- Set up J hooks in a rack that are just below shoulder height. This initial setup should be the exact same as if you were performing barbell squats.
- After leveling and stabilizing under the bar, use your hips to unrack it and carefully walk back to clear yourself from the J hooks.
- Stand tall with hips under shoulders, abs braced and glutes engaged. Pull the bar down into your traps to create upper back stability.
- Begin the movement by slowly shifting your weight into the non-working leg and extending the working leg back. This dynamic period is crucial for the effectiveness of the exercise. Maintain balance and control by creating a stable core (abs, glutes, low back and hip flexors).
- Once the back foot touches down, pause briefly to regain any balance or control that was lost in the transition. The movement will now resemble a split squat in execution.
- Drop the back knee until it's roughly an inch off the floor. In this position, the front knee should be bent at ~90º with slight forward translation (knee over toes), the trunk should have a counterbalanced forward lean, and most of the load should be distributed into the front leg with the back acting as a stabilizer.
- The concentric should be performed more powerfully to create enough acceleration to push off the floor with the back foot and return to the base standing position with both feet even.
- Because this is a coordinated, dynamic movement with axial loading, there is little room for error.
- Low Back Pain
- Knee Pain
- Foot/Ankle Pain
- Poor Shoulder Mobility
- Poor Thoracic Mobility
- Poor Hip Mobility
- Poor Coordination/Proprioception
- Weak Trunk
- SSB Reverse Lunges
- SSB Hatfield Reverse Lunges
- DB Reverse Lunges
- Goblet Reverse Lunges
- Barbell Split Squats
- DB Split Squats
- FFE Barbell Reverse Lunges
- FFE SSB Reverse Lunges
- Rack Position Barbell Reverse Lunges
- Overhead Barbell Reverse Lunges
- Skater Squats
- SSB Skater Squats
- 2-4 sets per session
- 2-6 sets per week
- 6-12 reps/side per set
Applicable Intensity Techniques:
- Supersets (These can be the primary or secondary movement in a superset depending on goal)
- Mechanical Drop Set (Ex. Rack Position Barbell Reverse Lunges -> Barbell Reverse Lunges -> Bodyweight Reverse Lunges)
As mentioned above, this is a HIGHLY complex movement. Those that are saddled with any of the contraindications are going to have a difficult time getting the most out of this exercise and would probably be better served regressing down to something a bit technically simpler.
When evaluating whether this is a good exercise to add into your repertoire, go over this checklist:
1) Will I be limited in my ability to overload and train with intensity by my balance and coordination?
2) Is the addition going to align better with my primary goals than a static, unilateral variation like a split squat?
3) Are my support structures (i.e. abs, low back, etc) strong enough to allow dynamic force transfer?
4) How does this movement fit into my planned mesocycle progression?
This seems like a lot of theorizing just to add in a single exercise, but this is the type of due diligence it takes to best control for the inevitable vicissitudes of training cycles. While it's not as sexy, being honest with yourself (or your client) and building up to complexity over time is often the simple answer to a seemingly convoluted problem.
For the lucky few that are able to pass this checklist and traverse the minefield of contraindications, you now can be rewarded with one of the more brutal exercises in existence.
Barbell Reverse Lunges have such an extensive list of use cases partly because of just how miserable they can be to perform at a high level. I often joke that "The best part of single leg exercises is being able to do twice as many of them" but unfortunately, this is not really a joke.
It hurts...a lot.
But if you can adapt to the respiratory distress, lactate accumulation and psychological torment being imposed upon you, Barbell Reverse Lunges can absolutely transform your entire physique for the better.
Though I will often classify these as an "overloading" movement, do not confuse that with thinking that the progression of load and/or reps should be the primary concern over multiple weeks or months. The more dynamic a movement is, the less capable it will be to withstand intensity increases. In lay terms, this means that the closer you get to failure on a Barbell Reverse Lunge, for example, the more the instabilities start to break through the cracks and become failure points.
If hypertrophy is our primary goal, this is NOT what we want. We are looking to take our target muscles close to local failure. If we're being limited by our balance or breathing or trunk strength, growth potential of our glutes and quads are going to suffer.
Working around this pretty substantial roadblock requires some creativity and forethought.
My suggestion is to first) understand the primary goal of the session, second) understand the role that the Barbell Reverse Lunges are playing in that, and third) construct a scheme that aligns them.
This is where the creativity can come in!
With the "Workout of the Week" from this week, I paired Barbell Reverse Lunges in a superset with Heel Elevated Goblet Squats to load the quads in the mid-range of their fiber length before exhausting them through metabolic stress in the lengthened state. While this is a totally valid application, it is just one of many potential options for effectively including the reverse lunges into a well-functioning program.
Other options include:
1) Pre-exhaust the quads with leg extensions before the reverse lunges
2) Pre-exhaust the glutes with hip thrusts (another example of shortened-to-lengthened supersets in action)
3) Using the reverse lunges as an accessory to heavy squats to prioritize mobility and healthy tissues
4) Perform straight sets of 8-12 each side within a moderate intensity range to ensure the total workload of each leg is relatively equal
I would consider the Barbell Reverse Lunges to be a very specific inclusion in a program. A lot has to align to get the most out of it and a lot can go wrong to leach efficacy. Treat the exercise with its deserved respect and it will return the favor via tree-trunk legs, eye-popping strength, and impenetrable full-body stability.
Primary Use Case:
- Hypertrophy of the Quads and Glutes
- Improved Strength in the Squat Pattern
- Equalizing Bilateral Deficit (Both Sides Forced to Work Evenly)
- Improved Neuromuscular Coordination
- Improved Trunk Stability