Exercise Every Athlete Should Be Doing: Reverse Lunge
The reverse lunge has become a staple in our programing over the last couple years and we’ve seen great carry over with speed and power in athletes. Deadlifts get all the views on social media, but single leg strength may be more important to developing a strong, fast, and powerful athlete.
The reverse lunge offers a lot of benefits. Obviously, single leg strength being one of them, but also improved hip stability, increased core strength and stability, as well as glute activation.
It can be a great variation for anyone that’s had knee issues. There’s very little deceleration involved compared to other lunge variations (forward or walking lunges) where you have to slow down your body weight.
Lower body training usually focuses on squats and deadlifts, which there’s nothing wrong with, but when you look at the way sports are played, whether its sprinting or throwing a baseball, it’s a series of interactions between single leg motions.
High school and college programs are usually built around the squat, and single leg strength tends gets over looked. A lot of our new athletes that start training with us have a glaring single leg weakness.
Aaron Barokas, pitcher at saddleback college is a great example. Aaron is a big guy at 6’4 and around 220lb and no one would classify him as “weak,” but last winter when he started training with us performing a standard reverse lunge at 95lbs was a struggle.
He can now reverse lunge 225lbs with relative ease and his fastball velocity has gone from the mid-eighties to consistently 88-91 MPH. He’s just one example of many.
There’s obviously a lot of factors that go into increasing pitching velocity, but no doubt single leg strength plays a role.
Deadlifting and squatting will always be staples in our programming as well but performing the reverse lunge and making it a priority is one of the best ways to create athleticism.
Performing The Reverse Lunge
I prefer to have the barbell set up anteriorly and using straps for a couple reasons. Most people, especially baseball players are going to be uncomfortable with the clean grip. Most will do much better with the straps or the cross-body grip. Also, with the barbell front loaded it encourages more T-spine extension and scapular upward rotation.
We want the bar to sit on the “meaty” part of the shoulders. To get into this position I’ll have the athlete grab the straps and step underneath the bar until it is lightly touching their neck (obviously don’t strangle yourself).
The elbows should be up high and somewhat close to each other, so the triceps are parallel to the floor. We don’t want them pointing downward or flaring out to the sides.
Once we’ve unracked the bar we want to step back and lightly touch our knee to the floor while keeping our core tight then pull yourself back up finishing with the glutes at the top. Perform all the reps on one side first then doing the other.
Whether you’re a novice or experienced lifter dedicate yourself to getting strong on 1 leg and you’ll see a lot of improvement in overall strength and athleticism.