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November 10, 2021 8 min read

Getting tired of doing the same thing for leg days every time you train?

Then, look no further than the barbell reverse lunge.  plenty of reasons why you should be incorporating this great exercise into your lower body exercise routines while also showing you the proper form for it.

Muscles Worked During A Barbell Reverse Lunge

The reverse lunge actually works all of the muscles of other popular compound movements, such as  squats.

So, when you do this exercise, you’ll be working on your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Also, but to a lesser degree, you’ll work your calves and your core because of the overall movement of the exercise.

leg muscles anatomy chart 

These muscle groups are all very essential to building a very balanced lower body physique and leg strength. If this isn’t enough to convince you to start trying the exercise, check out these awesome benefits.

Barbell Reverse Lunge Benefits 

  • Because a barbell reverse lunge is a compound exercise, you’re building cohesive and unilateral strength throughout your entire legs. By doing this exercise, you will correct any muscle imbalances or asymmetries in your leg muscles. This type of training can also lead to health benefits, such as overall stability and even injury prevention.
  • Speaking of stability, this exercise will promote general balance in your body. This exercise works the stabilizing muscles in your legs. By incorporating it into your training regiment you will see a noticeable improvement in your balance during day-to-day activities and in the gym. 
  • This exercise has the benefit of being able to be slightly modified so that it can either target just the hamstrings or just the quadriceps. By simply taking a bigger step behind you, you can work your hamstrings and glutes to a greater extent. Taking a smaller back step will work your quads more because your knee is bending more than your hip. This allows barbell reverse lunges to be a part of specific leg routines that focus on either of these muscle groups. 
  • Because this exercise is a unilateral lower body exercise, it fits very well into a lot of training programs. Whether you're doing strength training or hypertrophy training, the barbell reverse lunge can easily supplement your most important lifts.

How To Do A Barbell Reverse Lunge 


Before we start, you will need two pieces of equipment. Obviously, you’ll need a barbell and some weights. You’ll also need a squat rack. Though, some people sometimes will just clean the bar in order to get it onto their backs. 

  1. First, approach the squat rack, get under the bar, or clean it onto your rear deltoids. Make sure that you’re gripping that bar with an overhand grip and you keep your back straight. Be sure to put your feet at about hip-width apart. 
  2. Next, it’s time to step back and really get into the lunge. Start by taking a step back with your left leg. This will pace the majority of the load on your right leg. When doing this, be sure that you’re stepping back enough that your left knee is behind your right heel when it touches the ground
  3. Sink down until your back knee touches the ground and your front knee is at a 90-degree angle. It’s now time to drive upwards. Stand back up, making sure to really drive the weight with your front leg's heel and the ball of your foot. Try to keep your torso upright during this movement, though a slight lean forward is alright. 
  4. As you are standing up all the way with your leading leg, bring your back leg back up to its starting position. During this part of the exercise, do your best to not lean and keep a proper balance. 
  5. Once you’re back in the starting position, wait for a second and then repeat these steps with the other leg. Do this for as many reps as are needed for your routine. 

Common Barbell Reverse Lunge Mistakes

With any exercise, it’s important to maintain proper form to prevent injury and to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your workout.

Below are some common mistakes people make when performing lunges:

  1. Partial reps are a mistake that a lot of people make when doing exercise, this one is no exception. With the reverse barbell lunge, it’s crucial that your knee touches the ground in order for it to count as a complete rep. Otherwise, you’re doing partials. 
  2. Rounding the upper back is something that you might do in other exercises, such as squats. This is something you really want to avoid as rounding your back can result in injury. This is because your spine cannot take the stress of having all of that weight in a rounded position. Therefore, it’s important to focus on keeping your body straight during the entire exercise. 
  3. Another mistake that you should avoid making is rushing the motion. Admittedly, this can be a pretty tough exercise, so lifters will often try to get through it as fast as they can. This also happens when somebody loads too much weight on the barbell. By rushing the motion you put yourself at risk for injury. If you find yourself doing this, lower the weight of the barbell so that it’s easier for you, and you can do each rep slowly. This will increase the gains from this exercise and help with your mind-muscle connection.
  4. Don’t step too far backward. This is is one of the most common mistakes for this exercise and result in injury because your joints are not aligned. To add to this, it’s important not to step too far forward as well. To make sure you don’t do this, do a few sets of bodyweight reverse lunges to find out the stepping distance that works the best for you. 

Barbell Reverse Lunge Variations 

Now that you know how to do a normal barbell reverse lunge, check out these variations to mix things up. These variations can add some versatility to your routine or make the exercise more accessible. 

Bodyweight Reverse Lunge

This variation is something we highly recommend for people who are just trying out the reverse lunge for the first time. It allows you to practice the form of the exercise, or get warmed up before you start packing on heavy weights. The biggest benefit of this variation is that it requires no equipment whatsoever.

You don’t need a fancy squat rack or a barbell to start feeling the benefits of the reverse lunge.  For this variation, all you need to do is ditch the barbell and perform a reverse lunge. Remember to follow the steps that we outline when we talked about the form for this exercise. 

Dumbbell Reverse Lunge 

For some people, the barbell can be hard to control. This can be due to inexperience or even general stability issues. This is where the dumbbell variation comes in handy! If there aren’t any dumbbells available, kettlebells also work just fine with this variation, or even stray weight plates. 

This variation is done the same way as the barbell reverse lunge, just with dumbbells in your hands instead of a barbell. Although, this variation actually has the added benefit of increasing grip strength!   

Offset Reverse Lunge 

This is an offshoot of the dumbbell reverse lunge that focuses more on your core than the previous variations. This is because you won’t be holding onto two dumbbells/kettlebells. Instead, you’ll only be holding onto one at a time. The imbalance will actually force your core to work harder to keep you upright.

This is a great way to challenge both your legs and  core  at the same time. 

Deficit Reverse Lunge 

This variation is meant to hit your glutes more, as well as challenge your balance. For this variation, you’ll need some sort of platform. It doesn’t have to be very tall, something like an aerobic step platform. While you’re on top of the platform, just take a step back and perform the reverse lunge like you normally would.


The benefit here is the extended range of movement over the normal variations. This, in turn, allows you to get deeper in the lunge, really activating your legs more while also challenging your stability. If you’re looking for the most benefits in terms of balance, perform this variation. 

Front Rack Reverse Lunge

This variation can be done by using dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell. The point of this exercise is to get the weight more towards the front of your body, instead of on your back or sides. By doing this, you’re providing an extra challenge to your core as your body has to work harder to stay upright. This variation, of course, still targets all of the other muscle groups that are mentioned earlier. 

Crossover Reverse Lunge 

For this variation, instead of stepping right behind you, you’ll want to step diagonally, to the inside of your body. This variation is perfect for anyone that’s looking to really work on their hip stability as you’ve got to control how much your knees buckle. This is a variation we definitely recommend trying with just your body weight at first. 

Barbell Reverse Lunge Alternatives

If for some reason you are unable to do this exercise (maybe someone stole your spot on the rack) here are some alternatives that do the same thing. These alternative exercises all hit your legs hard while also promoting stability. 

Walking Lunges

The walking lunge, at face value, is a fairly simple exercise. You simply go from one lunge to the next for a certain amount of distance. Perfect if you have a big backyard or a lot of space in an empty gym to work with. The big selling point of this alternative is that it’s dynamic. It works all of the same muscles as a barbell reverse lung while really providing a challenge for your balance and coordination. 

Bulgarian Split Squats

This exercise has a reputation for being quite difficult and hard on the legs (because it is). But it’s also one of the best exercises for your legs and a great alternative to the barbell reverse lunge. It’s a great exercise if you’re going for hypertrophy or strength. Additionally, it has been known to help improve performance in a conventional squat.


For this exercise, all you need to do is put one leg up on a bench or other similar surface and then sink down into a lunge. You’ll definitely feel the burn in your quads, hamstrings, and glutes when you do this exercise. If you’re really feeling up for a challenge, try incorporating alongside sets of barbell reverse lunges. However, you may need some  CHARGED-AF  to get through those sets! 

Forward Lunges and Reverse Lunges, What’s The Difference? 

You might be thinking “Why should I be doing a reverse lunge when I can just do a forward lunge? Aren’t they the same thing?” It may surprise you to learn that they are not, in fact, the same. In fact, it can be argued that the reverse lunge is the easier of the two exercises. The reason forward lunges are considered more difficult is because you actually need a bit more stability to be able to do them properly.

This is because, when doing forward lunges, the leg which steps forward is your “driving leg.” It’s the one that pushes off and also absorbs the momentum and helps you slow down. This is unlike a reverse lunge, where a stationary leg is the one that does all the work in terms of stability. This brings us to our next big difference, stability and safety.

Because of the added stability of a reverse lunge, you can generally add more weight to the exercise.

On top of that, the barbell reverse lunge will actually be safer than a forward lunge. How is it safer? Well, the position from a reverse lunge actually makes it easier for you to drive through your heel. With a front lunge, people tend to push with the ball of their foot, which can put unnecessary pressure on their knees. Therefore, if you have knee problems but still want to do lunges, the reverse lunge is ideal. 

Final Verdict 

The barbell reverse lunge is easily one of the leg exercises out there. It challenges all of the big muscles groups: quadriceps, hamstrings, and the entirety of your glute muscles. On top of that, it’s also perfect for working on your overall balance as well as muscle imbalances in your legs.

As if that wasn’t enough, there are variations of this exercise that can help isolate other leg muscle groups or even help you get a nice ab workout done. It can even work as a supplemental exercise to  deadlifts or squats.

Whatever your lower body goals are, incorporating reverse barbell lunges into your routine is a surefire way to get closer to achieving them!