Reverse Lunge vs. Forward Lunge

Reverse Lunge vs. Forward Lunge
Reverse Lunge vs. Forward Lunge (Image: xalanx/iStock/GettyImages)

Lunges -- the popular muscle-strengthening exercise that strengthens and tones your thighs and buttocks -- are performed in all sorts of directions, most commonly by stepping forward or stepping backward.

Do forward or reverse lunges with your body weight only, or by using a barbell or dumbbells to add resistance to the workout. Although these two lunges are similar, there are some benefits in doing one over the other. When you know the nuances, you can choose which one is right for your goals.

Forward Lunge How-To

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Step forward so your thigh is parallel to the floor. (Image: LIVESTRONG.COM)

Execute forward lunges by standing straight with your feet together. Contract your abdominal muscles to stabilize your upper body.

Lift your right leg off the floor and take a giant step forward. Slowly lower your torso by bending your left knee toward the floor. Lower until your right knee forms a 90 degree angle and your knee is aligned with your ankle. Push yourself upward and return to to the starting position.

Form tips: If the ankle forms less than a 90-degree angle and your knee pushes past your toes, you've not stepped far enough; good form keeps your knee directly over the ankle If the ankle is over 90 degrees, you stepped too far and your knee is not aligned with your ankle.

Reverse Lunge How-To

The reverse, or rear, lunge is very similar to the forward lunge and only differs in the direction of the step. As you do with the forward lunge, stand straight and contracting your core muscles. Lift your left foot off the floor and step backward. Bend your right knee to form a 90 degree angle between your thigh and calf, while lowering your left knee toward the floor. Push yourself upward with your thigh muscles and return back to the starting position.

The forward lunge form notes apply to the reverse lunge. Strive to keep the front knee over the ankle.

Muscles Affected

Both forward lunges and rear lunges target the same muscles in your thighs, buttocks and calves. The primary muscles affected are the quadriceps in the front of your thigh, the gluteus maximus in your buttocks, the adductor magnus in your inner thigh and the soleus in your calf.

The hamstrings in the back of your thigh, and gastrocnemius in your calf function as dynamic stabilizers -- meaning they assist in the movement but don't measurably experience hypertrophy, or growth, as a result of the exercises. In addition many core muscles in your abdomen and your back function to stabilize your upper body throughout the movement.

Benefits

Although the muscles affected are identical between the two lunges, the reverse lunge can be a safer option. The reverse lunge places less stress on your knees because it is easier to form the 90 degree angle between your thigh and calf and to keep your knee aligned with your ankle.

Doing forward lunges using the wrong technique can cause knee pain because it's more likely you'll form the wrong angle between your thigh and calf. In addition, taking a step forward can make it hard to maintain stability because you're shifting your body weight to your leading foot. During a reverse lunge, the weight is maintained on the forward leg that remains stationary.

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