Deficit Reverse Lunge Explained: Your Beginners Guide To This Effective Yet Underutilised Exercise

When it comes to incorporating a new exercise into your workout routine people will often have a lot of reservations. They will understandably have questions like does it actually work, is it safe, how do I do it correctly, what equipment do I need, or why is it better than the exercises I am already doing?

This is especially true of exercises that have begun to be popularised on social media, as savvier gym users will have figured out that “influencers” often simply promote what they are paid to, rather than what actually works. However, the deficit reverse lunge is an exercise you should definitely give a try.

While it is an exercise getting that influencer hype, it is actually one that has merit to its promotion. From the benefits it can offer to both your training and overall health, to its ability to help people with injuries work around their issues, there are a great range of reasons for people to give it a go.

That is why, in the following beginners guide to performing the deficit reverse lunge, we will answer all of the questions we mentioned above. That way, everyone will be able to embrace this effective yet highly underutilised workout and make the most of all the benefits it has to offer for themselves.

What Is A Deficit Reverse Lunge?

A deficit reverse lunge is an exercise very similar in nature to a traditional lunge and can offer most of the same benefits. However, while being almost as effective for muscular development, they also offer a range of benefits of their own, while being far gentler on the knees.

The exercise is essentially a reverse lunge that is performed from a raised platform. This creates a deficit and allows for a greater range of motion, while significantly engaging the lower glutes, which makes it beneficial for aesthetic, athletic, and mobility purposes.

Beyond the benefits of a traditional lunge or reverse lunge, a deficit reverse lunge can help to combat muscular imbalances and improve your total body stability. They can also be done with bodyweight, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, or smith machines, giving you plenty of freedom.

What Are The Benefits Of This Deficit Reverse Lunge?

While we touched on the benefits of a deficit reverse lunge above, that was only really scratching the surface of what this exercise can offer. We will now take a slightly closer look at all of its selling points to help you see exactly why it is becoming so popular and convince you to give it a try for yourself.

Increases Glute Size And Muscle Growth

Deficit reverse lunges allow you to train your glutes through a far larger range of motion and achieve a much deeper stretch in the muscle. This ensures that the fibers throughout every single part of the muscle are being trained and developed, leading to significantly enhanced glute size and strength.

Easy On The Knees

One of the big issues with regular lunges is that they are very hard on the knees. This variation of the exercise eliminates the shearing force and stress that the traditional version places on the joints and makes it a far safer and more effective exercise for most, but especially for people with knee issues.

Requires Limited Equipment

While a deficit reverse lunge can be done with a range of different equipment to achieve different outcomes, the basic exercise can be done with just a platform and the weight of your own body. This makes it extremely flexible, as it can be performed at home, in a gym, or pretty much anywhere else.

Helps To Identify And Fix Muscle Imbalances And Weaknesses

As the deficit reverse lunge is a unilateral exercise, it can be used to help you identify any imbalances and weaknesses in a muscle by allowing you to focus on each leg individually. You can then easily see the differences and use the exercise to fix the issue by training the weaker side until it has caught up.

Easy To Scale And Implement Progressive Overload

Like most free weight exercises, it is easy to increase resistance over time on deficit reverse lunges to make them more challenging and effective. However, the fact that there are so many different bits of kit you can do them with means the range of progression paths and options becomes even greater.

Increases Range Of Motion At The Hips

We mentioned that deficit reverse lunges improve your range of motion while training the glutes, but they also offer this same benefit for the entire hip girdle as well. This means the exercise can be used to improve hip mobility and flexibility and prevent injuries by increasing range of motion at the hips.

Improves Balance And Stability With Less Spinal Load

Unilateral training with compound exercises like a deficit reverse lunge can be used to improve your balance and stability while using less spinal load. This makes it a very effective choice for those with balance issues or for those over 50’s who want a strength training program with as little risk as possible.

Muscles Worked 

While deficit reverse lunges are best known for heavily targeting the glutes, specifically the gluteus maximus, they can also be used to target multiple other muscles throughout the lower body.

The hamstrings are the most worked muscle after the glutes during the exercise as they are used to control the body during the exercise. The quads are also heavily used, as they are in control of knee extensions during the exercise, although the tension can be shifted to the glutes if you choose to.

The abductors and adductors are both then activated to stabilize the hips and knees during all stages of the movement. You then have the calf muscles supporting your lower legs, controlling your feet, and taking the weight, particularly in the parts of the movement when you are close to the ground.

In fact, even some parts of the upper body will be worked during the exercise too. Your core muscles will be used to keep you upright, stable, and balanced throughout the movement, while people who do differently weighted versions will also engage the biceps, triceps, forearms, and shoulders as well.

How To Do A Deficit Reverse Lunge

To perform a deficit reverse lunge, you need to begin by setting up a platform that is between 2 and 8 inches high. Get your chosen method of adding resistance (unless you are training with your own body weight) and position it so that it is totally stable and supported throughout the movement.

Stand on the platform with your feet a hip-width apart and then step back with one foot. Once your rear leg touches the floor, bend and lower your trailing knee until it almost touches the floor as well.

Pause here for a second to ensure that you get a deep stretch through your glutes, and then push through the leading heel to return to the starting position, keeping your front foot flat and planted at all times to ensure maximum stability throughout each rep of the exercise.

You can now either choose to complete your target number of this leg before switching to the other or alternate legs after each reps. Whichever option you choose, it is a good idea to start a set on your weak leg, go to failure, and then match it with the strong, as this will help to remove any imbalances.

Deficit Reverse Lunge Variations

Now that you know how to perform the deficit reverse lunge, it is time to show you some variations of the exercise. This will give you additional options to enhance your muscular development, while also adding extra progressions and ways to keep improving.

Dumbbells Or Kettlebells

To do a deficit reverse lunge with either dumbbells or kettlebells, start with both of your feet on a step platform, about hip distance apart, and your chosen weights in either hand by your sides. If you only have one dumbbell or kettlebell, or even a medicine ball, hold it with both arms at chest level.

Step back with your stronger leg and lower yourself down until your foot touches the floor, then bend your knee until it almost touches the ground as well. Pause for a second and then come up out of the lunge and return to the start position, with both feet flat on the platform, and begin the next rep.

Barbell

To perform deficit reverse lunges with a barbell, approach the squat rack and set it high enough that you can just get under the bar while on your raised platform. If a squat rack is not available, you can clean the bar onto your shoulders, although this will obviously mean that you can use less weight.

While you are on top of the step platform with the bar on your shoulders, take a step back with your strong leg and do a reverse lunge like you normally would. Go down until your back knee touches the ground and your front knee is at a 90-degree angle, then pause here for a few seconds.

With your front foot firmly planted, drive upwards and stand back up, bringing your back leg back up to its starting position. Repeat these steps until you have completed your set and then do the same again with the other leg until you have matched the number of reps that you did with the first.

Smith Machine

The principle of performing deficit reverse lunges on a smith machine is very similar to doing them with a barbell but with a couple of differences. Firstly, you want to place your step just slightly in front of the bar, which should still be set to the same height as with the squat rack.

When you perform the motion now, you will be going up and down in a straight line. While this may feel unnatural at first, the security of the smith machine can allow you to focus solely on the weight, rather than worrying about stability, making it a great way to push heavier weights and progress.

Resistance Bands

To perform deficit reverse lunges with a resistance band, wrap one end of a looped resistance band around your weaker leg just below the knee, and the other end around a stable object, such as a squat rack, weight rack, or heavy-weight bench.

Hold a light to medium weight into your torso at chest height with both hands. Step back to create the tension in the band and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step back with your strong leg while keeping tension in the band and bend both of your knees to create two 90-degree angles.

Keep your shoulders above your hips, back, and chest upright, weight steady, and then engage your butt and core. Push through the heel of the foot on your weaker leg to stand back up, maintaining tension in the band at all times. Once you have done 10 reps, switch legs, and do another 10 reps.

Deficit Reverse Lunge FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Before we conclude our beginner’s guide to deficit reverse lunges, I quickly want to answer a few of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) that people have about them. This should ensure that everyone knows all that they need to before they try to incorporate them into their own workout.

How Many Sets And Reps Should I Do For Deficit Reverse Lunges?

When you first start doing deficit reverse lunges, begin with 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps on each side. This should provide a sufficient workout while giving you the chance to learn the movement.

From there, choose your sets and reps based on your ability and goals, making sure that you are able to maintain good technique throughout all stages of the exercise. 

Are Deficit Reverse Lunges Good For Beginners?

Beginners will likely see far greater benefits and growth early on in their training if they stick to the traditional reverse lunge. This is because the exercise is slightly more straightforward and will provide a friendlier knee angle to work with, which will allow you to focus on your form and build a base. 

As always, it is better for you to master the basics of an exercise, before you add a new twist or mod. The fact that you are doing a deeper stretch in this instance will also increase your risk of injury early on and will likely lead to you experiencing far worse DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).

What Is The Difference Between A Deficit Reverse Lunge & A Split Squat?

Both the deficit reverse lunge and the split squat are unilateral exercises that can be used to develop the lower body. However, while deficit reverse lunges are better for improving your balance, mobility, flexibility, and stability, split squats are a greater option to build size, strength, and power in the legs.

Performing a split squat requires you to stand with both feet together and with your shoulder blades back. Bring your stronger leg back and rest the top of your foot on a flat bench. Lunge forward with the other leg and go down until your front leg creates a 90-degree angle in the knee and pause. 

Stand back up in a controlled manner and repeat the process until you have completed the desired number of repetitions, then match the number on the other leg. You can use the same progressions you did with deficit reverse lunges and can even work both exercises into the same workout routine.

Are Deficit Reverse Lunges Good For Glutes?

Deficit reverse lunges are one of the very best exercises for the glutes that you will find. Not only are the glutes the primary muscle that they target, but the deep stretch that they include ensures that each and every fiber of the muscle is worked, for the fullest development possible.

This makes the deficit reverse lunge an exercise that simply has to be included in the workout routine of anyone who is particularly focused on improving the size, strength, or mobility of their glutes.

Final Thoughts On Deficit Reverse Lunges

Deficit reverse lunges are a great exercise to include in a leg workout for a huge range of people. If you are looking to achieve a far greater range of motion in your hips, get a more well-rounded development of your glutes, or work around a knee or hip injury, they are a great choice for you.

While they may not be the ideal exercise for people just getting into working out, most other people will find them an incredibly beneficial addition to your routine. With that in mind, there really is no reason not to put them in your own workout and see the amazing benefits they offer for yourself.

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Steve is a retired professional wrestler with over 10 years of experience in the personal fitness industry. He is a certified personal trainer working with a wide variety of athletes as well as a fitness writer.

Robert James
Researcher and Fact Checker at The Fitness Tribe | + posts

Robert is a senior researcher and fact-checker at The Fitness Tribe. He holds a Bachelor of Science (BS), Food Science and Technology from the university of Santo Tomas. He's our expert in all things nutrition and fitness.

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