How To: Reverse Barbell Lunge
Today, we are going to talk about to perform a Reverse Barbell Lunge to train your hamstrings,
quads and glutes! Now, I recently released a video called “Leg Day Scare”, where I REALLY
injured my hamstring in my right leg while lunging and I thought what better time to show you
what you should avoid and what you should pay extra attention to when performing this
Now, I don’t want to scare you. The Reverse Barbell Lunge is not a dangerous exercise and my
injury was kind of a freak thing that only happened because I had an old injury from my late
teens that never quite healed correctly. It caused a lot of instability in my right knee when I
would do any single-leg movement, but because I’m stubborn I was always able to always power
through any workout so I never even realized I had an issue to begin with! But as long as you
follow these 3 GOLDEN RULES, you will be able to train injury-free and keep making GAINS! I
also have a bonus tip to help with your overall hamstring activation at the end of the article so
make sure you keep reading!
Golden Rule #1 – Mind Your Step!
The most common injury with the Reverse Barbell Lunge occurs when people step too far
backward or not far enough! So let’s quickly go over both.
1. If you step too far backward, it’s definitely not good because your joints will not be in
alignment. Watch what happens when I do it. My back knee is definitely not underneath
my pelvis and my front knee is definitely not above my ankle! Now is this BAD enough
to cause an injury? Well, it’s not terrible if you do it with bodyweight in your everyday
life but when you start to add weight on your shoulders, then it becomes a problem. This
is because your muscles are not in a mechanically sound position to move the weight,
therefore the possibility of a strain or pull is increased drastically! When you have
weight on your shoulders you want to feel compact and tight on every rep. Stepping
too far back will feel very extremely unstable.
2. Now, what if your back step is too short? Well, again, your joints will not be in alignment
and you’re shifting the focus of the exercise from hams and glutes to QUADS by a lot
and not in a good way because a lot of the tension will be in your knee. And speaking of
the knees, look at the angle. They are bending way more than 90 degrees which heavily
recruits the quads but also my front knee is tracking really far over toes. Your knee
tracking past your toes isn’t always really bad, for example when squatting, but in this
situation, it’s not good because as I just said, we are placing a lot of the stress from the
weight directly on the knee.
So, what’s the solution? Before you start barbell reverse lunging, perform some reps with
bodyweight first until you figure out what’s the optimal step distance for you. For the most part,
you want 90 degree bends in both knees and above all else, you want to feel STABLE while
performing your repetitions.
Golden Rule #2 – Keep Everything In Line
Now, this may same identical to the previous rule but bare with me for a second. In the previous
rule, we talked about absolute knee angles and how far you should step back. Now, I want to
talk about relative joint positioning in regards to the entire body.
This exercise starts to get problematic when you step back at an angle. This slight step-back to
the side creates a lot of torque on the knee and hip joint, especially when you add resistance to
the exercise. So, what I want you guys to focus on is this; keep your ankles, knees, and hips all in
a straight line. Your front ankle and knee should be directly in front of your hips. And similarly,
your back ankle and knee should be directly behind your hips.
Also, your hips should stay square as you perform the movement. But if your hips sink to one
side or the other, it means that one of your hips is tight and it might be a good time to adopt a
bit more foam rolling and stretching. Especially if you sit a lot throughout the day.
Golden Rule #3 – Stay Upright At All Times
It should almost feel like you are leaning back slightly when performing any type of lunge. This
is the best way to ensure you are keeping your torso upright and your hips directly underneath
your spine. However, there is a variation of this exercise that will allow you to target a bit more
glutes and that is by slightly leaning forward when you reverse lunge.
But the key difference here is that even as you slightly lean forward, you are still keeping your
chest up. Too many people fall directly into spinal flexion because they just flop over as they
perform the movement. This places extreme pressure on the spine and should be avoided.
Also, you only need a SLIGHT lean forward to activate your glutes more. It doesn’t need to be so
exaggerated. Just bend at the hip a bit more and keep your spine straight.
Bonus Tip – Mind Your Knee Stability
This is a tip coming from personal experience and it will probably apply for many of you so I
want to share it with you. I may have injured myself just recently but that doesn’t mean there
weren’t warning signs for months and years now. The truth is my front knee would always
wobble whenever I’d do a SINGLE-LEGGED movement, like a lunge or a Bulgarian squat.
I didn’t feel pain or any real tightness in my hamstring so I just assumed that my balance wasn’t
as good on my right side.
So if you have that kind of instability in one of your knees when you’re lunging, then you need to
address it BEFORE you start increasing the weight. So here is a quick activation drill to ensure
your hamstrings are activating properly. What you are going to do is get into the bottom
position of a bodyweight lunge. Once in place, you are going to simultaneously push your heel
into the ground while flexing your hamstring and glutes. Once flexed, begin to return back to
the starting position and repeat 3 – 5 times and make sure you do this on both sides. This
should help reduce some of your instability and make the reps more effective at targeting your
hamstrings. But if you feel tightness or pain, then maybe it’s time to see a Sports Massage
therapist to have a look at your hamstrings.
Adding The Reverse Lunge To Your Training Regimen
Be sure to add the Reverse Barbell Lunge to your next leg day and if you are wondering when is
the best time to utilize this exercise, it makes the most sense to do it AFTER one of your bigger
lifts like Squatting or the Leg Press. However, if your hamstrings are a lagging exercise, it
wouldn’t be a bad idea to start your leg day with this exercise first. Just make sure you expect
to not be able to lift as much on your squat as this will fatigue your legs.
For reps and sets, a good place to start is (3 – 4 sets of 8 – 10) reps and then as you get stronger
and more comfortable with the movement, you can start increasing the weight and hit more of the 6 – 8 rep range.