Legs

Deficit Reverse Lunges : 5 Exercise Form Worst Mistakes

deficit reverse lunges

Unilateral exercises, like the traditional lunge, are a great way of working both sides of your body equally.

When done regularly they can help to offset any negative adaptations to strength or muscle size that have developed through bilateral exercises and overtraining.  


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And, whether you love them or hate them, any lunge variation is worth incorporating into workout routine to prevent muscle and strength imbalances from occurring.  

In this article, we’re going to be looking at deficit reverse lunges and why they can play an important role in improving your balance, stability, and lower body strength.  

What Is A Deficit Reverse Lunge

A deficit reverse lunge is a variation of the standard reverse lunge that involves stepping backward from an elevated surface creating a deficit between your front and back foot when you’re in the lunge position. 

As you step back, the front leg undergoes knee flexion, so your body descends toward the ground, while the back leg extends behind you. You’ll then engage in hip extension to push your body back up to the starting position. 

Reverse-Lunge

The deficit aspect of the lunge increases the demand for spinal load, requiring the muscles of the core and lower back to engage for stability and to help you maintain proper posture throughout the movement. 

It’s a compound leg exercise, that’s initiated through hip flexion when you step back, which decreases the angle between your thigh and pelvis.

When it’s done with proper form, deficit lunges rank among the most effective exercises for targeting the glutes.

The main difference between a deficit reverse lunge and regular reverse lunges are the starting position.  

When you perform a reverse lunge from an elevated surface this allows for a greater range of motion so you can drop deeper into the bottom of the lunge.  

This larger range of motion increases muscle contraction but does make it slightly more difficult to perform.  

​How To Do A Deficit Reverse Lunge

Performing a deficit reverse lunge isn’t always easy.  

You need good hip mobility and core strength so you can maintain the correct position throughout the exercise.  

As the deficit lunge is more of a progression exercise, it’s a good idea to practice the traditional reverse lunge first.  

raised platform reverse lunge

When you do introduce a raised platform, start with something like a 25lb weight plate.  

This will give you a deficit of around 1 to 2 inches so you can get used to creating a greater range of motion.  

The more you elevate your front foot, the larger the deficit becomes which then increases the range of motion.  

Start with body weight as this allows you to concentrate on proper form and lessens the risk of injury.  

As you get stronger you can consider adding a pair of lightweight dumbbells to increase the resistance.  

When you’re ready, here’s how to do them:

  1. Stand with both feet on the raised surface and keep them together with your toes pointing forward.  
  2. Keep your chest upright with your core nice and tight.  
  3. Starting with your right leg, take a large step backward.
  4. Lower your body down until your back leg is hovering just above the floor. Be sure to control the descent.  
  5. Try and keep the shin of your left leg perpendicular to the ground to avoid stress on the knee joint.
  6. Ensure that your front knee is directly above your ankle, and your back knee is pointing toward the ground.
  7. Pause for a second then push through the heel of your front foot to return to the starting position.
  8. Repeat for reps and then switch sides.

Deficit Reverse Lunge Mistakes & How To Fix Them

The key to targeting the right muscle groups when doing a deficit reverse lunge lies in proper form.  

As we mentioned, it’s not the easiest of exercises and requires a good amount of balance and stability to be able to do it well.  

With that in mind, there are some common mistakes you’ll want to look out.  

reverse lunge with barbell

It can be common to see someone dropping only halfway down when performing a deficit reverse lunge, but doing this won’t stimulate your muscles well and negates the purpose of creating a deficit.  

Increased muscle mass is achieved by stretching the muscles through a full range of motion.  

So, if your main goal is glute gains, you’ll need to focus on depth and get the rear knee as close to the floor as you can to have a positive effect on muscle growth.  

No matter how many reps and sets of deficit reverse lunges you do, make sure each rep is pretty much identical going through the same range of motion every time.  

This will ensure you can track your maximum recoverable volume (MRV) which is important so you can optimize your training load for maximum muscle and strength gains.  

The best way to avoid this is to focus on each and every rep, not only will this help with remaining consistent it can also lead to a better mind-to-mind muscle connection.  

A common mistake when doing the deficit reverse lunge is taking too small a step back which could potentially increase shear forces on the knee joint, especially if it causes improper alignment or instability during the movement.  

If the front knee is pushed too far forward over the toes, it can increase shear forces on the knee joint, potentially leading to joint pain or injury.

When performing a reverse deficit lunge, it’s important to keep your upper body relatively upright as this ensures tension remains on the muscles being targeted.  

It’s common to see people push out of a lunge position by dropping their chest too far forward.  

This has the negative impact of taking tension away from the intended muscles and placing it on your posterior chain instead.  

Biomechanically we’re all different and this means that what works for some won’t necessarily work for others.  

While the deficit reverse lunge is a compound exercise for glute stimulus, if you’re only feeling it in your quads despite performing them at high volume you may need to make some adjustments.

Try the following to prevent your quads from doing most of the work:

  1. If you mainly perform reverse lunges with a light weight or just your body weight try increasing the load.  Conversely, if you’re already repping out heavy dumbbell deficit reverse lunges, then reduce the weight load.  In either case, this could be the change you need to fire up the glutes.  
  2. Try doing them in a different way.  If you typically perform them with small steps, have a go at taking a longer step.  
  3. You could even try taking your back leg out to the side a little as this could engage more of your gluteus medius.  

The important thing is to experiment and take note of how your muscles feel during and after your leg workouts.  

If you feel your glutes burning up, then you’re on the right track!

Why Are Reverse Deficit Lunges Hard To Do

Whether it’s regular lunges or reverse lunges, they can all be difficult to do due to the demand they place on balance and stability.  

This is because the front leg must support almost all of the weight load when in the lunge position.  

Unlike other lower body exercises, where the weight is distributed more evenly between both legs, reverse deficit lunges shift the majority of the load onto the front leg while the back leg performs the stepping motion and helps with stability.

This imbalance of weight distribution forces the muscles of your front leg to work harder to stabilize the body and control the movement throughout each rep.  

deficit reverse lunge on platform

Alternatives To The Deficit Reverse Lunge

If you’re looking for alternatives to the deficit reverse lunge that can target similar muscle groups, here are several exercises to consider:

Using a weight bench or similar, step-ups are a single-leg exercise that will target your quads, glutes, and hamstrings while also challenging your balance and stability.

They’re an excellent alternative to the deficit reverse lunge as they focus on improving unilateral (one-sided) strength and can be easily progressed by changing the height of the step or adding weights.

This excellent exercise increases the challenge to your balance and targets the muscles in a similar way to deficit reverse lunges.

By placing your back foot on an elevated surface like a bench or step-up box, you can deepen the stretch and stimulus of the glutes and hamstrings of the front leg, similarly to how deficit lunges increase the range of motion.

Focusing on a hip hinge movement, the single leg RDL is a fantastic exercise for targeting the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, while also engaging your core for balance.

It doesn’t require the use of a step but still emphasizes control and stability in the same way as deficit reverse lunges.

These allow for continuous movement and can be performed with or without weights.

Walking lunges will target the same major muscle groups as reverse lunges but with an added dynamic element that can help improve balance and coordination by walking over a distance.  

What Muscles Do Deficit Reverse Lunges Work

There are many different ways of performing lunges and depending on how you do them will determine how much stimulus is placed on certain muscle groups.  

Essentially, any lunge exercise, whether it’s the traditional forward lunge or the deficit reverse lunge will prioritize your glutes, adductors, and quads.  

If you take a smaller step back when performing a deficit reverse lunge, you’ll isolate more of your quadriceps.  

On the other hand, if you take a longer step this will increase the emphasis of your glutes of the forward leg.  

The glutes are engaged to help control the descent when lowering into a reverse lunge.

When you take a longer step back this increases activation of the glutes and hamstrings of the forward leg which are recruited to help pull the body back to the starting position. 

The deficit aspect when doing a reverse lunge intensifies the push-off phase, demanding more force production from the quads helping you return to the starting position.

This is especially true when emphasizing a smaller step back, which requires the front leg to bear a significant portion of the body’s weight, thereby isolating the quadriceps to a greater extent.

Performing lunges, particularly deficit reverse lunges, recruits the core muscles and the adductors (inner thigh muscles) for stabilization.

The core muscles, including the abdominals and lower back muscles, remain engaged throughout the exercise to help you maintain balance and posture, while the adductors work to stabilize the legs.

​The Bottom Line

There are many types of exercises you can do to fire up your glutes and the reverse deficit lunge ranks as one of the best.  

The key to getting the most out of the exercise is technique and consistency.  

Once you’ve mastered the form, regularly performing deficit reverse lunges as part of your glute strength training will offer benefits like better balance and coordination, improved functional strength, increased hip mobility, and shapely and more defined glutes.

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