T Nation

Reverse Lunges?

I noticed you recommend reverse lunges often over “regular” lunges. Is there a reason you prefer reverse lunges? I’m not positive I’m doing them correctly, I basically just step back into a lunge but for now it feels akward. Got any good training tips for this exercise?

Thanks so much and I love your website, articles, and info, keep it coming!

This is a great question. Most people’s form on the barbell reverse lunge sucks. That’s why they don’t do it. If it’s done properly, I feel it is far superior to the more popular front lunge. I feel the reverse lunge mimicks an athlete accelerating into his sprint and has much better carryover to the athletic field, compared to the front lunge.

Although, I don’t like teaching exercise form over the computer, I will do my best. Here’s some key points. Let’s say that your right leg is the working leg, aka, the leg that will remain stationary. (I have my athletes perform all of their reps on one leg before switching to the other.)
1)Balance on your right leg by lifting your left leg slightly off of the ground.
2) Start bending your right knee as if you were going to perform a single leg squat balancing on your right leg. It’s important that the right knee starts bending BEFORE you start stepping back with the non-working leg. Your knee will shoot forward as you start bending it. THAT’S GOOD! We want the knee to shoot forward on this exercise. This adheres to proper knee biomechanics for this movement.
3) As your right knee is bending, slowly start reaching back with your left leg. Keep your left foot close to the ground as you’re reaching back.
4) Keep bending your right knee as you step back as far as you can with your left leg. As you’re stepping back with your left leg, counter-balance by leaning forward with your upper body. Your low back should remain arched even though you are leaning forward with your upper body. Reach back with your left foot as far as you can. When you can’t reach any further, touch your left toe to the ground and then just squat straight down, not back, until your left knee barely touches the floor.
5) In the bottom position, your upper body and left leg should be in a straight line, at a 45-dgree angle to the floor. Your chest should be over your right thigh and your right knee should be over your toe. (Your right heel must remain on the floor, though. This requires adequate ankle flexibility.)

I really hope that this technique makes sense. I think barbell reverse lunges, performed PROPERLY, is one of the most under-rated exercises for athletes as well as gym rats. This exercise isn’t easy to perfect. In fact, it’s one of the most exausting exercises for me to teach my athletes. I teach the shit out of this exercise until I know my athletes have perfected it! I really do believe in this exercise. That’s why I’ve just spent a good portion of my Saturday night explaining it to you!
Good luck!

Hey Skwotz,

After reading my barbell reverse lunge description check out this link: http://www.defrancostraining.com/pics/pics.htm#jones1

This is a pic of Eagles linebacker, Dhani Jones, performing the movement exactly how I taught him. He’s about 1" from the bottom position. The picture might make my description make more sense.

Joe D.,

You have done an amazing job so far with the guest forum, but this was your best post yet. I was totally doing the reverse lunges wrong. Your description was perfect. And then going back and looking at the picture of Dahani brought everything together. Tomorrow is my leg day. I’m pumped to actually do these right.
Great job coach!

Great description.

Wow, great answer Joe D., I can’t wait to give them a try this week. thanks so much!

I did them today again. Correctly, this time, and I just want to say that this might be my favorite leg exercise from now on (after squat and deads)!

I couldn’t agree more, Coach D. In fact, to piggyback on what you said, I wanted to mention the different approaches to acceleration from a dead stop that have been debated in the literature.

Think about an outfielder, tennis player, or defensive back that is standing in place, and then has to accelerate forward to catch a fly ball, reach a volley, or crush a wide receiver. What’s the first thing they do? Step BACK! While this movement - known as the false step - seems counterproductive, it’s actually been proven most effective in research settings in terms of optimizing performance.

They’ve reviewed the false step in comparison to the drop-and-go (upper body tilts forward, and there is a pseudo-counter movement “jump” from the legs) and the staggered stance (pre-position the feet in the same position that the false step seeks to establish).

The split stance position proved to be the best in terms of power output and total displacement. Unfortunately, most athletes (with the exception of wide receivers coming off the line, for example) have to accelerate in the heat of competition, so it isn’t feasible to preset the feet in such a position. Moreover, the feet must be in alignment with the direction the athlete wants to travel. As such, the false start is the next-best thing.

Scary to think that a lot of ignorant coaches have tried to rid their athletes of this “useless movement” in the past, huh?

Back to the point: use the reverse lunge to train the false start, and your first step will go through the roof!

This may be a stupid question, but I’m sure if I am wondering than someone else is too – Joe, could you describe the concentric portion of the lift?