If you're looking to strengthen your lower body, try reverse lunges. They're an effective alternative to forward lunges with several benefits. Reverse lunges are easier to do for beginners or people with joint issues because they require less balancing than the forward variety. But you don't have to be a beginner to benefit from reverse lunges. They offer a challenging workout regardless of your fitness level because you are moving in a direction you don't normally move in day-to-day life.
Muscles You’ll Work
The main muscles you strengthen with the rear lunge are similar to those targeted by the forward lunge. The target muscles are the quadriceps at the front of your upper legs. The synergist muscles, or the muscles that help in the movement, are your gluteus maximus or biggest glute muscles, the adductor magnus in your inner thighs and your soleus in your calves. Your hamstrings in the back of your thighs and your gastrocnemius in your calves act as dynamic stabilizers. They stabilize your knee joint during the exercise and are also strengthened. Your erector spinae and quadratus lumborum in your lower back as well as your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus act as stabilizers to maintain your posture. Because they don't do any significant movements during the exercise, they're strengthened to a lesser degree.
How To Do Them
To do the bodyweight reverse lunge, stand straight with feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed forward. Move your right leg back behind your body, while simultaneously bending your left knee and lowering your hips. Keep your torso straight. Stop when your knee is at a 90-degree angle and your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Pause slightly and push with your left leg, squeezing your glutes to stand up, while simultaneously returning your right leg to it's starting position. This is one repetition. You can continue doing the same move for your desired repetitions or alternate legs, bringing the left leg back next. If you are looking to target your gluteus maximus more than your quadriceps, take longer lunges.
Once you have mastered the bodyweight reverse lunge, you can try the exercise with added weights. You can choose to hold a dumbbell in each hand or a barbell behind your back as you do the exercise or do the exercise on a Smith Machine for extra stability. The extra weight will make the exercise more challenging and give you faster strength gains. To challenge your balance and coordination, try a reverse walking lunge. Start the exercise as you would the stationary reverse lunge but rather than return your right leg to it's original position, push off your left leg, put your balance on your right leg and move backwards until your left leg is behind you. Continue alternating legs as you move backwards for your desired reps.
Mind Your Form
As with any strength training exercise, good form is essential if you want to minimize the risk of injury. Keep your torso upright throughout the entire exercise. Always point your toes in the same direction as your knee and don't let your front knee extend beyond your ankle. As you step back, your knee should also not go past your toes. Start your workout by performing a few sets of bodyweight lunges before adding weight to the move. The bodyweight exercises will warm up your muscles and joints and prepare them for the work ahead. Always end your workout with a stretch to lengthen your muscles, maintain flexibility and help your muscles to recover from the exercise.
- American Council on Exercise: Are All Lunges Created Equal?
- Exercise Prescription: Barbell Rear Lunge
- The Complete Guide to Strength Training; Anita Bean
- WeightTraining.com: Reverse Walking Bodyweight Lunge
- DavidLasnier.com: Reverse Lunges vs. Forward Lunges; An In-Depth Comparison
- Shape.com: The Lowdown on Lunges: Forward Lunge vs. Reverse Lunge
- Fitness Magazine: Lunge Videos