When it comes to building lower body strength the most common exercises we think of are squats and lunges. There are several lunge variations but here we are going to focus on the reverse lunge. There are so many incredible benefits to lunges, that everyone from someone starting out on their fitness journey to elite athletes can benefit from this exercise.
The reverse lunge is often the favored type of lunge for most clients. This variation tends to allow for more stability of the front leg, and puts less stress on the joints. This can be especially beneficial for those clients who have knee issues currently or even in the past.
Muscles of the Lunge
The lunge exercise is great in that it hits many muscle groups such as the core, glutes, and the legs. The specific muscles that are mostly used are:
- Gluteus maximus
- Gluteus minimus
- Gluteus medius
In addition, when you add weight to this exercise weather that be dumbbells at the side or front rack, or a barbell in the front rack or back rack position that will then add in core engagement to that list as well.
What makes a reverse lunge different?
A reverse lunge which is sometimes referred to as a backwards lunge, allows for more stability in the front leg. In the reverse lunge there is more stability in the front leg, which then allows for the weight to be distributed in the front heel rather than the ball of the foot which is very common in the forward lunge. With that weight distribution in the heel, it allows for more tension to be held in the quads, hamstring and glutes.
The reverse lunge can be a better option for beginner clients. Due to the fact that it does allow for more stability in the front leg, and the proper weight distribution there is much less risk involved in this exercise compared to other versions.
How to Properly Perform a Reverse Lunge
For the purpose of these instructions we will discuss a bodyweight lunge. However, know that you can add dumbbells or kettlebells held to the side with the shoulders pulled back, or a barbell in either the front rack or the back rack position.
- The starting position is standing straight up with both feet in line, chest up and shoulders pulled back. The arms can be down to the side, or placed on the hips, whichever is most comfortable for the client.
- Then step back with the right leg, using the left leg for most of the loading. This will be felt in the glutes, hamstring and quadriceps of the left leg.
- In this position the hips should be in line under the torso, and the right knee either touching the floor or just above.
- From there, have the client stand straight back up to the starting position.
- These can be done either as alternating or all on the right leg then all on the left leg for total repetitions.
Incorporating Lunges Into a Fitness Program
As a personal trainer it is important to understand how to incorporate regular lunges, walking lunges, reverse lunges and even split squats into a fitness program. These all have a place in a program from sports medicine for rehabbing an injury or correcting a muscle imbalance to everyday fitness to elite athletes.
While the reverse lunge is going to be the most superior of all the lunge variations based on ease of implementation, ability for clients to perform the exercise properly and the muscles worked there are other variations that are still great to incorporate.
The forward lunge is also a great option for many clients. This one is not as highly recommended for beginner clients but the more intermediate or advanced clients this can be a good option. With the forward lunge things to think about are if the client has had any knee pain this might not be the best option for them. The forward lunge is almost identical to the reverse lunge in execution; the biggest difference is that you are having the client step forward instead of backwards. In the forward lunge, be cautious of where the knee tracks and where the placement of that front foot is. It is very common for the pressure to be put more on the ball of the foot in a forward lunge rather than the heel.
The walking lunge is the next step up from the forward lunge. This is a great exercise even just at body weight, it essentially takes the forward lung and now implements that into moving over distance. This is for the intermediate to advanced clients, and like any of the other lunges weight can always be added. With the forward lunge it is important for the personal trainer to observe the balance of the client, when they step forward with the right foot versus the left foot ensuring that it is even and they are not moving too fast and compromising form. This is an exercise that does transfer over to real life application and is another option to add into programming.
There is also the split squat. The split squat is going to be most similar to the reverse lunge as it is more stable. In the split squat both feet are in a fixed position on the floor keeping the torso straight up and the hips in line under the torso and squatting up and down. This is a great alternative to any lunge exercises for those who may not quite have the balance yet, and can be a good stepping stone exercise prior to incorporating a reverse lunge. This is also a great strength building exercise. In the split squat moderate to heavier weights can be added safely due to the feet staying in their position on the floor. Also, it’s important to note here that in the split squat reps are completed all on one side and then all on the other side.
In summary, there are many forms of lunges that can be performed and as a personal trainer it is up to you to assess your client to determine what is best for them. The reverse lunge has many benefits when it comes to ease of execution, benefits for rehab to strength training and it’s very easy for clients to do the exercise with proper form, which makes it one of the best lower body strength training exercises out there.