Some people like the benefits of reverse lunges but want to switch things up. For these individuals, there are a variety of alternatives with similar effects.
By stepping backward instead of forward, reverse lunges are a bit harder in terms of coordination but your muscles go through a larger range of motion under tension than the regular version which is generally helpful.
In short, reverse lunges offer benefits like helping you grow and strengthen important leg muscles, burning more calories, improving coordination and balance, etc.
Whether you don’t enjoy reverse lunges, they don’t feel comfortable on your knees, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these reverse lunge substitutes can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
1. Bulgarian split squats
For Bulgarian split squats you want a step, bench, or any other stable object at about knee height. Once you have that, take the following steps to do a Bulgarian split squat:
- Stand in front of the stable object with your back to it. Keep about a leg distance between you and the object.
- Move one leg back and put the foot of this side on the object. The top of your foot should lean on the surface of the object.
- Slowly lower your hips by bending the knee of your stretched leg until your hip is at about the height of your knee of the previously stretched leg. Use your arms for balance if needed.
- Push yourself up again into the position of step 2.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions on the leg of the other side to keep your muscle distribution balanced.
Bulgarian split squats can be a good alternative to reverse lunges for individuals who need just a bit more of a challenge. Both in terms of pressure on the muscles and balance.
You could argue that Bulgarian split squats are somewhat easier to do with extra weights because you stay in position instead of swinging your body around by taking a step.
Besides these things, Bulgarian split squats are very similar to reverse lunges. These exercises work your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, outer thighs, and inner thighs a nice amount.
For some people, how similar the two exercises are can be a downside. If reverse lunges feel uncomfortable on your knees you can expect the same from Bulgarian split squats.
To do the next reverse lunge alternative you need a stable object strong enough to stand on at about knee height. Examples include a plyo box, a stepper, a park bench, a concrete platform, stairs, etc.
Once you have a suited platform, take the following steps to do a step-up:
- Stand upright in front of the object facing toward it with your feet at shoulder width.
- Raise one foot and put it on the surface of the object. Make sure your sole is entirely on the surface.
- Raise your body by exerting pressure with the leg of the foot that is on the object. Make sure the upper leg is doing most, preferably all, of the lifting.
- Put your second foot next to the other one.
- Step down with the first foot.
- Step down with the second foot.
- Do a repetition with the other foot first.
Make sure you do the same number of step-ups on each leg to avoid muscle imbalances.
This exercise can be a good substitute to reverse lunges for a few reasons. First of all, most people will find step-ups somewhat easier in terms of balance while offering more resistance at the same time.
Additionally, step-ups can feel slightly more comfortable on your knees than reverse lunges.
The main downsides are the extra equipment required and that step-ups are more troublesome if you do lose balance.
Additionally, make sure your elevated platform is sturdy enough if you want to do weighted step-ups.
3. Goblet squats
To do goblet squats you need some form of compact weight. Most people use a dumbbell or a kettlebell. Take the following steps to do a goblet squat with a dumbbell:
- Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width right in front of a vertically standing dumbbell.
- Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you ideally want your hips to be at or lower than your knee height. Keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
- Pick up the dumbbell and hold it at the top weight against your chest with your hand palms facing up.
- Push yourself up again into starting position by stretching your legs.
- Alternate between the positions in step 2 and step 4 while holding the dumbbell.
Squats are a fundamental leg exercise to train the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Basically the same muscles worked in reverse lunges but with less focus on the outer and inner thigh muscles.
Bodyweight squats can be a good alternative if you currently find reverse lunges too hard. That being said, most people will still need a bit of extra resistance. Goblet squats are a convenient variation to do this.
Additionally, by holding the weight in front of you instead of your upper back, you focus slightly more on your quadriceps similar to reverse lunges.
One downside of goblet squats is that it can be challenging to do them with a lot of weight. Heavy lifters may prefer front squats or squats with a safety squat bar as weighted alternatives to reverse lunges.
4. Leg extensions
To do leg extensions at home, most people will prefer good resistance bands and an anchor object. Once you have these take the following steps to do a resistance band leg extension:
- Anchor the resistance band somewhere close to the ground. If you are using a chair you can anchor it at the back chair legs.
- Sit on the object you chose with your back to the anchor. Anchor the other end of the resistance band behind your feet. Make sure your folded leg already feels a pull from the resistance band.
- Slowly stretch your legs with the resistance band until they are fully stretched.
- Move your feet back to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.
You may also have a specific leg extension machine at your local gym. Another at-home-friendly equipment option for this exercise is a pair of heavy ankle weights.
Reverse lunges are a compound exercise that works a variety of leg muscles with a lot of focus on the quadriceps. Some people may want to isolate, only work, these quadricep muscles.
Another potential benefit of leg extensions is that they are easier on your knees than reverse lunges.
5. Prowler sled pushes
There is a piece of gym equipment that is a sled on which you can put weights. You will need this piece of equipment and a suited surface to push the prowler workout sled on for the next reverse lunge alternative.
Once you have these, to do sled pushes take the following steps:
- Load the sled with the weight that aligns with your training goals.
- Hold the sled with your two hands and slightly less-than-stretched arms. Lower your upper body until it is in about horizontal. Keep your spine straight throughout the exercise.
- Push the sled by taking step after step.
To resemble reverse lunges in terms of muscle growth and strengthening potential you want to load the prowler sled relatively heavy.
You can also load it somewhat lighter if you want to go for a cardiovascular workout.
Prowler sled pushes can be a fun way to switch up your workouts while still getting some valuable exercise benefits.
The main downside of this option is that it requires a lot more equipment and room than reverse lunges. You are definitely not able to do prowler sled pushes in a small apartment.
Even if you do have the space, you may not like the extra investment required to be able to do prowler sled pushes. Additionally, sled pushes don’t offer the same eccentric leg muscle engagement as reverse lunges.