The Reverse Lunge

The Reverse Lunge

Lunges in general are a potent lower body movement that should be present in any training program.  The lunge provides unilateral movement of each leg and can help to prevent an imbalance in strength.  However, a truly diverse training program, like a CrossFit program, needs to include more than your typical forward stepping lunge.  To provide extra variation, we often program the reverse lunge.  But, why?  Why is the reverse lunge important?  How it is different?  What are the benefits over the forward lunge?  I hope to answer those questions below.

You can watch it in the video above.  To properly perform a reverse lunge, you step backward with one leg and drop the back knee gently to the ground.  You essentially form the lunge position by stepping backward, instead of forward.  Aside from simply changing it up to keep exercise interesting, here are three reasons we program them:

Work Different Muscles

When we reverse lunge, different muscles are recruited than when we forward lunge.  It isn’t a matter of better or worse, more or less, the muscles are just different.

When we forward lunge, we create forward momentum in our body.  The front leg must then stop that forward momentum as the back knee drops to the ground.  The muscles used to stop this forward momentum are primarily found in the quadriceps (top of the leg) and the inside of our legs (commonly known at the adductors).  If we turn the forward lunge into a walking lunge, the glutes (out butts) are also really worked.

When we reverse lunge, we are creating backward momentum in our body.  The quadriceps are still working to slow down momentum, but now we are also recruiting more of the hamstrings (back of the legs) and glutes.  Therefore, it’s not that the reverse lunge is better or worse than the forward lunge, we are just recruiting different muscles.  Variation is always a key to success.

Different Planes of Motion

Another factor to consider when setting up a fully functional training program are the planes of our motion.  There are technical terms to these planes like sagittal and frontal.  However, for our purposes, we just refer to them as the forward, backward, side-to-side, twisting, upward, and downward planes.  In real life, we need to be able to move through all planes of motion.  So, we need to train through those planes as well.

If we only work with forward lunges, then we are only training in the forward plane.  Over time, we will become comfortable with working in that plane of motion and the overall benefits will start to diminish.  However, if we throw in reverse lunges every so often, we are forcing ourselves to work in a new plane of motion:  The backward plane.  Some people are so used to working out only forward that moving backward is really scary and uncomfortable.  Challenging ourselves to work outside our comfort level is always a key to success.


Similarly, balance is a really important consideration when designing an effective fitness program, like CrossFit.  Once again, we need to be able to demonstrate balance throughout our regular life.  Therefore, we should address balance in our workouts or training.

Most people are comfortable moving forward in motion.  That’s because they are forward facing and can see where they are going.  Not everyone is comfortable moving backward.  Want to test this?  Get a group of people and ask them to run backward.  You will get some concerned looks.

As we stated above, whenever we know that a certain movement is comfortable, we want to change it up to challenge ourselves.  Thus, the reverse lunge can provide that variation.  You might feel good stepping forward all of the time.  So, step backward next time and see if you feel more unstable.  The more you do it, the better you feel, and the more effective your training becomes.  Working on something uncomfortable until it becomes comfortable is always a key to success.