If you want to build strong, stable, healthy and athletic legs, the reverse lunge exercise is one of the absolute best exercises you can do. Not only is the traditional reverse slide lunge an excellent exercise, there are a few reverse lunge variations which you can use to further improve your body.
Although most people might consider the back squat and deadlift the most important exercises, single leg exercises are crucial to have in your training program because we engage in so-many daily activities and sporting activities that require single leg strength.
As a 6′ 10″ professional basketball player, reverse lunges and reverse slide luges are two of my favorite exercises because they really help my knees feel better while playing.
Keep reading below to learn more about reverse lunge benefits, and the best reverse lunge variations!
What Muscles do Reverse Lunges Work?
Reverse lunges work all the major muscles in your lower body, and also provide for some core work as well.
The reverse lunge works muscles similarly to the front lunge, but there are a few slight differences. As stated by a study published by the National Strength & Conditioning Association,
“The reverse lunge is similar to the front lunge except that the initial step is backward followed by a powerful push forward. The concentric phase of this exercise is quite similar to the sprint start from blocks”
The main muscle worked in the reverse lunge exercise is the quadriceps muscle. However, compared with the front lunge, the reverse lunge exercise puts greater emphasis on the gluteus maximums and hamstring muscles. According to a study published by International Conference of Biomechanics in Sport,
“In conclusion, reverse lunge movement was found to be favorable in achieving the primary goal of lunge exercise, which is the development of gluteus maximus and quadriceps femoris, as it resulted in higher agonist muscle activities with relatively low momentary maximum knee shearing force compared to the other lunge techniques.”
Although reverse lunges are not necessarily a hamstring-dominant movement, the fact that they work your hamstring muscles more than the forward lunge is a noticeable benefit.
There are three separate muscles that make up your hamstrings:
- Biceps Femoris
When you perform physical activies such as running, climbing stairs, or jumping, they all work together.
Your hamstrings are the largest muscle in your legs, as it is your hamstrings which actually extend your hip and flex your knee. Having strong and flexible hamstrings can help in enhancing your sports performance, and also help to reduce the risk of lower-body injury.
There is some additional stabilizing work done in your calve muscles as well, but this is only a slight impact. However, reverse lunges are an excellent addition to ankle rehabilitation programs because they are a dynamic exercise for your ankle joints.
Reverse Lunges vs Forward Lunges
Forward lunges are certainly an excellent exercise, but the main issue with them is that they put a lot of stress on your knees and hips. Reverse lunges are beneficial when compared to the forward lunge because the reverse movement allows your body to naturally find a better position for your knees and hips.
The most difficult part of the front lunge is that an extremely large amount of force is placed on your knee if you do not take the perfect step forward.
According to a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training,
“loading progressions for the knee and ankle should begin with the reverse lunge and progress to the forward lunge and then the single-legged squat.”
By lunging backwards, your body becomes naturally inclined to sit-tall and, create a 90-degree angle at the knee joint. Therefore, instead of placing additional stress on your knee, the reverse lunge strengthens your knee joint.
Benefits of the Reverse Lunge Exercise
Excellent Exercise for Strengthening Your Glutes
Bilateral exercises tend to under-develop the glute muscles because the lower back, quadriceps, and hamstrings are larger and more dominant. However, glute development is vital for a healthy back and becoming a better athlete.
Reverse lunges naturally engage your gluteus, and will help you develop strong glute muscles!
Help to Improve Your Core Strength
When doing reverse lunges, your core muscles are generally very engaged. Not only do you work your abdominals, but you also work your posterior chain core muscles because they are necessary in order to keep your body upright and balanced).
A strong core is a major factor in helping to improve your balance, stability, posture and also quickly improve athletic performance.
Enhance Hip Flexibility
Reverse lunges help to improve the flexibility of your hip flexors, a crucial joint which is needed for all hinging exercises. Many times this area is neglected, and having a predominant sedentary lifestyle can make these muscles tight very quickly.
Without proper mobility in this area of the body, lower-back pain is inevitable.
Enhances Knee Stability
One of the major benefits of having strong and mobile hamstrings is that it helps to provide stability to the knee-joint.
Improving the stability of your knee joint is a simple way to fix knee tendonitis and reduce your risk for various other knee issues. This is done by countering the dominance of your quadriceps with support for the posterior chain.
According to a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training,
“The presence of genu recurvatum and a hamstring : quadriceps ratio below normal range was associated with an increased prevalence of overuse knee injuries among female collegiate athletes.”
Weak hamstrings expose you to a greater risk of witnessing anterior cruciate ligament injuries than any other measurable factors, as stronger hamstrings help to stabilize your knee, and reduce the demands that are placed on vulnerable ligaments- such as the ACL.
Increase Your Running Speed
Strengthening your hamstring can help you increase your speed, it is that simple. According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning,
“The best predictor of the 40-yard-dash times for 39 male college athletes was the peak concentric hamstring force measured at 60°-s~’.”
Speed is needed for nearly all athletes, and anything that can be done to increase speed should be. Strengthening and stretching your hamstrings will improve your speed, and the reverse lunge is one of the best exercises to do this!
Enhances Movement Quality and Ability
Whenever you make a lower-body movement, your hamstring is responsible for the movement. These muscles are in charge of controlling the speed of your knee extension before your heel touches the ground whenever you are walking, also enabling you to pick up your foot in order to take the next step.
For all humans, performing fundamental or basic movements becomes more efficient with strong and mobile hamstrings. DOing the reverse lunge will help improve your movement quality!
The Best Reverse Lunge Variations
Although the reverse lunge exercise is an outstanding exercise, there are a few reverse lunge variations you might want to try as well. Check them out!
Deficit Reverse Lunge
According to a study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies,
“The deficit reverse lunge is a progression of the traditional reverse lunge and is one of the most well-tolerated and challenging single leg movements.”
The deficit reverse lunge is a great way to add some additional range of motion to your reverse lunge exercise, and increase the difficulty. To perform the deficit reverse lunge, you can start on something shorter such as a plate or a book, or you can use a step-box.
Reverse Slide Lunge
The reverse slide lunge is my favorite reverse lunge exercise variation, and I even prefer it compared to the traditional reverse lunge!
The reverse slide-lunge is beneficial to people with all levels of fitness ability, as everyone from a novice to an advanced trainee can benefit from slide-lunges.
The main difference between the reverse slide lunge and traditional reverse lunge is that the slide lunge forces you to control the eccentric portion of the exercise more. Doing so promotes more muscle growth, additional stability, and further development of the lower body.
Reverse-slide lunges can be used as either a mass builder, a warm-up, or just for general strengthening of the legs.
Furthermore, reverse-slide lunges can be done just about anywhere!
This makes them an extremely efficient exercise while traveling for multiple reasons. Since it is a simple movement and doesn’t require any amount of weight at all to be effective, it is a great exercise to perform in your hotel room or a hotel fitness facility. All you need is something to slide on the floor with!
You can use glide discs, which are beneficial for a variety of other “slide” exercises, or you can simply use a towel if you have a hard surface (without carpet).
Glide discs can be bought fairly inexpensively and travel easy as well, making for a portable and effective workout!
Here is a video of me performing some reverse slide lunges with glide discs in my apartment:
If you have mastered the traditional reverse slide lunge, you can try these 5 reverse slide lunge variations that I am sure you will love!