Barbell Reverse Lunges: The Most Underrated Lift of All-Time?

Is the greatest leg building exercise of all-time even in your workout routine? Learn how, why, & when to add barbell reverse lunges to your workouts.

When it comes to lower body exercises, which one is the GOAT?

Is it the squat? Barbell squats have been used by lifters for generations to build legs that look like tree trunks and perform like a high-performance machine.

Is it the deadlift? Conventional deadlifts are not a pure lower body exercise, but variations of the deadlift such as the Romanian deadlift have built impressive posterior chains for decades.

For most lifters and trainees in the iron game, the answer would be one of the above and you would have a formidable argument for both.

But today I want to present you with a move that is severely underrated in the iron game: The barbell reverse lunge.

Lunges? Really?

Lunges are a supremely effective and versatile way to build bigger and stronger legs. This is the exact reason lunges should be considered among the greatest lower body movements of all time if not the greatest.

With that being said, barbell reverse lunges do not jump to the top of anyone’s list as a popular exercise.

Related: Training Talk - Deadlift on Leg Day or Back Day?

You will see squat and deadlift videos all day on social media, but seeing barbell reverse lunge videos with proper execution is like seeing snow in the summer.

The only tough barbell lunge videos that typically come to a lifter’s mind are Ronnie Coleman pumping out parking lot lunges in the heat of the Texas summer. You may have seen this lunges of death workout featuring your favorite coach but outside of that, there is not a lot going on when it comes to barbell lunges.

The reason you do not see lunges has zero to do with how powerful they are for lower body development. There are a few other reasons as to why lunges are typically avoided like a skunk at a perfume convention.

One of the reasons is fear. Barbell reverse lunges are much harder to execute than squats or deadlifts because you are not set in one place for the duration of the exercise. There is movement during the execution of the move and you have to be locked in to prevent injury.

There is also a major conditioning component to barbell reverse lunges. The move is very taxing, and trust and believe you would rather do a hard set of squats than a hard set of barbell reverse lunges.

Another reason why barbell reverse lunges are avoided is that many trainees just do not know how to properly execute the movement. I have seen this move performed a few times during my career in the iron game and 99 percent of the time the form is ghastly.

Bad form is far too common and we have to do better as a culture. We won’t ever build great physiques using atrocious form. There are 3 cues that you can use to execute your barbell reverse lunges properly:

1. Create Tension in Your Upper Body

Trying to perform barbell reverse lunges without locking in your upper body is a terrible mistake.

If you try to step back into a lunge and your body is loose, you will fold at your hips. When you try to rise up from the floor with any appreciable weight with your body folded over, your chances of blowing out your lower back rise exponentially.

After you unrack the bar, you will create the tension in your upper body by doing the following:

  • Place your eyes forward
  • Keep your chest up and shoulders back
  • Draw your elbows towards your lats
  • Keep your abdominals tight

Now when you step back into the lunge, you will not fold like a nervous NBA player in crunch time. You will be able to step back into the lunge with the confidence you have after getting a fresh cut from the barbershop.

2. Your Back Knee Must Contact The Floor

Oh me, oh my.

The half-rep plague that runs rampant through commercial gyms (and even some hardcore ones) affects lunges too.

Half-reppers either have too much ego or they do not want to work hard. Since lunges are not an ego movement, most trainees are trying to run from the pain of honest work when they cut the range short.

When you are performing barbell reverse lunges and only coming a quarter or halfway down you are leaving a ridiculous amount of meat on the bone when it comes to leg development.

To properly execute the barbell reverse lunge, your back knee will kiss the floor as you step back into the movement. This will ensure that your legs will work through a full range of motion.

Success requires struggle.

3. Apply Force Through Your Heel & Mid-Foot

How you rise up on a barbell reverse lunge will determine where the stress of the movement will go.

When it is time to stand up in the lunge, the mistake that many lifters make is that they push through the balls of their feet. Their heels also come off the ground.

If you are putting all that force into the balls of your feet with lunges, you are going to add unnecessary strain to your knees. To avoid stressing your knees, you push through your heels and mid-foot.

Applying the force through your heel and mid-foot allows your muscles to do the work instead of your joints. The goal of lifting weights is not to put your joints and tendons in compromising positions.

The goal is to get stronger and more muscular. You have to have great form to achieve those goals. Check out how to perform barbell reverse lunges below.

How To Add Barbell Reverse Lunges To Your Leg Days Using RP-21

Squats and deadlifts are phenomenal lifts but adding in barbell reverse lunges will take your lower body gains to the next level.

While barbell reverse lunges can be performed at any point during the workout, my preference for using barbell reverse lunges is to use them as the secondary movement after the main lower body movement of that day.

Related: RP-21 Glute Building Workout Program

I have found that performing 1-2 movements before lunges allows your knees to get properly warmed up and able to have better performances during the lunges. If you are opening up with the barbell reverse lunges add an extra warm-up set or two before you start.

Note: Read my article to learn about how to perform RP-21.

Sample Mesocycle:

  • Sunday: OFF
  • Monday: Lower Body
  • Tuesday: OFF
  • Wednesday: Upper Body
  • Thursday: OFF
  • Friday: Lower Body
  • Saturday: Upper Body

Notes:

  1. For the RP-21 Supersets on Day 2, 3, and 4, you will rest 45-60 seconds between the 7×3 supersets and 30-90 seconds between the 6×5 supersets
  2. You can deload either at the end of the first 3 weeks before starting the second 3 weeks or at the end of the 6 weeks
Day 1: Lower Body
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift 7 3
Barbell Reverse Lunge 6 5 Each
45 Degree Hip Extension 6 5
Seated Calf Raise 6 10

Note: After you get comfortable with the barbell reverse lunges, increase the intensity of the workout by supersetting them with the 45 degree barbell hip extensions. Check out the videos below to learn about how to perform the 45 degree hip extensions.

Day 2: Upper Body
Exercise Sets Reps
A1. Chin Ups 7 3
A2. Dips 7 3
B1. Chin Ups 6 5
B2. Dips 6 5
C1. One Arm Dumbbell Row 1 12-15
C2. Weighted Push Ups 1 12-15
  • On the final set of rows/push-ups you should not be able to get more than 15 reps. If so, the weight is too light.
  • You can add pauses at the top of the row and the bottom of the push-up to increase the intensity.
Day 3: Lower Body
Exercise Sets Reps
A1. Pause Squat 7 3
A2. GHR 7 3
B1. Hip Thrust 4 8
B2. Romanian Deadlift 4 8
Seated Calf Raise 4 12
  • Pause 1 full second at the bottom (your maximum range) of the squat.
  • Focus on getting to the bucket and don’t cut your squat reps short.
  • Rest 15-60 seconds between supersets.
  • Rest 90-120 seconds between sets.
Day 4: Upper Body
Exercise Sets Reps
A1. Pull Ups 7 3
A2. Incline Bench Press 7 3
B1. Dumbbell Rows 4 8
B2. Dumbbell Bench Press 4 8
C1. Decline Dumbbell Tight Press 2 10
C2. EZ Bar Curl 2 10
D1. Seated Lateral Raise 1 15
D2. Bent Over Rear Delt Raise 1 15
  • Rest 15-60 seconds between supersets.
  • Rest 90-120 seconds between sets.

Note: It’s always a good idea to add 1-2 days of conditioning to your lifting each week. Sprinting (not on the treadmill), bodyweight conditioning, or pushing the Prowler all work.

There are many ways to add barbell reverse lunges to a training program but you have to walk before you can run. We will start with performing barbell reverse lunges once per week to get you adapted to the movement.

With barbell reverse lunges now a part of your program you will be on your way to unleashing your inner greatness and maximizing your lower body growth.

It may not be popular in the iron game to do barbell reverse lunges, but you cannot attain greatness by just following the masses into iron game oblivion.

Bonus: Glute Superset
Exercise Sets Reps
A1. Barbell Reverse Lunge 5 10 Each
A2. Hip Thrust 5 10
  • Rest 45-60 seconds between the lunges and the hip thrusts
  • Rest 90-180 seconds between each set
  • Rest 30-45 seconds between the sets of the calf raises
  • You can add bands below your knees to increase the tension on your glutes during the hip thrust.

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