Reverse Lunges Muscles Worked

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What Is A Reverse Lunge

A reverse lunge is a type of lunge where you step backward instead of forward. This exercise, also called backward lunges, primarily works the Gluteus Maximus, Hamstrings (glutes and hamstrings), and Quadriceps muscles.

The reverse lunge is a great exercise to improve balance and stability, and it can also be used to increase hip flexibility. Unlike the traditional forward lunge, the reverse lunge puts less stress on the knees and is, therefore, a great option for people with knee injuries.

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Reverse Lunges Muscles Worked

The main muscles worked during the reverse lunge (or backward lunges) are similar to the forward lunge – the glutes and quadriceps.

However, due to the need for balancing during the movement of the reverse lunge, you will also target smaller stabilizing muscles of the hip, knees, and ankles.

This makes the lunge one of the best lower body exercises you can do or incorporate into your workout routine.

Primary Muscles Worked During Reverse Lunges

Here are the primary muscles worked during the reverse lunge shown and explained in more detail:

Gluteus Maximus

The Gluteus Maximus (glute max building the glute muscles) is the largest muscle in the hip region – gives the buttock a rounded shape. This muscle is responsible for hip extension, which is required to perform the reverse lunge. The glute max functionally allows you to stand upright by bringing your legs in line with the body.

Gluteus Minimus & Medius (Lateral Hip)

The Gluteus Minimus & Medius (glute med & min) are located on the sides of the hip. These two muscles work together in serving to stabilize and in abduction (moving the leg away from the body). As well as external rotation femur (thigh bone) – resulting in external rotation of the leg.


The Quadriceps (quads) are located on the front of the thigh and are formed of four strong muscles. The prime function of the quadriceps is to extend the knee joint, which is also required during reverse lunges.

One of these muscles, which is positioned on the front of the pelvis, also aids in hip flexion.

You can walk, run, jump, lunge, and squat because of these large muscles in your legs.


The Adductors are a group of muscles located on the inside of the thigh. These muscles work together to bring the legs back inward to the middle of the body.

In most lower-body exercises, they are very active at the bottom and provide a substantial amount of strength and assistance.

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Reverse Lunge vs Forward Lunge

Forward lunges as well as reverse lunges (or backward lunges) target mainly the same muscle groups. However, the reverse lunge provides more benefits for the athlete and is considered the superior exercise.

One study showed, that among the different lunge variations, the reverse lunge is the most effective regarding muscle activation and growth.

It also mimics the action of running, because of the required creation of momentum from the rear leg to go back to the starting position

When performing the reverse lunge, during the step back – the weight will be kept over the front heel of the forward leg. The result is a maintained tension in the glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

Forward lunges, on the other hand, can have some negative or unwanted effects. During the forward movement, the weight can be placed on the ball of the foot rather than the heel. This happens, if the load is shifted too far forwards.

This forward position places more stress on the Quadriceps and results in less activation of the other involved muscles. And therefore, in under-training of the rest of the targeted muscles, like the Glutes. This negatively impacts knee stability.

Lastly, in comparison to the reverse lunge, it can happen relatively easily to overstep during forward lunges. Transferring the weight to the wrong position. The reverse movement, on the other side, is transferring the weight in the correct position – over the front heel.

Making the reverse lunge a clearly more effective exercise, that provides more benefits.

How To Do Reverse Lunges 

To perform a bodyweight reverse lunge, follow the steps below:

  • Position yourself in a standing stance with feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides, and your core braced.
  • Take a long step backward with your left leg (of course you can also start with the right leg), and slowly lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground.
  • Keep your torso upright, while pushing back up with both legs. Also, focus the press more through your right heel (lead leg – front leg / front foot) to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat the movement with your right leg (opposite leg).

To counterbalance the rear leg, you will eventually lean forward at the beginning of the movement. This is alright, as long as you focus on maintaining an upright position of the upper body during the rest of the exercise.

Incorporating Reverse Lunges Into Your Workout

To properly execute the reverse lunge, the entire lower limb muscles, your leg muscles must be properly used. This is accomplished through body alignment, balance, and the right foot placement.

Incorporate the reverse lunge exercise preferably at the beginning of your workout. Aim for 3-4 sets and focus on keeping balance and correct form. Reverse lunge variations include bodyweight and weighted reverse lunges, as well as the walking lunge. Also see related exercises below.

Start without weights. Therefore, you can use a higher rep range. If you feel balanced and stable during the movement, you can start adding weights. Progressively increase the weight each session to gain strength and improve your performance.

Finally, always remember to stay properly hydrated before, during, and after working out.

Bottom Line

Reverse lunges are a great way to target the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. With just a few simple steps you can add this exercise into your workout routine and start seeing results.

Remember to keep your back straight and core engaged throughout the entire movement. Are you ready to give reverse lunges a try?

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