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Why the Reverse Lunge Is One of the Best Exercises to Target Your Butt and Thighs

Lunges may seem like a #basic strength exercise, compared to all the crazy tools, techniques, and move mash-ups you might see on your Instagram feed. However, it's important to remember that these "basic" moves are key to master before trying any of the tricky stuff—and they come with plenty of benefits, no matter how simple they seem. 

The reverse lunge is a perfect example. Though it's a foundational functional movement, the backward motion of the reverse lunge exercise makes this more of a coordination challenge than a strictly strength-training exercise. (BTW, how good is your balance?)

Reverse Lunge Benefits and Variations

Why switch it into reverse? Stepping backward challenges your balance and body awareness, says NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti, who's demo-ing the exercise in the video above. "It requires a little more focus and control than the forward lunge." Mastering this move will help you improve coordination so you're better able to handle agility work and other athletic skills, like pushing sleds, doing box jumps, and jumping laterally.

Not to mention, it helps teach you how to properly hinge at your hip joint, pushing weight through the heel vs. the ball of the foot, and it activates your glutes more than other lunges, says Mariotti. Bonus: If you have cranky knees, reverse lunges may also be the best option. Compared to other lunges, reverse lunges were found to be the best in developing the glutes and quadriceps muscles with relatively low shearing force at the knee, according to a study presented at the 2016 International Conference on Biomechanics in Sports. (But that doesn't mean you have to stick to doing only reverse lunges; there are so many different lunge variations that you'll never get bored.) 

Before you try the reverse lunge, master the forward lunge and the walking lunge. To make it even harder, add a knee drive at the top (stand on the front leg and drive the back knee forward and up to high knee position), add external resistance (try a kettlebell, dumbbells, or a barbell), or even combine the reverse lunge with a cable row to make it a total-body exercise (just like Shay Mitchell did in this workout with trainer Kira Stokes).

How to Do a Reverse Lunge

A. Stand with feet together and hands clasped in front of chest. 
B. Take a big step backward with the right foot, keeping hips square to the front and pelvis neutral. Lower until both legs are bent at 90-degree angles, keeping chest tall and core engaged.
C. Press into the mid-foot and heel of the left foot to stand, stepping right foot up to meet the left. 

Do 8 to 15 reps. Switch sides; repeat. Try 3 sets.

Reverse Lunge Form Tips 

  • Make sure to step straight back and keep knees at 90-degree angles.
  • Try not to step too far back. 
  • Don't arch lower back; keep core engaged.

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