Reverse Lunge Muscles Worked – Introduction
What muscles do reverse lunges work, and why are they such a great alternative to squats?
Squats are often called the king of exercises, and that’s probably a well-deserved title.
Squats are also more than an exercise; they’re a fundamental movement pattern that most people do many times a day.
Examples of squats in daily life include sitting down and standing up, getting in and out of a chair, and bending down to pick up a bag of groceries.
If you can’t squat, many of life’s everyday tasks will be difficult, if not impossible.
But, as good as squats undeniably are, there are drawbacks, too.
For starters, squats are a bilateral or two-limbed exercise, which means it’s possible to use one leg more than the other without realizing it.
Also, doing nothing but squats can make your workouts boring and unmotivating.
The good news is that you can do plenty of other leg exercises in addition to or instead of squats to ensure your workouts are always productive and exciting.
This article discusses reverse lunges and explains why and how to do this great exercise.
Reverse Lunges Muscles Worked List
It’s no exaggeration to say that reverse lunges work every muscle in your lower body.
And, if you do them with weights in your hands, your upper body gets an indirect workout, too.
The main muscles involved in reverse lunges are:
- Gluteus maximus
- Triceps surae
Muscles Worked by Reverse Lunges Descriptions
Located on the front of your thighs, the quads extend your knees and flex your hips.
There are four muscles in the quadriceps group: rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius.
You’ll definitely feel your quads working during reverse lunges.
This group of three muscles opposes your quadriceps and is responsible for knee flexion and hip extension.
Reverse lunges involve more hamstring engagement than forward lunges.
The three hammies are the biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus.
#3. Gluteus maximus
Located on the back of your hips, the glutes are the largest and most powerful muscle of the body.
Its primary function is the extension of your hip, which it does in conjunction with your hamstrings.
Reverse lunges are a very glute-centric exercise.
The three adductor muscles are longus, brevis, and magnus, meaning long, short, and big.
Located on the inside of your thighs, these muscles draw your femur or thigh bone into the midline of your body, which is a movement called adduction.
The abductors lift your leg out and away from the midline of your body, a movement called abduction.
The main abductor muscles are the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and tensor fascia latae, which are located on the outside of your hip and thigh.
#6. Triceps surae
This is the collective name for your two calf muscles: the gastrocnemius and soleus.
Together these muscles extend your ankle in a movement called plantar flexion.
The gastrocnemius also helps your hamstrings flex your knees.
The triceps surae works to stabilize and control your ankle and knee joints during reverse lunges.
The core is the collective name for the muscles of your midsection.
These include rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, and erector spinae.
Together, these muscles stabilize your spine to prevent unwanted movement of your lower back.
Using weights during reverse lunges means these muscles will have to work harder.
How to Do Reverse Lunges
To get the most from any exercise, you need to do it correctly.
Follow these step-by-step instructions to perform the perfect reverse lunge.
- Stand with your feet together and arms by your sides.
- Pull your shoulders down and back, look straight ahead, and brace your core.
- Take a large step back and then bend both legs.
- Lower your rear knee down to within an inch of the floor.
- Lean forward slightly at the hips and allow your front knee to travel slightly forward.
- The angle of your torso and front shin should be roughly the same.
- Keep your weight on your front heel to maximize glute and hamstring engagement.
- Pulling backward with your front leg and pushing lightly off your back leg, bring your rear foot back in and stand up.
- Repeat the movement on the same leg or use an alternating leg action as preferred.
Benefits of Reverse Lunges
Not sure if reverse lunges are the right exercise for your leg workouts?
Check out this list of benefits, and then decide!
#1. Anywhere, anytime
You don’t need any equipment to do reverse lunges.
You could even do a set right now!
As such, they’re the perfect excuse-free leg exercise for home trainers.
#2. A step up from squats
With reverse lunges, most of your weight should be on your front leg.
In fact, your rear leg should only be used for balance and a small amount of assistance.
As such, reverse lunges are a great way to overload your legs without having to use extra weights.
Get more from this exercise by thinking of it as a rear-leg-assisted squat.
Use your rear leg less and less until you can progress to single-leg squats – also known as hover lunges.
#3. Build muscle strength, size, or endurance
Depending on how you load them, you can use reverse lunges to achieve almost any muscular fitness goal.
Use heavy weights to build strength, or go light and do high reps for endurance.
#4. Identify and fix left to right strength imbalances
While it’s normal to have one leg stronger or more muscular than the other, large discrepancies can lead to injuries and impaired performance.
Reverse lunges are an effective way to spot and then fix strength imbalances.
#5. Improved hip mobility
Reverse lunges can help open up your hips and improve lower body mobility and flexibility.
This will enhance functionality and could also improve sports performance.
Reverse lunges are a very functional exercise and are especially good for improving walking, running, and sprinting.
#6. Better balance
Balance is your ability to keep your center of gravity over your base of support.
Because reverse lunges are a semi-unilateral exercise, they challenge your balance more than things like squats and deadlifts.
Balance tends to degrade with age and is also important for sports.
Lunges are an effective exercise for improving balance.
Forward Vs. Reverse Lunges Muscles Worked
#7. Healthier knees
Reverse lunges are more knee-friendly than forward lunges.
When you lunge backward, there is no forward momentum to control, and that means less shearing force on the front knee.
If forward lunges bother your knees, reverse lunges may be more comfortable but no less effective.
#8. More glute and hamstring recruitment
When you do forward lunges, your quads are the dominant muscle group.
That’s because you must use them to control your descent as you step forward.
In simple terms, the quads act as brakes.
However, in reverse lunges, the braking action is performed by your glutes and hamstrings, making this more of a posterior chain exercise.
You must also use your glutes and hamstrings more to pull you forward and back up to the starting position.
The quads are still involved in reverse lunges, but the glutes and hamstrings are much more active than usual.
#9. A versatile exercise
The basic bodyweight reverse lunge is a great exercise.
Still, there are a couple of other ways you can do it to make sure your workouts remain challenging and progressive.
Your options include…
#10. Deficit reverse lunges:
Start each reverse lunge standing on a four to six-inch platform.
This raises your front foot to increase your range of motion.
A larger range of motion makes reverse lunges much more challenging for your front leg.
#11. Weighted reverse lunges:
A little weight goes a long way with weighted reverse lunges, and even a small load will make them feel much harder.
You can also hold a weight in front of your chest, i.e., goblet reverse lungs.
If you prefer to keep your hands free, wear a weighted vest.
#12. Paused reverse lunges:
With this rear lunge variation, you pause and hover your rear knee just above the floor for 3-5 seconds per rep.
This eliminates momentum and increases time under tension, making the exercise much harder without resorting to an additional external load.
This is a good intensifying method for home exercisers.
#13. Slow eccentric reverse lunge:
Slow eccentrics increase time under tension.
Simply step back and then take 3-5 seconds to descend before bringing your leg back in.
Your muscles will soon start to feel the extra work that slow eccentrics involve.
Of course, you can combine two or more of these methods to make your reverse lunge workout more demanding, e.g., paused weighted reverse lunges or slow eccentric deficit reverse lunges.
However, using more than one intensifying method will make your workouts MUCH more demanding!
Reverse Lunges Muscles Worked – Wrapping Up
There aren’t many exercises that can rival squats.
Deadlifts come close, and leg presses can be useful, but lunges are especially valuable.
There are lots of different types of lunges you can use to strengthen and condition your legs, including lateral, forward, and walking lunges.
But of all the lunge variations you can do, reverse lunges could be one of the best.
Reverse lunges are very knee-friendly and work your glutes and hamstrings as much as your quads.
They’re also good for developing balance and mobility and are often easier to learn than regular lunges as they’re harder to do wrong.
Whatever you are training for, reverse lunges deserve a place in your workouts.
The reverse lunge is such an effective exercise; that it was chosen to be the second of ten exercises that the US Army uses to prepare new recruits for basic training.
This precise sequence of bodyweight exercises is known as Army PRT (Army Physical Readiness Training) Exercises.
While it’s aimed at potential soldiers, it’s also a practical, excuse-free workout that’s perfect for civilians too.
Needing no equipment, you can do it anywhere and anytime, at home or in the gym.
This next article: Army PRT Exercises – Physical Readiness Training to Get Fit! explains the APRT drills you can utilize for getting fit at home or even joining the Army.
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