Traditional forward lunges and reverse lunges share many similarities. They use the same muscles and each can be an effective tool to strengthen much of the lower body. While one exercise is not considered better than the other, there are some differences that may make one type of lunge a better option for you.
Lunges are considered compound exercises because they consist of more than one joint movement. Both the front and reverse lunge target the quadriceps, the muscles at the front of the upper legs. The synergists, or assisting muscles in the exercises, are the gluteus maximus, or buttocks; the adductor magnus, or inner thigh; and the soleus, found in the calf. These compound exercises also involve muscles that act as stabilizers to keep the joints stable during movement, and these are also strengthened by the exercise. The stabilizers are the hamstrings in the back of the upper leg as well as the gastrocnemius, also found in the calf.
Reverse Lunge: Execution
Stand straight with your legs together and engage your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine. Slowly step back with one leg while bending your supporting leg. Reach your rear leg far back and flex both your knees. Both your rear lower leg and your front upper leg should be parallel to the floor. Your rear knee should also be within a few inches of the floor. Pause briefly and return to the starting position by extending your forward leg.
Reverse Lunge: Benefits
The reverse lunge is an easier option for beginners. Because your body weight stays on your forward leg throughout the entire exercise, there is less risk of instability. It is also easier to stand back up to the starting position because you are not shifting your weight. The stability of the reverse lunge also makes it easier and safer to add additional weight to the exercise, such as by holding dumbbells or a barbell. The additional weight can help make this move more challenging and increase the strength-building benefits.
Forward Lunge: Execution
Stand straight with your feet together and engage your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine. Slowly lift one foot off the floor and step forward. Shift your body weight forward to the lead foot and place it on the floor. Flex your knee until your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Simultaneously flex your rear knee, bringing it close to the floor and making sure that lower leg is also parallel to the floor. Pause briefly and push off your front leg to return to the starting position.
Forward Lunge: Benefits
The forward lunge is a more difficult variation to perform and master. This added difficulty makes it more risky to add additional weight to the move, but you can still get strength benefits using your own body weight. The forward lunge can also be very beneficial for athletes who need to train for instability and who can benefit from deceleration training. When you lunge forward and your front leg touches the floor, your body must decelerate the forward momentum, making this a challenging move. Pushing off your front leg to return to the starting position is also more challenging because this leg is loaded with much of your body weight.
Andrea Chrysanthou began writing professionally in 1993. Her work has been published internationally by "The Cyprus Mail," MochaSofa and My Favorite Trainer, among other magazines and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts in journalism from Ryerson University. Chrysanthou is a certified fitness instructor and personal-training specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the fitness industry.