How creative was the that title? I mean, talk about getting straight to the point. Seriously: Do Reverse Lunges!
Think about your goals. What do you want to accomplish? How are you going to get there? Odds are, reverse lunges can help. Are you an athlete that wants to improve your on field performance? Single leg exercises like the reverse lunge can help you with that. Perhaps you don’t care about performance, and just want to get super-duper gigantic legs. If you’re eating appropriately, they can do that. Conversely, you may be a smaller female, interested in ‘toning’ your thighs. Same thing goes for you: If you’re eating appropriately, the reverse lunge can work wonders for you. Maybe you just want to do cooler things in the gym then leg press and use the hamstring curl machine. The reverse lunge is way more awesome.
Single leg exercises are applicable to every goal that someone might have; once you’re educated, you have no excuse not to do them. If you don’t think you’re educated, check out the following links to some great variations of single leg exercises: Mike Boyle’s The Case for Single Limb Training, as well as his Top 5 Single Leg Exercises. In addition, check out Eric Cressey’s Top 5 List. There’s a quick crash course on the matter. You’re welcome!
When it comes to the Reverse Lunge, it’s one of my favorite lower body exercises. The reverse lunge is a knee dominant exercise that emphasizes the hamstrings and the glutes. What?! Basically, the quadriceps work to extend the knee, and the glutes and hamstrings are exposed to a good deal of eccentric stress, so you get your butt kicked. Bad joke, I know.
Stepping backwards, as opposed to forwards, shifts the eccentric stress in a lunge to the posterior chain. It can help reduce the knee pain that many people feel when they lunge, and it provides extra load for the under worked muscles on the back side of your body. You know, the ones that you’re sitting on as you read this! There are plenty of ways to load the Reverse Lunge. You can use a dumbbell in the Goblet Position, two dumbbells at your sides, at your shoulders, or overhead. You can also use a barbell in the Zercher position (crooks of your elbows), across the front of your chest, or across your shoulders/upper back. (Those are just symmetrical patterns, weight free weights…you’ll never run out of ideas with odd implements and asymmetrical patterns.)
Of all of those, my favorite is the Clean Grip Reverse Lunge. First, check out this video; it looks like me, but I assure you it’s not:
The front loaded position requires more trunk stability, and your core (both the front and back) needs to function as one unit to maintain proper posture. Maintaining a tall chest throughout the movement and bracing the abs helps reinforce good posture, and will make you question all of those side bends you do for you obliques. I’ve already mentioned that stepping back shifts emphasis to the posterior chain, but make sure to reach back as you step and load your hamstrings; don’t let your knee fly forward, or your quads will be doing all the work. When you start, focus on touching your knee to the ground. If you can’t, focus on technique before you load the exercise, or try split squats first. Once you’re comfortable touching the ground, you can elevate your front foot to increase the range of motion and make the exercise a little more difficult. (If your knees start to hurt, try not letting them slam into the ground. That’s more likely the culprit then any joint issues you may have!) To return to the starting position, pull through the feel of your supporting leg, and use your hamstrings to return to the starting position. Make sure that you finish with the hips at the top and squeeze your glutes. Repeat.
In addition to being a great exercise for the hips, the reverse lunge happens to make you feel like you just ran up a hill, which you should be doing as well. Seriously, it’s very demanding, and will help improve your conditioning as well as making you look better, perform better, and feel better. How can this not be hard:
In addition to some really strong legs, he’s probably sweating bullets and trying to catch his breath. It’s a great exercise! Ladies may be thinking ‘No, I can’t do that, big weights are scary.’ Sure, they may be, but they’re really good for you. You’ll develop some actual strength, and if you’re eating right, you’ll be so ‘toned’ you’ll stop using the word. Zumba can’t do what reverse lunges can do! As chance would have it, I saw this video from Alli McKee last week and found that it works perfectly. Few women lift weights that heavy, but most women want to look like her. Figure that one out…
If you have a goal, some version of the reverse lunge can help you accomplish it. However you load it, the reverse lunge will make your buns burn, hammer your hammies, and light up your lungs. Give it a try; I think you’ll like it.