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Forward Lunge vs Reverse Lunge: Which One Is Best For You?

Lunging is one of those exercises that everyone should do every once in a while. Although you might find yourself doing forward lunges at first, at some point you discover that there are also reverse lunges. And they do seem to be the same, don’t they? Below you will find out more about the difference between the forward lunge vs reverse lunge, and which one is best for you.

Doing lunges should be a staple in every fitness lover or athlete. Regardless of forwards or reverse, , both versions of the lunge zero in on the glutes, legs (hamstrings, quads, and calves), and and little bit on the abdominal muscles. While they share this common focus, each variation engages these muscle groups in slightly distinct manners, emphasizing particular muscles over others, a topic we’ll delve into later.

Source: Big Dodzy / Unsplash

Moreover, both iterations involve the elongation or extension of one hip while the other leg remains bent or in flexion. Introducing these movements is an effective way to counterbalance the prevalent hip flexion associated with prolonged sitting in our daily lives.

Whether you opt for forward lunges, reverse lunges, or any lunge variation, they all share a common trait—they are unilateral exercises. This means that each leg is worked independently. The emphasis on one limb at a time contributes to the development of single-leg strength, fostering overall balance, stability, and coordination.

These attributes are crucial not only for daily activities but also for excelling in various athletic pursuits. It also helps fight any strength imbalance – if one leg is stronger than the other, you will notice while working out.

Let’s dive deep into the forward lunge vs reverse lunge debate. Below you will see how to perform each of them, the muscles targeted, and their main differences. We will also talk about which one might be best for you and, to cap it all up, BOXROX has created a list of some lunges variations for you to spice things up during your training.

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Forward Lunge:

The forward lunge is a lower body exercise that primarily targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. It’s a fundamental movement in many strength-training routines and is often used for building leg strength and stability.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Take a step forward with one foot, keeping the other foot in place.
  3. Lower your body until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  4. The back knee hovers just above the ground, and the front knee is directly above the ankle.
  5. Push off the front foot to return to the starting position.

Muscles Targeted:

  • Quadriceps (front thigh muscles)
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes (buttocks)
  • Calves (to a lesser extent)
  • Core
LungeSource: Gustavo Fring / Pexels

Reverse Lunge:

The reverse lunge is another lower body exercise that shares similarities with the forward lunge but involves stepping backward instead of forward. Like the forward lunge, it targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Take a step backward with one foot, lowering your body until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  3. The back knee hovers just above the ground, and the front knee is directly above the ankle.
  4. Push off the back foot to return to the starting position.

Muscles Targeted:

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Calves (to a lesser extent)
  • Core

Difference Between Forward Lunge vs Reverse Lunge:

While both forward and reverse lunges effectively target the glutes and legs, their emphasis on specific leg muscles sets them apart. Reverse lunges is more of a hamstrings (located at the back of the thighs) and the glute max (the largest glute muscle) exercise, providing a focused workout for these areas.

forward lunges place more emphasis on the quadriceps (front of the thighs) and create a greater engagement of the core.

The act of stepping forward induces instability as the back heel lifts off the ground, requiring the core to engage extensively for stabilisation. And since we all are accustomed to walking forward, forward lunges will feel more natural for most individuals.

However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the potential drawbacks of forward lunges, particularly the instability they introduce. Many people may find forward lunges less accessible or comfortable due to this instability and increase pressure on the knees.

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In contrast, reverse lunges emerge as a gentler and more accessible variation, making them a preferred choice in certain scenarios, especially if you have knee issues

The stability provided by keeping the front foot firmly on the ground allows for better control over the placement of the knee relative to the ankle, minimizing the risk of strain or discomfort when doing a reverse lunge.

In short:

  1. Joint Stress: Forward lunges may put more stress on the knee of the forward leg, while reverse lunges may stress the knee of the trailing leg. Individuals with knee issues may want to choose the variation that feels more comfortable.
  2. Balance and Stability: Forward lunges challenge forward stability, while reverse lunges challenge backward stability. Athletes or individuals focusing on specific types of stability may choose one variation over the other.
  3. Muscle Emphasis: Though both exercises target the same major muscle groups, some individuals may feel that one variation places more emphasis on certain muscles. It’s often a matter of personal preference and comfort.

In summary, the distinction between forward and reverse lunges lies not only in their target muscles but also in the level of challenge they pose to the core and the potential for instability. While forward lunges align with natural walking patterns, their inherent instability may make reverse lunges a more accessible and knee-friendly option for many individuals.

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Both forward and reverse lunges are effective lower body exercises, and the choice between them depends on individual preferences, fitness goals, and any existing physical conditions. Experimenting with both and incorporating them into a well-rounded workout routine can provide comprehensive lower body development.

Now that you know the difference between forward lunge vs reverse lunge, let’s check out some other lunges variations you could add to your workouts.

Lunges Variations

amrap crossfit kettlebell workoutsSource: Photos courtesy of CrossFit Inc.
Overhead kettlebell lunge

If we take into consideration that lunging is to move one foot in one direction while keeping the other stable on the ground, there are many other lunges variations that you can and should add to your workout.

Curtsy Lunge

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, maintaining good posture with your shoulders relaxed.
  2. Take a step diagonally backward and across your body with one foot, as if you were curtsying.
  3. Bend both knees as you lower your hips towards the ground. The back knee should hover just above or lightly touch the floor.
  4. Ensure that your front knee is aligned with your ankle, and your back knee is pointing toward the ground.
  5. Push through the heel of your front foot to return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat the movement on the other side by stepping diagonally backward and across with the opposite foot.

The curtsy lunge primarily targets the glutes, hamstrings, and quads, similar to traditional lunges. However, the diagonal movement engages the muscles in a slightly different way, providing a unique challenge.

This exercise not only works on lower body strength but also enhances stability and balance. Additionally, the curtsy lunge engages the core muscles to maintain proper form during the movement. It’s a versatile exercise that can be incorporated into various fitness routines to add diversity and target different muscle groups compared to more traditional lunge variations.

Lateral Lunge

The lateral lunge is a dynamic lower-body exercise that involves stepping sideways to work different muscle groups than traditional lunges. Here’s how to perform a lateral lunge:

  1. Start by standing with your feet together, maintaining good posture with your shoulders relaxed.
  2. Take a step to the side with one foot, keeping the other foot planted.
  3. Shift your body weight towards the side you stepped, bending the knee of the lunging leg while keeping the opposite leg straight.
  4. Lower your body towards the ground, pushing your hips back and keeping your back straight.
  5. Ensure that the lunging knee is aligned with the ankle, and the other leg remains straight.
  6. Push off the lunging foot and return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat the movement on the other side by stepping to the opposite side.

The lateral lunge primarily targets the muscles of the inner and outer thighs, as well as the glutes. It also engages the hamstrings and quadriceps. This exercise is excellent for developing strength, flexibility, and stability in the lower body.

One of the key benefits of the lateral lunge is its focus on the frontal plane of motion, which is different from the sagittal plane emphasized in forward and reverse lunges. By incorporating lateral lunges into your workout routine, you enhance the overall balance and functional strength of your lower body. Additionally, the lateral lunge can be beneficial for improving hip mobility and reducing the risk of injury, making it a valuable addition to a well-rounded fitness program.

Bulgarian Split Squat or Rear Foot Elevated Lunge

The Bulgarian split squat is a challenging lower-body exercise that targets the muscles of the legs and glutes while also improving balance and stability. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to perform a Bulgarian split squat:

  1. Starting Position:
    • Stand facing away from a bench or elevated surface, about two feet away.
    • Place one foot behind you on the bench, ensuring that the top of your foot is resting on it.
    • The other foot should be positioned far enough forward so that when you lower your body, your front knee is directly above your ankle.
  2. Execution:
    • Lower your body by bending the front knee and lowering the back knee towards the ground.
    • Aim to create a 90-degree angle with both knees, with the back knee hovering just above or lightly touching the floor.
    • Keep your torso upright and engage your core for stability.
    • Ensure that your front knee is aligned with your ankle and doesn’t extend beyond it.
  3. Pushing Back Up:
    • Push through the heel of the front foot to return to the starting position.
    • Maintain control throughout the movement to engage the targeted muscles effectively.
  4. Repeating on the Other Leg:
    • Switch legs and repeat the exercise, placing the opposite foot behind you on the bench.

The Bulgarian split squat places a significant emphasis on the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes of the front leg, providing an effective way to build strength and muscular endurance. Additionally, it engages stabilizing muscles, including the core, to maintain balance during the exercise.

Incorporating Bulgarian split squats into your workout routine can be beneficial for addressing muscle imbalances, enhancing unilateral leg strength, and promoting functional movement patterns. Adjusting the height of the bench or surface can add variability to the exercise and cater to different fitness levels.

Front Foot Elevated Lunge

The front foot elevated lunge is a variation of the traditional lunge that involves elevating the front foot to increase the range of motion and target different muscles. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to perform a front foot elevated lunge:

  1. Set-Up:
    • Find a stable surface, such as a step, bench, or platform, and place one foot on it. This elevated foot will be the front foot.
    • Position the other foot on the ground, a step or two behind, creating a staggered stance.
  2. Execution:
    • Lower your body by bending both knees, allowing the back knee to lower towards the ground.
    • Ensure that the front knee is directly above the ankle, forming a 90-degree angle.
    • The back knee can hover just above or lightly touch the ground, depending on your flexibility and comfort.
  3. Torso Position:
    • Keep your torso upright and engage your core throughout the movement.
    • Avoid leaning too far forward or backward to maintain proper form.
  4. Pushing Back Up:
    • Push through the heel of the front foot to return to the starting position.
    • Maintain control and focus on using the muscles of the front leg to power the movement.
  5. Repeating on the Other Leg:
    • Switch the position of your feet and repeat the exercise to work the other leg.

The front foot elevated lunge primarily targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes of the front leg. By elevating the front foot, this variation increases the demand on these muscles and also engages the stabilizing muscles in the core and lower body.

This exercise is effective for building strength, improving balance, and enhancing flexibility. It’s particularly beneficial for individuals looking to challenge their lower body in a different way than traditional lunges. Adjusting the height of the surface can modify the difficulty level and cater to different fitness levels. You may also hold weights on your hands while performing the movement for extra difficulty.

Slider Lunge

The slider lunge is a challenging variation of the traditional lunge that incorporates the use of sliders or gliding discs. These sliders, placed under your feet, add a dynamic and fluid element to the exercise, engaging different muscles and enhancing overall stability. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to perform a slider lunge:

  1. Equipment Setup:
    • Place a slider or gliding disc under each foot.
    • Stand with your feet hip-width apart in a neutral position.
  2. Starting Position:
    • Engage your core for stability.
    • Keep your shoulders relaxed and maintain good posture.
  3. Execution:
    • Slide one foot backward into a reverse lunge position while allowing the other knee to bend, creating a 90-degree angle.
    • The sliding motion adds a dynamic challenge as you push the slider away from the body.
  4. Depth and Form:
    • Aim to lower your body into a lunge position, ensuring that the front knee is directly above the ankle.
    • Keep the sliding foot stable and avoid letting it twist or turn during the movement.
  5. Pushing Back Up:
    • Use the muscles of the working leg to push the slider back to the starting position.
    • Maintain control throughout the movement to maximize the engagement of targeted muscles.
  6. Repeating on the Other Leg:
    • Switch the position of the sliders and repeat the exercise, sliding the opposite foot backward.

The slider lunge primarily targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and inner thighs. The sliding motion adds a unique challenge, requiring greater stability and control. Additionally, the exercise engages the core muscles to maintain balance during the sliding movement.

Incorporating slider lunges into your workout routine can enhance lower body strength, improve stability, and promote flexibility. Adjusting the range of motion and intensity can be achieved by controlling the length of the slide and focusing on proper form throughout the exercise.

Overhead Lunge

The overhead lunge is a dynamic and full-body exercise that involves holding a weight overhead while performing a lunge. This variation adds an extra challenge to the traditional lunge by incorporating upper body strength and stability. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to perform an overhead lunge:

  1. Equipment and Weight Selection:
    • Choose a suitable weight, such as a dumbbell or kettlebell, based on your fitness level.
    • Hold the weight with both hands overhead, arms fully extended.
  2. Starting Position:
    • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
    • Ensure that your arms are straight overhead, holding the weight securely.
  3. Execution:
    • Take a step forward with one foot into a lunge position.
    • Lower your body by bending both knees, aiming for a 90-degree angle with the front knee directly above the ankle.
    • The back knee can hover just above or lightly touch the ground.
  4. Upper Body Stability:
    • Maintain the weight overhead throughout the movement, engaging your shoulder and core muscles for stability.
    • Keep the arms straight and avoid leaning forward or backward excessively.
  5. Pushing Back Up:
    • Push through the heel of the front foot to return to the starting position.
    • Maintain control over the weight and your overall body movement.
  6. Repeating on the Other Leg:
    • Switch legs and repeat the lunge, alternating between the left and right sides.

The overhead lunge engages the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves, similar to traditional lunges. However, the added challenge of holding a weight overhead also activates the shoulders, upper back, and core muscles. This exercise not only builds lower body strength and endurance but also contributes to overall stability and coordination.

As with any exercise, it’s essential to start with a manageable weight and focus on proper form to prevent strain or injury. Incorporating overhead lunges into your workout routine can provide a well-rounded and efficient way to target both the upper and lower body.

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