The dumbbell reverse lunge is an outstanding lunge variation.
It’s highly effective because it trains your entire lower body, helps you build functional strength, and is kinder to your knees than many lower-body exercises.
In this article, you’ll learn what the dumbbell reverse lunge is, what muscles reverse lunges work, the benefits of “backward lunges,” how to perform them correctly, common mistakes and how to avoid them, the best reverse lunge variations, and more.
Table of Contents
To perform it, step one leg backward and lower your body by bending both knees until your trailing leg’s knee touches the floor, then stand up and return to the starting position.
There are many effective reverse lunge variations, but the most common and the one we’ll focus on in this article is the dumbbell reverse lunge.
You don't need supplements to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy. But the right ones can help. Take this quiz to learn which ones are best for you.
Find the Perfect Supplements for You in Just 60 Seconds
You don't need supplements to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy. But the right ones can help. Take this quiz to learn which ones are best for you.Take the Quiz
Many people over-egg the differences between the reverse lunge and forward lunge.
Nevertheless, these differences are minor, so it’s unclear whether they have a meaningful impact on long-term muscle growth.
Rather than compare the reverse lunge vs. the forward lunge to determine which is “best,” it makes more sense to include both in your training.
A good way to do this is to alternate between the two exercises every few months.
The reverse lunge trains all the muscle groups in your lower body, especially your quads, hamstrings, and glute muscles.
The dumbbell reverse lunge is a unilateral exercise, which means it allows you to train each side of your body independently.
Unilateral exercises are advantageous because they enable you to lift more total weight than you can with some bilateral exercises (exercises that train both sides of the body simultaneously), which may help you gain more muscle over time.
They can also help you establish a stronger mind-muscle connection because you have less to focus on, they’re useful for finding and fixing muscle and strength imbalance, and they may enhance athletic performance more than bilateral exercises.
The dumbbell reverse lunge mimics movements that we use in everyday life.
In the forward or walking lunge, your front leg has to absorb force as your front foot touches the floor. Your knee joints typically bear the brunt of this impact, which can cause knee pain for some.
Your weight-bearing front leg doesn’t move in the reverse lunge, which makes it slightly gentler on your knee joints than other lunge variations.
The reverse lunge doesn’t require specialized gym equipment, such as a rack, bench, or machine, so you can perform it virtually anywhere.
You can also add resistance to the exercise using whatever you have available, including dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell, or resistance bands. And if you have none of these, you can use just your body weight.
In other words, it’s a highly adaptable exercise suitable for any environment or setup.
How many calories should you eat? What about "macros?" What foods should you eat? Take our 60-second quiz to get science-based answers to these questions and more.
Find the Best Diet for You in Just 60 Seconds
How many calories should you eat? What about "macros?" What foods should you eat? Take our 60-second quiz to get science-based answers to these questions and more.Take the Quiz
Because the lunge is more dynamic than most exercises, many people wonder what muscles do lunges work.
The main muscles worked by the backward lunge are the . . .
Here’s how the main muscles worked by the dumbbell reverse lunge look on your body:
To master the dumbbell reverse lunge, split it into three parts: set up, lunge, and descend.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang at your sides. Stand up straight with your feet about hip-width apart and keep your chest up and shoulders back.
Step back about two-to-three feet with your left leg, placing most of your weight on your front foot. Lower your body by bending both knees until your left knee touches the floor.
Keep your chest up and your arms at your sides as you descend.
Reverse the movement and return to the starting position.
Once your legs are straight, repeat the pattern with your other foot (to complete one full rep). Continue to alternate legs until you’ve completed the desired number of reps with each.
Here’s how the dumbbell reverse lunge should look when you put it all together:
Placing your feet almost in line with each other as you step backward can make balancing more difficult. To avoid this, ensure your feet are about hip-width apart throughout the exercise.
Descending too quickly can cause you to bounce your knee off the floor.
While it might make the exercise feel easier, it can increase injury risk and prevent your legs from working as hard, robbing you of muscle and strength gain.
To prevent this, control the descent of every rep.
Taking an overly long stride backward can make the backward lunge uncomfortable and balancing more challenging.
Avoid this by stepping 2-to-3 feet backward on each rep.
. . . and it's yours for free. Take our 60-second quiz and learn exactly how many calories you should eat, what your "macros" should be, what foods are best for you, and more.
Some Nutritionists Charge Hundreds of Dollars for This Diet "Hack" . . .
. . . and it's yours for free. Take our 60-second quiz and learn exactly how many calories you should eat, what your "macros" should be, what foods are best for you, and more.Take the Quiz
You aren’t limited by grip strength in the barbell reverse lunge, so it allows you to lift more weight than the dumbbell variation, which aids muscle and strength gain. However, if you lose balance, you can’t drop the weight as easily in the bar reverse lunge, making it unsuitable for some beginners.
+ Scientific References
- Park, Sanghoon, et al. “Comparative Analysis of Lunge Techniques: Forward, Reverse, Walking Lunge.” ISBS - Conference Proceedings Archive, 6 Nov. 2016, ojs.ub.uni-konstanz.de/cpa/article/view/6941. Accessed 7 Jan. 2022.
- Park, Samho , et al. Comparative Study of the Biomechanical Factors in Range of Motion, Muscle Activity, and Vertical Ground Reaction Force between a Forward Lunge and Backward Lunge. June 2021, p. Physical therapy rehabilitation science 10(2):98-105, https://doi.org/10.14474/ptrs.2021.10.2.98.
- Jakobi, Jennifer M., and Philip D. Chilibeck. “Bilateral and Unilateral Contractions: Possible Differences in Maximal Voluntary Force.” Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 26, no. 1, Feb. 2001, pp. 12–33, https://doi.org/10.1139/h01-002.
- Janzen, Cora L., et al. “The Effect of Unilateral and Bilateral Strength Training on the Bilateral Deficit and Lean Tissue Mass in Post-Menopausal Women.” European Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 97, no. 3, 28 Mar. 2006, pp. 253–260, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-006-0165-1.
- Liao, Kai-Fang , et al. Effects of Unilateral vs. Bilateral Resistance Training Interventions on Measures of Strength, Jump, Linear and Change of Direction Speed: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Mar. 2022, p. Biol Sport. 2022;39(3):485–497, https://doi.org/10.5114/biolsport.2022.107024.
- Boyd, Joni, and Katy Milton. FEATURE ARTICLE 44 PTQ 4.4 | NSCA.COM the UNDERVALUED LUNGE.
- Goulette, Danielle, et al. “Patellofemoral Joint Loading during the Forward and Backward Lunge.” Physical Therapy in Sport, Dec. 2020, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ptsp.2020.12.001.
- Song, Jae-Keun, and Won-Gyu Yoo. “Effect of Backward versus Forward Lunge Exercises on Trunk Muscle Activities in Healthy Participants.” Physical Therapy Korea, vol. 28, no. 4, 20 Nov. 2021, pp. 273–279, https://doi.org/10.12674/ptk.2021.28.4.273. Accessed 25 Nov. 2021.
- Oranchuk, Dustin J., et al. “Isometric Training and Long-Term Adaptations: Effects of Muscle Length, Intensity, and Intent: A Systematic Review.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, vol. 29, no. 4, 13 Jan. 2019, pp. 484–503, https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.13375.
- Schoenfeld, Brad J, and Jozo Grgic. “Effects of Range of Motion on Muscle Development during Resistance Training Interventions: A Systematic Review.” SAGE Open Medicine, vol. 8, no. 8, Jan. 2020, p. 205031212090155, https://doi.org/10.1177/2050312120901559.