations below) to increase the range of motion and quadriceps involvement.
3 Benefits of the Reverse Lunge
Below are three (3) benefits of the reverse lunge. Note, that most lunging variations can enhance lower body strength, stability, and function on a unilateral basis.
Unilateral Leg Strength, Hypertrophy, and Stability
Unilateral leg strength and muscle development can enhance overall leg strength and performance. By addressing unilateral training, coaches and athletes can decrease the asymmetries and imbalances that may exist that affect a lifter’s positioning, stability, and strength in a movement. Lastly, by enhancing unilateral performance of the lower body, you can help to minimize overuse or compensation pattern that can result injury.
Hamstring and Glute Development
The hamstrings and glutes can be targeted to a greater extent when a lifter take a deeper step backwards behind them, lengthening the distance between the back leg and lead leg. In doing so, the lifter must allow for greater hip flexion which places greater loading on the hamstrings and glute muscles.
The reverse lunge can be modified (smaller step back, which forces greater knee flexion) to target the quadriceps to a greater degree simply by increasing the amount of knee flexion in the lead leg. In doing so, a lifter is forced to stay in a more upright position and use the quadriceps to extend the knee.
View this post on Instagram
Who Should Do Reverse Lunges?
Reverse lunges are a movement that can impact all athletes and lifters. The below groups can use the reverse lunge to specifically enhance movement and strength in their respective sports.
Strength, Power, and Fitness Athletes
Strength and power athletes can use the reverse lunge as a unilateral leg exercise to assist in the development of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. In addition, this can be used to address movement imbalances (such as hip shifting in the bottom of the squat) and muscle asymmetries.
This exercise is great for athletes in that it involves unilateral stability, strength, coordination, and balance. In addition to those attributes, this exercise can be good for developing unilateral stamina and muscle endurance when done in higher rep fashion with restricted rest periods. Runners, cyclists, and other endurance athletes should train unilateral lower body exercises on a regular basis as this is highly sport specific.
General Health and Wellness
For general fitness and wellness purposes, the reverse lunge can be used to increase lower body strength, muscle development, and increase stability in the knee and hip. While squats and deadlifts are important, some individuals may have back issues or cannot assume proper mechanics while performing these movements. The reverse lunge may be a good movement to substitute or add into a general fitness program to establish better movement, muscle development, and stability.
View this post on Instagram
Reverse Lunge Sets, Reps, and Weight Recommendations
Below are four sets, reps, and weight (intensity) recommendations for coaches and athletes to properly program the reverse lunge specific to the training goal. Note, that the below guidelines are simply here to offer coach and athletes loose recommendations for programming.
Movement Integrity – Reps, Sets, and Weight Recommendations
The reverse lunge can be used to develop a lifter’s basic understanding of a lunging and squatting movement. It is a foundational pattern for establishing unilateral leg strength, balance, and stability. This should be done with a light to moderate load for moderate repetitions in a controlled fashion to instill proper control and coordination.
- 3-4 sets of 8-10 repetitions with light to moderate loads, at a controlled speed (focusing on proper eccentric/lowering of the weight), resting as needed
Muscle Hypertrophy – Reps, Sets, and Weight Recommendations
Training the reverse lunge for muscle hypertrophy should include a moderate to high amount of volume with a moderate to high amount of loading. The below rep ranges can be used as general guidelines to increase muscle hypertrophy of the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
- 3-5 sets of 6-12 repetitions with moderate to heavy loads OR 2-4 sets of 12-15 repetitions with moderate loads to near failure, keeping rest periods 45-90 seconds
Strength – Reps, Sets, and Weight Recommendations
While the reverse lunge is often not trained with heavy and near maximal loads, lifters can use moderate to heavy loads in the below rep ranges to increase unilateral leg strength. The below ranges can be used to increase leg strength. It is important that the lifter remains in control throughout the entire motion. If the load is heavy, it is highly recommended to have a spotter or set oneself up within a squat rack for safety purposes. Never overload this movement, always air on the side of caution.
- 3-5 sets of 4-6 repetitions with moderate to heavy loading, resting as needed
Muscle Endurance- Reps, Sets, and Weight Recommendations
The reverse lunge can be done to increase lower body endurance and stamina. The below rep ranges can work best for this type of goal.
- 2-4 sets of 15-20 repetitions with light to moderate loads, keeping rest periods under 30-45 seconds
View this post on Instagram
Reverse Lunge Variations
Below are three (3) common reverse lunge variations that can be done to increase unilateral leg strength, challenge movement patterning, and enhance overall lower body performance.
Front Rack Reverse Lunge
The front rack reverse lunge can be done using dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell simply by placing the load up on the front of the body. By assuming the front rack position, you challenge core stability and force the lifter to stay upright throughout the movement. In doing so, the lifter must control and coordinate the reverse lunge without allowing the chest to fall in the movement, targeting the glutes and quadriceps.
Front Foot Elevated Reverse Lunge
By elevating the front foot, the lifter can increase the amount of knee flexion in the front leg during the reverse lunge. By stepping backwards to a deficit, the lifter must remain in a more upright position in deeper knee flexion, which will help to increase quadriceps engagement.
Crossover Reverse Lunge
The crossover reverse lunge is done by having the lifter step backwards and slightly behind the body (on a diagonal). In doing so, the lifter must control the amount of knee valgus (knees buckling in) which challenge hip stability. This is a good movement for lateral stability as well as targeting the glutes.
View this post on Instagram
Reverse Lunge Alternatives
Below are three (3) common reverse lunge alternatives that can be used interchangable with the reverse lunge to develop leg strength, unilateral stability, and lower body performance.
Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat is a unilateral exercise that can develop leg strength, hypertrophy, and improve squat performance. This exercise is done by placing the back leg on a bench or other supportive surface and descending down into a lunge, target tgin the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
TRX / Suspension Lunge
The split squat using suspension bands/TRX bands is a challenge exercise that forces a lifter to increase lower body stability, enhance motor unit control (due to the added instability of the movement), and increase both eccentric and isometric strength and coordination. The lifter places their back leg in the stirrup, and slowly descends into a lunge, placing the large majority of the loading demands on their lead leg.
The walking lunge challenges many of the same muscle groups as the reverse lunge, and demands great control and coordination. Unlike the reverse lunge, however, the walking lunge is dynamic, which will require greater balance, stability, and control. Some lifters may struggle with proper walking lunge mechanics, and therefore should perform this only after mastering the other two above alternatives.
Featured Image: Mike Dewar
What’s the Difference Between Front and Reverse Lunges?
Lunges make an appearance in countless workouts, whether you’re focusing on strength, power, or functional movements—and for good reason. The exercise strengthens the lower body while requiring balance and core stability. Lunges simply make you steadier on your feet and ease the effort of everyday movements such as walking.
Some trainers include forward lunges in a routine, whereas others focus on the reverse variation. The question is: What’s the difference? To help you determine which lunge exercise will help you reach your fitness goals, we turned to Aaptiv Trainer Kenta Seki. Read on to learn the difference in mechanics and muscles worked, as well as what to keep in mind when you perform each type of lunge.
Looking to start a regular strength training routine? Aaptiv can help.
How it works: “Front lunges use momentum to push your center of gravity forward, which causes you to catch and control your weight as you land into the lunge,” Seki explains. To get back up, you have to press your weight backward.
Targeted muscles: quads and core
How it works: “Reverse lunges use stability in the front leg to step your rear leg back into a lunge and then power in the front leg to step that rear leg back forward,” Seki says. You power this movement with your front leg, driving into your heel as you step back up to stand. You shouldn’t have much weight in that back leg.
Targeted muscles: glutes and hamstrings
What the Two Lunges Have in Common
In terms of form, you should keep a few things in mind for both variations, including a 90-degree bend in each knee. This requires a wide-enough step to achieve the right angle, Seki says. That means your back knee should be slightly behind you rather than right beneath you. Make sure you ground down into the heel of your front foot. Press into it to take on most of the weight. Don’t let that front heel lift off the ground. You also want to avoid moving your knee too far forward beyond your toes.
Aaptiv’s strength workouts have visual workout guides, so you always do your exercises with perfect form.
Should you do forward or reverse lunges?
“Because front lunges propel your bodyweight forward, they have more potential to cause knee injury or strain if done incorrectly,” Seki explains. “For this reason, I recommend beginners start with rear lunges first to perfect their form and control before progressing to a front lunge.”
If you’re a more experienced exerciser, Seki suggests incorporating both into your workouts—just make sure to maintain good form. One last tip: If you’re doing lunges for the first time, don’t use added weight or resistance. When you feel confident and strong, then go ahead and pick up some dumbbells.
Pick up some dumbbells and push play on an Aaptiv class today!
It’s time to step away from training your “mirror muscles”.
You know a carved core, beefed-up , and amped-up arms are going to make you look good in a T-shirt, but you’re missing out on some huge gains by solely training muscles from the waist up. The solution is simple: Add these lunge variations into your workout regimen. Aside from filling out those chicken legs of yours, lunges will make you a better athlete.
“Training your glutes will give you more speed and explosive power,” says Simon King, a personal trainer and the owner of Cre8 Fitness in London. All in all, unilateral exercises are a great way to improve flexibility and balance. And, King adds, “Compound exercises like lunges elicit a huge metabolism response, meaning you burn calories.”
If you’re ready to bulletproof your body, reduce your risk of injury with the added reward of strong glutes, lean hamstrings, and toned calves, then let’s get started with the 13 best lunge variations.
Before you begin any lunge variation on our list, go through this pre-workout checklist:
- Prepare your body for movement through mobilization and a proper warmup
- Drive through your heel(s) to maximally recruit your glutes
- Keep hips aligned to protect any knee deviation
- Brace your core to create intra-abdominal pressure
- Keep your head still throughout every exercise
If you’re a beginner, start with a simple static lunge or walking lunge, concentrating on the quality of each rep. Start with 3 sets of 10 reps for each leg. As you become more competent, think about challenging your body as much as possible, increasing the amount of reps and sets, even working toward 10 sets of 10 reps on a more advanced exercise like the rear foot elevated lunge holding dumbbells in each hand.
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!