Here’s the 6th edition of Move of the Week: The Front-rack Reverse Lunge!
THE MOVE: Front-rack Reverse Lunge
MOVEMENT PATTERN AND MUSCLES WORKED: Lunge pattern: quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
WHY DO IT: Renowned strength coach, Mike Boyle, once famously decried squats in favor of deadlifts and single-leg exercises, like lunges and rear-foot elevated split squats. This was not to say that squats were inherently bad; it was just that single-leg exercises produced better results while mitigating injury risk for his athletes.
As you can also see in the link, these lunges and split-squats are not the typical end-of-the-workout burners that people mindlessly do with light dumbbells; they are challenging and when appropriate, they are heavy. This is especially true for variations like the front-rack reverse lunge. It’s basically impossible to cheat technique, and if you do, you’ll just lose the bar. As such, this exercise and other single-leg exercises are friendlier on the spine by virtue of the fact that most people will have to start incredibly light, and even “heavy” lunges will use lighter loads relative to their best squats. It would be wise to leave the ego at the door.
The decreased weight does not mean that this exercise is any less challenging, though. Once you have the technique in check, you’ll find the front-rack reverse lunge to be extremely valuable for building single-leg strength, core stability, mobility, and proprioception, owing to the challenging rack position for the shoulders and thoracic spine. The ability to build these qualities with these lunges is why they are excellent for athletic performance, just like Mike Boyle finds to be true with his athletes time after time.
HOW TO DO IT: Let’s get this bit out of the way first. The front-rack reverse lunge is not for the faint of heart. The technical demands of the exercise are something else entirely. I once had a training partner remark to me about how the first time he did these, he felt like he had ran a mile after his first set. They are incredibly taxing, just like heavy squats and deadlifts. Because of this, I would recommend using these lunges as one of your main exercises during a training session and focus on building strength. 3-4 sets of 6 reps/side would be appropriate here, but it won’t be a walk in the park.
To achieve the front rack position, set up with your shoulders underneath a racked barbell, with your elbows up and your fingers cradling the barbell outside shoulder-width. The barbell should be touching your throat but not choking you, which will be uncomfortable at first. Unrack the barbell and walk out of the rack. Set up in a straight, tall start position with your toes pointing straight ahead, inhale to set your core tight, and lunge backwards with one foot. Tap the floor gently with your back knee, and drive forward through your front foot to return to the start position. Finish all the reps on one foot before repeating with the other side. Throughout the exercise, focus on keeping the elbows up to keep the bar on your shoulders and staying balanced on the front foot by maintaining a neutral arch in your foot and having the knee track over the middle of the foot. The front leg should be doing the brunt of the work during a reverse lunge, and it does its job better with a stable base to drive from!
Prepare to be extremely sore over the entire lower body the day after, as you’ll have to work like crazy to maintain control even with lighter weight than you’re used to throwing around when you squat or deadlift. This exercise is incredibly humbling! Let us know what you think on Twitter or Instagram @halevylife !
by Jeremy Lau
Jeremy Lau is a Staff Coach at Halevy Life.
Jeremy graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering and is currently pursuing his M.Ed. in Exercise Physiology at Columbia University. In addition to his academic accolades, Jeremy is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
Prior to joining the team at Halevy Life, Jeremy completed a coaching internship at Cressey Sports Performance, where he coached both amateur and professional athletes, among whom were many professional MLB baseball players.
As an athlete, Jeremy has played baseball competitively for most of his life.