The nature of the Technique Tuesday theme is to help people perform these highly beneficial exercises correctly since we see them done poorly so often. In keeping with this theme, I’m going to break down the Reverse Lunge, and leave you with a few key take away points on ways to fix some common mistakes.
The Benefits of the Reverse Lunge:
- Increased ankle mobility and hip and core stability
- Increased single leg strength (which leads to increased bilateral strength in a well balanced program)
- It’s generally more knee friendly than its alternatives, the forward or walking lunge, in large part because it requires much less deceleration
I’m sure many of you have performed the traditional forward lunge or walking lunge at some point in your lives, and may have even done a couple reverse lunges as well, so I’ll try and keep the overview of how to perform it short.
From a standing position, step backwards with the non-working leg. Your step should be large enough that your hips can stay centered between both feet and your front foot can maintain full contact with the ground the entire time, yet short enough that you don’t lose any stability and your weight is still primarily on the front foot.
Once the back foot has been placed on the ground you’ll begin to descend into the lunge pattern.
The conventional way to perform the exercise is to keep your torso as upright as possible making 90 degree angles with both you hips and knees.
Depending on the result you are looking for you can also lean forward into the exercise allowing you to bear more weight on your front foot (as long as your spine stays neutral) to allow for greater hip flexion and glute activation.
From the bottom position stand up by pressing down into your front foot, and pushing as little as possible through the back leg. Remember, this is a single leg exercise, so put the emphasis on the working leg, and don’t cheat by pressing through your back foot.
As you stand up, make sure to finish standing tall, by keeping your chest up and squeezing your glutes. I often like to coach my clients to keep their non-working foot off the ground until the completion of each repetition. This often allows them to fully extend their hip and work through the full range of motion.
This does not mean that you should swing your knee up as you begin to stand up, like you’re in a Tae-Bo class with Billy Blanks.
These are the 3 most common mistakes I see with the Reverse Lunge and easy ways to fix them:
- Not taking a big enough step backwards. When you take a short step back, a couple things will generally happen, you’ll feel all of your body’s weight on the balls of your feet, your heel will often come up off the ground, and you’ll feel super unstable.
The Fix: Conventional wisdom would tell us to just take a bigger step backwards, which is a good place to start.
Often times though with people who haven’t done a lot of lunges, their steps can be extremely varied, so trying to figure out what the correct distance of your step should be can get confusing. Good thing is I have an easy way to figure out you distance.
Get down into a kneeling position with your torso upright, and dig your toes on the back foot into the ground.
- Crossing your mid-line when stepping back. Another common mistake I see from folks is that as they step backwards, their foot will often times cross the mid-line, and they end up placing their foot almost directly behind their front leg. This will cause a ton of instability for them.
The Fix: This problem can be caused from a number of different issues ranging from lack of hip stability and core strength to just the novelty of the exercise if you haven’t done many reverse lunges.
Without getting into a ton of corrective exercises you can do the simple fix for this exercise is to place a small pad or something like that directly behind your front leg, now make sure as you step back you do not step on that object.
- Slouching in the bottom position. This one seems to happen much more when the exercise is loaded with a dumbbell in each hand, but can occur in the body weight version as well. It often gets worse as the set goes on.
The Fix: This one often times occurs from a combination of a lack of tension and fatigue. You shouldn’t be doing lunges just for the sake of doing them, you should be doing them with purpose, so take your time and make them good. You don’t need to rush through your sets, instead take a second after each rep to just reset your shoulder blades and re-brace your abs so that each repetition looks exactly like the last.
Hopefully these tips have helped to clean up your lunges and get you looking like a total Rockstar each and every rep. Now get out there and start practicing them! (Seriously go do them!!!)