Gentle on knees… intense on muscular development, deficit reverse lunges are a fantastic exercise for so many reasons.
The movement may not be the first exercise you think about for training your legs… but the outcome of using it in your workout routine can be substantial.
The deficit is created by lunging backwards from a raised platform. This makes it easier on knees. The movement is also unilateral, meaning it helps combat muscular imbalance and improving total body stability.
Ultimately though, this is a movement that can enhance any glute/leg workout due to the fact it engages the lower glutes very effectively. Whether this is for aesthetic reasons or athletic performance, being able to activate the glutes from this lower angle is worth taking note of.
In this guide, we outline everything you need to know about deficit reverse lunges, including how to perform them properly, muscles worked, benefits and tips for selecting weights.
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If you’ve never done any sort of reverse lunge before, we’d recommend getting comfortable with a standard reverse lunge first, before adding a deficit.
How to do a Deficit Reverse Lunge
To do deficit reverse lunges:
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart on a raised platform. To make the movement more challenging, you can add resistance, such as holding a pair of dumbbells/kettlebells or even holding a weighted barbell on your upper back.
- Shift your weight onto your left leg and lift your right foot off the platform and place it behind you and lunge down. Keep your left foot flat on the raised platform for the whole movement. Lean forward slightly as you place your right foot behind you to maintain balance.
- Drive through your left leg to create the power to return your right foot to the platform.
- Repeat this on the other side.
Coach’s Tip – Don’t get distracted by the trailing leg… it’s the front leg that should be generating the power for the movement. To help ensure you’re focusing on the front leg, we’d recommend only placing your toes on the ground with your back leg, to remind you it is just there for stability.
Creating a Deficit
By deficit, we mean, the movement goes beyond just doing it on a flat surface, i.e., your knee goes lower than the lowest point of the raised platform (which would be the floor if you did it on a flat surface). One or two barbell plates is often a popular choice, or a step bench.
Deficit Reverse Lunge Muscles Worked
The deficit reverse lunge primarily works the glutes and hamstrings. It will also work the quads and calves too. The deficit means there is greater hip flexion, which means the there is greater range of motion for the glutes and hamstrings, and this keeps them under tension for longer.
Forward Vs Reverse Lunges
As a general training principle, lunges work the lower body, but forward lunges put more emphasis on the quads, whilst reverse lunges put more emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings. A deficit lunge will simply increase this focus, depending on whether you go forwards or backwards.
Deficit Reverse Lunge Benefits
Increase Range of Motion at the Hips
By using a deficit, you are lunging deeper than you would just on a flat surface, which increases the range of motion at the hips.
This stretching of the hips helps to improve hip mobility and flexibility… which supports better lower body movements. Tight hips are not only a limiting factor for athletes, but they can also be a root cause for back pain too.
Target Lower Glutes
Although lunging forward and lunging backwards may seem like “basically” the same movement… the biomechanics are very different.
For a reverse lunge, the glutes and hamstrings are getting engaged first, and they lead the movement (as opposed to the quads for a forward lunge). If you want to focus on your glutes and hamstrings, this difference in the direct you’re lunging is definitely worth considering.
The deficit also means the range of motion at the hips is greater… which firstly, means your glutes have to work harder, but it also changes the angle at which your glutes are contracting, engaging more muscle fibres at the bottom of the gluteus maximus. In other words, it’s a very effective way at developing your lower glutes.
Remember to lean your torso forward slightly too… as this helps put more emphasis on your glutes during the movement.
Including some form of unilateral training into your workouts is definitely worthwhile. It helps to identify any potential weaknesses or muscular imbalances.
Unilateral training also requires better balance and stability… which holds very practical benefits for everyday life.
It also means there’s less spinal load, which is better for those with back pain. This is why unilateral exercises are often very effective for any sort of over 50’s strength training program.
(If you’re struggling with balance, using suspension trainers to provide extra stability, could be worth using too).
Easy to Increase Load
The deficit reverse lunge makes it easy to progressively overload the muscles. If you have access to a wide range of dumbbells, like in a gym, you can simply grab heavier dumbbells between each set to keep the muscles working harder.
You can also add weight in so many ways… whether you prefer a barbell, kettlebells, dumbbells, or bands… it can fit around whatever equipment you have available.
Add Variety to a Glute Workout
Most glute exercises involve hinging at the hips, and you may find after a few months, you’re losing a bit of motivation to do the same glute exercises week in, week out. If so, adding in a new movement like the deficit reverse lunge can be a welcome addition… and help engage the glutes in a different way.
Selecting Your Weights and Deciding Sets
If the aim of the game is to strength and build muscle in the glutes, we’d recommend holding dumbbells. This will likely be the best way to add resistance so your legs take the weight.
If you’re using deficit reverse lunges for a more general workout, then you may want to consider holding a light barbell overhead to engage the core and shoulders during the movement too. This approach might mean that it’s your core or shoulders that weaken first though, so like we mentioned, if the focus is on glutes, then holding dumbbells in each hand is probably your best bet.
Your overall goals may also influence if you want to do alternating legs or a set of each leg separately. Although both are completely fine, they are suited to different goals. Alternating legs is better for testing your balance and stability, but you’ll lose tension as you swap sides. Doing each leg separately is better for muscle development as you can keep the same leg under tension for the whole set.
When Should You Do Deficit Reverse Lunges?
This really depends on your existing workout plan, but we’d do them after any big lifts, such as weighted squats, so you don’t tire your muscles before these compound movements. Or you could use them as a warm-up by not using any weight and just activating the glutes. Equally, they can work well in a HIIT style workout too.
Deficit Reverse Lunge Vs Reverse Lunge
A deficit reverse lunge is the progression from the reverse lunge. Both exercises share the same biomechanics and movement pattern, but the deficit reverse lunge requires greater range of motion at the hips which makes it more difficult.
The deficit reverse lunge is a great exercise at activating the glutes and building unilateral lower body strength.
By increasing the load, it can be used in all sorts of strength training programs, or by doing the bodyweight version, it can be used in HIIT circuit workouts or warm-ups.
Remember to focus on your form and really squeeze your glutes during the exercise to maximize your efforts.