Lunges make an appearance in countless workouts, whether you’re focusing on strength, power, or functional movements—and for good reason. The exercise strengthens the lower body while requiring balance and core stability. Lunges simply make you steadier on your feet and ease the effort of everyday movements such as walking.
Some trainers include forward lunges in a routine, whereas others focus on the reverse variation. The question is: What’s the difference? To help you determine which lunge exercise will help you reach your fitness goals, we turned to Aaptiv Trainer Kenta Seki. Read on to learn the difference in mechanics and muscles worked, as well as what to keep in mind when you perform each type of lunge.
How it works: “Front lunges use momentum to push your center of gravity forward, which causes you to catch and control your weight as you land into the lunge,” Seki explains. To get back up, you have to press your weight backward.
Targeted muscles: quads and core
How it works: “Reverse lunges use stability in the front leg to step your rear leg back into a lunge and then power in the front leg to step that rear leg back forward,” Seki says. You power this movement with your front leg, driving into your heel as you step back up to stand. You shouldn’t have much weight in that back leg.
Targeted muscles: glutes and hamstrings
What the Two Lunges Have in Common
In terms of form, you should keep a few things in mind for both variations, including a 90-degree bend in each knee. This requires a wide-enough step to achieve the right angle, Seki says. That means your back knee should be slightly behind you rather than right beneath you. Make sure you ground down into the heel of your front foot. Press into it to take on most of the weight. Don’t let that front heel lift off the ground. You also want to avoid moving your knee too far forward beyond your toes.
Should you do forward or reverse lunges?
“Because front lunges propel your bodyweight forward, they have more potential to cause knee injury or strain if done incorrectly,” Seki explains. “For this reason, I recommend beginners start with rear lunges first to perfect their form and control before progressing to a front lunge.”
If you’re a more experienced exerciser, Seki suggests incorporating both into your workouts—just make sure to maintain good form. One last tip: If you’re doing lunges for the first time, don’t use added weight or resistance. When you feel confident and strong, then go ahead and pick up some dumbbells.