Single leg strength work is extremely underrated and reverse lunges are a fantastic exercise you need to incorporate into your gym routine.
Most of us in the gym will perform some type of squat, a leg press, perhaps a leg extension but do so in a bilateral stance (when two feet are used in a symmetrical stance) but when it comes to getting stronger, moving out of pain and building muscle, single-leg work ticks all the boxes.
Here’s why reverse lunges are great for reducing the risk of injuries as well as shaping your glutes and legs.
Wanna watch my video breakdown instead of reading this article? Click play below.
We find reverse lunges more effective for most of our clients because it’s easier to stabilise and balance through the movement and it’s far easier to learn than a forward lunge. Both have their places but keeping the front foot stable seems easier to master than trying to place it in front like the forward lunge.
Reverse lunges typically hit the glutes and hamstrings of the stationary leg, whereas the forward lunge targets the quads more of the moving leg.
If you’re looking to develop your glutes and hamstrings and shape up your bum then reverse lunges should definitely be in your repertoire.
There are a couple of key things to consider though when doing them.
- Keep the weight on your front leg, none of your weight should be transferred to your back leg throughout the movement and you shouldn’t bounce off of it.
- Have a slight torso lean forward to maximise the pressure going through your front leg. That way you’ll maintain balance whilst also building strength right where you need to be.Keep the shin angle of the front leg positive as seen in the picture below. Doing so will keep the weight distributed evenly through your foot whilst allowing you to maximise the strength and power you can apply through the movement.
- If you have a negative shin angle you’ll most likely be putting too much pressure on your rear leg.
If you’re struggling to get into the positive position posted above, we need to create better ankle mobility and for that, you should probably check this video out. Follow it and in a couple of weeks, you should notice a remarkable improvement in your ability to comfortably get into that position pain-free.
If you suffer from knee pain and you find that positive position difficult then definitely watch the video and practice the movements daily. As a side note, the better ankle mobility we have, we’re much less likely to suffer from knee pain.
Once you’re able to drop into that positive shin angle position I’ve posted 6 different progressions that go from complete newbie to advanced reverse lunges to build strength, resilience, and stability as you get older.
TRX REVERSE LUNGES
Using a TRX gives you greater stability and a chance to really slow the technique down to focus on where your foot needs to be placed and where you should be feeling it. Holding the handles you can take your time and not worry too much about balance, meaning you can focus more on the movement.
As you get stronger you can hold the handles a little less, relying more on more on your balance and newfound lower body strength until you no longer need them.
Remember the bullet points above, they apply throughout all of the variations.
Aim for 3 sets of 12 before you can move on.
BODYWEIGHT REVERSE LUNGES
Moving on to bodyweight is simple enough once you’ve let go of the TRX. Aim for 3 sets of 12 before you move on.
OFFSET DB REVERSE LUNGE
Having an offset position, also known as contralateral helps keep the balance as the weight is down by the leg that you’re lunging back with. To make it harder, you can swap the weight around, and again, you can hold two dumbbells once the weight you can use is too heavy to grip in one hand.
Aim for a weight that is heavy enough to hold with one hand but you couldn’t increase the weight and still be able to perform 3 sets of 10.
KB FRONT RACK REVERSE LUNGE
These really target your abs a lot more because you’ll be fighting to keep an upright torso throughout the movement. Your upper abs will engage to stop your chest from collapsing and your lats will fire up to stabilise the kettlebells. Aim for 50% of your body weight across both kettlebells and 3 sets of 8 before moving on.
BARBELL REVERSE LUNGES
Putting the barbell on your back shifts the load slightly. It’ll take it away from your abs and place more emphasis on your front glutes due to where the barbell is positioned. With this one, you can really create that forward torso lean to really emphasise the load (and pain) on that front leg. To create that forward torso lean, hinge at the hips, rather than just leaning forward.
Of course, you can load this up more too, with the barbell being a pretty safe space to chuck 5/10/20s on. Try doing that with the kettlebell front rack position and your shoulders/grip will give in before your legs do. Aim for 3 sets of 8 with at least 40% of your body weight per leg before moving on.
BARBELL DEFICIT REVERSE LUNGES
If you’ve confidently mastered the above and moved through the movements then you’ll love this variation with your front foot raised.
By raising your front leg, you’re now creating more range of motion which in turn recruits more muscle to complete the movement. Once you’ve tried a few you’ll notice how much emphasis is on the raised glute. And wow, does it burn. Still keep the same principles, that is – pressure on the front foot, not back, and a positive shin angle.
Only do this though if the back knee drops lower than the step you’re on. If you’re doing it and your depth isn’t there then it makes no difference, go back a step and master the normal barbell reverse lunge. Aim for 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps with 75% of your body weight on the bar.
Like this? Give the videos above a like and we’ll know to produce more content like it.
Struggling with your form and building strength whilst following your current plan? Click here to see if I can help