If you’re a little bored with your typical bodyweight workout, try taking it a step back — literally — with the reverse lunge.

A twist on the classic forward lunge, the reverse lunge offers a variety of movements to help keep your mind engaged and your body challenged (and away from the dreaded fitness plateau), while still providing many of the same benefits as the forward lunge, plus some unique ones.

“In addition to working almost every muscle below your waist—especially your quads—reverse lunges can help increase stability,” says Trevor Thimay, CSCS, Beachbody’s senior director of fitness and nutrition content.

Also, there is inherent value in stepping back. In addition to giving you a chance to move in a direction you might not travel often, the reverse lunge puts less stress on the joints, making it a smart option for people with problematic knees, hips and ankles.

How to do a reverse lunge

Activities: Hard mud T-minus 30

Workout: Extreme Conditioning 1.0

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands by your sides. If you’re adding resistance, hold a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length by your side.
  • Keeping your chest up, back flat, shoulders back and core engaged, take a big step back with your right leg as you bring your right arm forward and your left arm back.
  • Lower your body until your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Your knees should be bent about 90 degrees, with the right knee hovering a few inches off the ground.
  • Pause, and then push off your back leg to return to the starting position.
  • Perform equal reps on both sides.

What muscles does the reverse lunge target?

Although the reverse lunge will fire up your core, it’s primarily a lower-body strengthening exercise that targets the quads and glutes and also engages a handful of other muscles below the waist.

Quadriceps

Quadriceps muscle  Reverse lunge

Located on the front of your thighs, the quadriceps are made up of four muscles—the rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis—that work together to extend your knee.

Glutes

Anatomy of gluteal muscles  Dumbbell Deadlift

In addition to giving you a nice profile, your hip muscles, aka your “glutes,” play important roles in hip extension, pelvic stabilization, leg rotation, and leg abduction (lifting to the side).

The three muscles that make up the glutes are the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.

Hamstrings

Hamstrings Muscle Anatomy |  Reverse lunge

The hamstring muscle group is found on the back of your thigh under your glutes. They are responsible for bending your knees, and help extend your hips and rotate your legs inward and outward.

adductors

Anatomy of adductors and abductors  Reverse lunge

The adductors run along your inner thighs and draw your legs toward the midline of your body.

the calf

Calf Muscle Anatomy |  Reverse lunge

Found on the back of your lower leg, the two muscles that make up your calf — the soleus and gastrocnemius — are responsible for pushing your foot down (plantar flexion).

How to make the reverse lunge stronger

If you’re cranking through reverse lunges without breaking a sweat, it’s time to dial up the intensity.

  • Add resistance by holding dumbbells at your side or a weight plate or kettlebell in front of your chest.
  • For an added stability challenge, try an offset reverse lunge, holding a weight in only one hand.
  • Theme suggests experimenting with the position of your feet and the direction of your reverse lunge. “Perform a crossover lunge by placing your back foot behind your front foot as you step back,” he says. “Or do a reverse lunge with rotation: Hold a dumbbell in front of your chest and rotate left and right toward your front leg as you step back.”

  • For an extra glute challenge, add a leg extension at the top of the move.

How to make reverse lunges easier

If you find using weights too challenging, just stick with your body weight until you build enough strength to start adding iron.

And if you can’t get down to a full lunge (one in which both knees are bent 90 degrees) without compromising, limit your range of motion until you can, lowering yourself halfway or three-quarters of the way down.

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