The reverse lunge is arguably my second favorite exercise in the gym, behind everyone’s favorite, the deadlift of course. This is one exercise that I would recommend to anyone, between the benefits you can gain from it as well as the safety it provides when executed properly. It’s easy to develop a love-hate relationship with these bad boys. The hate comes from the complete ass kicking (literally) they will deliver to your glutes and core. The love comes from the results you see as well as the overall increase in lower body strength and stability. Let me go into more details as to why I have a mancrush on the reverse lunge.
- The reverse lunge is a unilateral exercise. In other words, a specific muscle is targeted one limb at a time. In this case, the gluteus maximus is the main target muscle when executing a reverse lunge. Unilateral exercises are important in any workout program because they create instability. When the body doesn’t have a stable base, it requires the core and glutes to stabilize as compensation. Without proper stability, crappy form and loss of balance are two main consequences when performing a unilateral exercise.
- Because it is a unilateral exercise, there is no need for excessive weight on the barbell. In fact, when performed properly, a barbell isn’t needed at all in the beginner’s phase. Trust me, this exercise is tough enough as a body weight only exercise without having to worry about blowing out your lumbar spine.
- The reverse lunge has numerous progressions to it. Once you’ve mastered the body weight reverse lunge, you can add a barbell to the equation. When that becomes too easy, you can throw some weight on that bad boy. There are many pieces of equipment out there as well that can serve as progressions to the reverse lunge, a slide board and TRX suspension trainer are the first to come to mind. The various reverse lunge exercises that can be performed are definitely a great reason why it should be cemented into your workout program.
- It’s one of my favorite (and most dreaded!) ways to finish off a workout. You’ve worked hard, busted your ass and have sweat dripping everywhere. Now you got 2 to 3 sets of reverse lunges to finish off. By the time you finish, your legs feel like jello and it’s time to pass out from exhaustion. By the 5th or 6th rep of your first set you should feel a ridiculous burn running through your glutes and rectus abdominis, or in less fancy terminology, your abs.
Coaching cues to the reverse lunge
- Make sure you are in a good position with proper posture before performing the exercise. To make sure of this, we want to stabilize our glutes, core and pack our neck to create a “double chin”. When done correctly, you should feel like you’re performing a plank standing up!
- In the eccentric contraction phase (deceleration), make sure to maintain this stability throughout knee flexion. This allows the knee, which is planted, to maintain proper positioning without buckling inwards or flexing over the toe. If the knee happens to stick out further than the foot, you must be cognizant of pushing your heel through the ground as well as striding out a healthy amount with the leg decelerating to the floor.
- The concentric phase of the lunge should force you to fire through the gluteus maximus which has already faced a lot of tension through it’s stability during the repetition. Once you fire up, both legs should be parallel, shoulder width apart before completing the next rep.
- Make sure to fire through the glute at the top while stabilizing your core. This will prevent anterior pelvic tilt, which leads to lumbar extension and possible lower back injury.
- Repeat until your set rep mark or until failure where you can’t perform another rep with perfect form. Remember, it’s quality over quantity.
Overall, the reverse lunge is an amazing exercise. It’s a basic compound exercise that doesn’t appeal to everybody but produces great results. Many people out there in the fitness world neglect unilateral training, whether it be upper or lower body exercises. This is an important thing to overlook because we create imbalances with bilateral training. I can relate to this perfectly.
Being left handed, the left side of my body from an anatomical standpoint was always my dominant side. I had greater range of motion through my left hip when executing a squat, I always favored my left side slightly more than my right side when performing planks without realizing it, and dumbbell bench pressing was always easier on my dominant side. Today, all of my imbalances are basically gone thanks to implementing different types of single leg movements as well as side planks, single arm bench presses, and single arm rows to my program. I’ve dealt with much less nagging injuries, specifically in my lower back, and have been able to prevent them from occurring again thanks to balancing my strength and mobility out. It’s exercises like the reverse lunge that I have to thank for this.
Now go out there, bang some lunges out and kick some ass!