Bodyweight reverse lunges can already be challenging but you may need something harder. Discover what weighted versions you can do for more results.
What type of weight is the best for you ultimately depends on things like your strength level, balance abilities, and personal preferences.
That being said, many people will really like the weighted vest, smith machine, or resistance band reverse lunges.
1. Barbell reverse lunges
The barbell is the long bar in the gym that you can load with weight plates to make exercises more challenging.
This piece of equipment really stands out for heavy lifts like the back squat because it can hold a lot of weight and does not require much engagement of other muscles.
In reverse lunges, this is less important because your legs already have to carry double the amount of weight. That being said, the benefit above does still apply.
A downside of barbell reverse lunges to keep in mind is that your center of gravity is relatively high. This makes the exercise more challenging in terms of balance.
Additionally, you need a bit more equipment and room to get the barbell to shoulder height and actually do the reverse lunges.
So if you don’t want to use your forearm grip muscles and don’t have other weights that offer this available, you can do reverse lunges with a barbell.
If these things do not apply, you may prefer one of the other weighted reverse lunges.
2. Reverse lunges with dumbbells
Dumbbells are a popular equipment choice for reverse lunges. Partly because they are so common in gyms but also because they offer a few benefits for this exercise.
The first thing to note is that there are multiple ways to hold the dumbbell(s). These will influence your workouts in different ways.
First of all, you can just hold one dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang by your sides. This will be helpful in terms of balance because your center of gravity is relatively low and your arms can still move around.
The main downside of this carrying method is that your forearm grip muscles may fatigue before your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, inner thighs, outer thighs, and calves had a good workout.
Secondly, you can do weighted reverse lunges by holding one or two dumbbells at shoulder height. Using one dumbbell is typically done with a goblet hold where you keep the weight in front of your chest.
Using two dumbbells at shoulder height is more straightforward. You simply hold one dumbbell in each hand and let the back weights rest on your shoulders.
These reverse lunge variations can be helpful in the sense that they don’t engage the weak forearm grip muscles as much. On the flip side, your shoulder and bicep muscles could still fatigue too.
Lastly, you can hold the dumbbells overhead. However, this makes the reverse lunges really challenging when it comes to balance.
In short, dumbbell reverse lunges can be effective but it is also possible that your body parts responsible for holding the weights fatigue before the main target muscles had a good workout.
3. Reverse lunges with a weighted vest
Weighted vests are simply vests with weights attached to them. These pieces of equipment are popular for many exercises because you don’t have to hold anything in your hands to add resistance.
This same aspect is why reverse lunges with a weighted vest can be a good idea. You can still use your arms for balance if needed and you don’t have to worry about your grip muscles fatiguing.
Additionally, your center of gravity is relatively low compared to weighted reverse lunges where you keep the resistance at shoulder height.
More general benefits to consider investing in a weighted vest include that they are priced reasonably, versatile, and relatively compact.
One potential downside for reverse lunges is that some weighted vests are relatively long. For smaller individuals, long weighted vests may get in the way of the front leg and limit the range of motion possible.
If you have one available, you likely want to give weighted vest reverse lunges a try because you will probably prefer them.
Whether you would actually want to invest in one depends on things like your training goals, preferences, and budget.
4. Smith machine reverse lunges
The smith machine comes down to a bar with weight plates that follows a rail system. Additionally, you can rack the bar at multiple heights thanks to the hooks on it.
This type of reverse lunge could be good for people who don’t like the balance aspect of barbell reverse lunges but do like the heavy weight limit and lack of grip muscle engagement.
This is because the bar can only follow the rail system. You can not fall forward or sideways.
At the same time, you also have to keep in mind that your smith machine reverse lunge movement will be slightly different from the barbell version.
Because the bar can only go up or down, your backward movement becomes more of a downward movement. In turn, smith machine reverse lunges are relatively quadricep-focused.
Besides your glutes and hamstrings, your inner and outer thigh muscles will also have to work less hard because there is not as much balancing involved.
In short, the two main reasons to choose smith machine reverse lunges are that you want to lift heavy without worrying about balance or that you want to make the movement focus more on your quadriceps.
5. Kettlebell reverse lunge
Kettlebells are metal balls with a handle in the middle. They are typically used for specific exercises like the kettlebell swing but you can also use them as resistance in reverse lunges.
The ways you can hold kettlebells are similar to dumbbells. That means one in each hand with your arms beside you, one in front of your chest in a goblet hold, two “racked” at shoulder height, and two overhead.
These carry methods have somewhat similar advantages and disadvantages too except that there are two details about kettlebells to keep in mind.
First of all, their handles typically don’t have knurling (grooves in the handles). This makes it harder for your forearm grip muscles to hold the kettlebell. Potentially up to a point where it interferes with your leg training.
Besides that, kettlebells are generally bulkier than dumbbells. If you keep them by your sides, they could interfere with the reverse lunge movement.
So kettlebell reverse lunges are basically the suboptimal alternative to the dumbbell version except that holding the kettlebells by your sides is often not that great.
That being said, if you only have kettlebells available, they will likely still be more effective than bodyweight reverse lunges for muscle growth and strength progress.
6. Cable reverse lunge
The cable machine is a steel construction where a cable is connected to weights on one side and is free to hold on the other side.
To do a cable reverse lunge you preferably have a double-rope cable attachment. You use this by holding one rope over each shoulder and doing the reverse lunge toward the cable machine.
You could also use a double-D grip, straight bar, or even EZ curl bar attachment and hold these while you do the reverse lunge away from the cable machine.
However, the forward pull generally makes your range of motion under tension smaller and only mainly works your quadriceps more. Most people will find that the first cable reverse lunge will align more with their training goals.
Cable reverse lunges allow you to add a good amount of resistance while being slightly less challenging in terms of balance than the barbell version.
At the same time, the double-rope handle on your shoulder will generally not be that comfortable in combination with heavy weights.
In the end, you can give the cable version a try to see how it comes to other weighted reverse lunges.
7. Banded reverse lunge
Resistance bands are elastic loops or tubes that offer resistance as you stretch them out. These pieces of fitness equipment are extremely versatile and are a good option to do reverse lunges with extra resistance.
The most popular version of this weighted reverse lunge requires you to loop a resistance band around the back of your shoulders and under your front leg.
After that, you do the typical reverse lunge. Only with more tension on your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, inner thigh muscles, outer thigh muscles, and calves.
You could also loop a resistance band around your upper legs, close to your knees. This would mainly make reverse lunges harder for your glutes and hamstrings.
A benefit of banded reverse lunges is that your arms still have a lot of room to balance you more. At the same time, resistance bands can still create a lot of extra resistance.
More generally, resistance bands are relatively budget-friendly, compact, and easy to take with you.
The main downside of resistance bands is that you have to replace them every once in a while. You may also simply not like their feeling and more unique tension.