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Deficit Reverse Lunge: The Secret Glute Builder

February 07, 2024

Deficit reverse lunge guide By Robor Fitness

Traditional lunges, walking lunges, and split squats are all great choices when it comes to glute training.

But there’s a lunge variation that you’re probably neglecting, and when you begin to incorporate it into your training regime, you’re going to level up your glute game. Introducing the deficit reverse lunge.

A key component of muscle hypertrophy is mechanical tension through a full range of motion (ROM) – and the deficit reverse lunge does just that.

The deficit allows the trailing knee to pass the level of the front foot (a position that was previously restricted by the floor) placing the hips further into flexion. With hip extension being the primary role of the glutes, they’re forced to work hard to ‘Get out of the hole’ and return to the starting position.

The benefits don’t stop there. Continue reading to see why the deficit reverse lunge should not be ignored and why you should introduce them into your routine today to hammer those lower glutes.

Table of Contents
What is a Deficit reverse lunge?
How to perform the Deficit reverse lunge
Deficit reverse lunge tips
Muscles worked
Deficit reverse lunge benefits
Final thoughts


What is a Deficit Reverse Lunge

You guessed it, the deficit reverse lunge is a Reverse lunge, from a deficit.

Deficit Reverse Lunge Example

By placing a platform under your leading foot, you are able to lunge further down as the floor essentially drops by the distance of the height of the platform, giving you that extra range of motion.

The exercise can be performed with bodyweight, dumbbells, or a barbell and is an awesome compound exercise that heavily targets the glutes. 


How to Perform the Deficit Reverse Lunge

  • Set up a platform roughly 2-8 inches on the floor. Start low and increase the height as you progress.
  • Grab a pair of dumbbells. Again, start light and get heavier as you progress.
  • Holding the dumbbells in each hand, step onto the platform with both feet. Adjust your foot position so that they’re roughly hip distance apart. Slightly bend the knees.
  • Initiating the movement at the hips, take a step backward and place the ball of your foot on the floor. Lower your trailing knee until it nearly touches the floor
  • Bring yourself back to the starting position by pushing the leading heel into the platform and driving the hips up and forward
  • You can either alternate legs or complete the desired amount of reps with one leg and then switch.


Deficit Reverse Lunge Tips

Step distance

A common question we get asked is how far we should step back during the movement. On the surface, it may not sound like it makes a difference, but how far we step back has a massive impact on which muscles are recruited.  

Not stepping back far enough will result in the knee travelling over the toes. As a result, the knee will be placed further into knee flexion, and the hips will not experience a great deal of flexion. The hypertrophy coach can be seen demonstrating this below.

Quad dominant lunge

This will turn the exercise into a quad-dominant movement and the muscles in the front of the leg will be called upon to extend the knee joint to return to the starting position.

To shift the emphasis onto the glutes we want to be doing the opposite. We want limited flexion at the knee and introduce more flexion at the hips. After all, the primary role of the glutes is hip extension so more flexion at the hips means a greater range of motion for the glutes.

We do this by stepping back far enough so that the shin remains perpendicular to the floor. This will be trial and error at first, but it’s important we get this step right.

 How to target glutes when lunging

This vertical shin position creates less range of motion at the knee and more range of motion at the hips – exactly what we’re after.


Rear Leg Involvement

The deficit reverse lunge is a unilateral exercise meaning it works on one leg at a time, the leading leg only. When performing the exercise, it’s important to remember that the load is supposed to be going through the front leg and the back leg is used for stability only – not for pushing off of the ground to return to the starting position – that’s cheating.

At least two-thirds of the load need to be travelling through your front leg. Any more than that then we’re not performing how it’s designed, and we could be risking an injury.


Use the deficit

The whole point of creating a deficit is so that we can use it. If we start performing the exercise and don’t drop the trailing knee below the level of the front foot, then there’s really no reason for creating the deficit in the first place.

A good training cue is to pay attention to the position of the back knee. To get the most out of the exercise we’ll want to drop the back knee so that it nearly touches the floor. This way we can be sure we’re using the deficit and


Back position

A quick, yet effective tip to increase glute involvement during the exercise is to slightly lean forward. Leaning forward will place the hips into more hip flexion. As a result, the range of motion will be increased as the hips have further to travel to extend the hips. Don’t overdo it though, a slight lean is more than enough.


Weight placement

There are many ways to add resistance to the deficit reverse lunge. We could hold a barbell in the back squat position, hold a barbell in the front squat position, hold dumbbells by our side or we’ve even seen some people hold a weight above their head!

When deciding which way is right for us, we need to consider what we’re trying to achieve. In this instance, we’re using the deficit reverse lunge as a way to strengthen and grow the glutes. So, we should pick the best method that allows us to focus most of our energy on this.

You see, holding a weight above your head will require a great deal of stability and shoulder/arm strength – but that’s not what we’re trying to develop here, we’re trying to grow the glutes. Holding the weight above our head just expends energy that’s required down in the lower body.

Similarly, the front squat requires a similar level of stability and taxes the upper body to maintain the neutral spine position, so not ideal for this exercise.

What about holding a barbell in the back squat position? Well, it doesn’t require a high level of stability like the previous 2 examples, but there is a separate issue.

Naturally, as we lunge backward our torso leans forward. For targeting the glutes, this is good as it increases flexion at the hip joint. If we were to have a barbell loaded on our shoulders, the lower back would get involved as it would need to perform a ‘good morning’ style movement to get the torso back to the upright position. While working the lower back isn’t a bad thing, it doesn’t do much for growing the glutes.

Therefore, we suggest loading the exercise by holding dumbbells in each hand. This way the center of gravity remains constant and we’re not expending energy where it’s not needed (apart from maybe a bit of grip strength). As we progress through the exercise and begin to work with heavier weights, it might be worth investing in a set of wrist straps so that we can prevent our grip strength from failing before our glutes do.

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Build Gradually

Doing a reverse lunge from a deficit requires a level of hip mobility. If you’ve got tight hips, then lowering yourself below the level of your front leg is going to be a challenge.

For this reason, start with a small deficit (a couple of inches) and increase the deficit as your flexibility improves.

There’s no reason to start off with a large deficit. At the end of the day, any deficit you start with is going to be a progression from what you’re used to. Utilising a small deficit to start with reduces the chances of picking up an injury and allows you to increase your current range of motion.


Alternate Legs

We’ve got two options when it comes to how we go about working both of the legs.

Option 1 is completing all of the reps on one leg, resting, and then going again with the other leg. The benefit of doing it this way is that you can maintain a good level of balance as the leading leg doesn’t move, it stays planted.

Option 2 involves alternating legs after each rep. Ie. left leg, right leg, left leg right leg, and so on. The benefit of doing it this way is that you give each leg a slight rest after every rep whilst the other leg is lunging. The drawback of doing it this way though is that it’s more difficult to maintain your balance whilst you alternate legs.

There’s no right or wrong way to do this though. Trail both methods and pick the one that’s right for you.


Muscles Worked

The deficit reverse lunge is a compound exercise that targets several muscles in the lower body. The emphasis may well be on the glutes and hamstrings, but virtually every muscle in the lower body is activated in some way!  


Glute anatomy

The glutes are made up of 3 muscles. The gluteus maximas, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The deficit reverse lunge hammers the largest gluteus muscle, the maximas. It is the maximas that is the most superficial and provides the majority of the shape to the region.

Entering deep into hip flexion during the exercise is the reason why the glutes are so heavily involved. The role of the gluteus maximas is hip extension – which is the opposite of hip flexion. So when we’re at the bottom of the movement, it is the gluteus maximas that will be doing the majority of the work to return us to the starting position.



As you probably already know, the hamstrings are located on the back of the thigh and are made up of four muscles. They work in synergy with each other and like the glutes, they are responsible for hip extension, but they are also responsible for knee flexion.

During the reverse lunge, they work at slowing down the body as you step backward, allowing for a slow and controlled rep.



The quads are quite the opposite of the hamstrings. They are located on the front of the thigh and are responsible for knee extension and hip flexion, there are also 4 muscles in this region (hence the name ‘Quad’ricpes).

At the bottom of the lunge the knee will be flexed. It’s the responsibility of the quad to extend the knee joint to help us return to the starting position.

As we discussed in the ‘Tips’ section, we can manipulate the exercise to shift the tension away from the quads and onto the glutes. This is basically done by doing the exercise in such a way that limits the amount of knee flexion, limiting the knee extension demand placed on the quads.


Abductors & Adductors

Abductors are the muscles located on the outside of the hips and thighs. The role of these muscles is to move the leg outwards away from the centre line of the body.

Adductors on the other hand do the complete opposite. They are located on the inside of the thigh and pull the leg towards the centre line of the body.

During the reverse lunge, both the abductors and adductors will be activated as they help stabilise the hips and the knees to prevent them from swaying one way or another.


Deficit Reverse Lunge Benefits

Still on the fence as to whether you should introduce deficit reverse lunges into your workout routine? Let us cover some of the benefits to solidify its position in your program.


Add size to the glutes

Having a platform placed under the leading leg allows the trailing knee to travel further downwards thus taking the glutes through a larger range of motion.

And with range of motion being a positive driver for muscle growth, being able to increase this is a sound choice.

This extra range of motion also allows for the glutes to be stretched further. Again, this bodes well for muscle building.

A 2019 study published in the Journal of Medicine & Science in sports [1] documents that training at longer muscle lengths produced greater muscular hypertrophy compared to shorter-length training.

At the bottom of the lunge the glute will be under maximum tension in the lengthened position creating the perfect muscle building stimulus.


Easy on the knees

Let’s take a quick look at the traditional lunge. The traditional forward lunge involves us taking a step forward and planting our foot on the ground. Not only does this create a shearing force on the knee joint, but the body will then need to work hard to decelerate the body from moving forward, again putting stress on the joints. If we don’t have bulletproof knees, we’re probably going to feel it in the morning.

Turning to the reverse lunge as an alternative means we can eliminate the shearing force on the knee as the leading leg stays in the same position throughout the movement. It also means that the glutes and hamstrings are firing first to initiate the movement rather than the quads.   


Targets the lower glutes

As discussed earlier, the platform underneath our front foot allows for a greater range of motion placing the hip into further flexion. This flexed position allows for an additional stretch of the lower glutes at the bottom of the movement. As a result, the glutes will experience a high level of activation at the bottom of the movement as they work on returning the body to the starting position.


Limited Equipment

The deficit reverse lunge doesn’t require any fancy machines or expensive racks. All you need for this exercise is a set of dumbbells.

We’ll also need a platform, but this can be anything, heck a slab from the garden could do it.

This means that if we don’t get a chance to get to the gym, we can complete a glute workout from the comfort of our own home.


Unilateral Exercises

As you know, the deficit reverse lunge is a unilateral exercise meaning it works one side of the body at a time. Incorporating unilateral exercises into your weekly routine is worthwhile as they provide several benefits. 

Unilateral exercises can help fix any muscle imbalances as a result of bilateral training. When performing bilateral exercises, it’s not uncommon for one side to be stronger than the other. The problem occurs when one side becomes significantly stronger than the other and starts overcompensating.

Including unilateral exercises in our workout help identify any muscle weaknesses or imbalances so we can work on ironing them out before they cause an issue.


Easy to scale

If you didn’t already know, one of the most important drivers for muscle growth is progressive overload.

Progressive overload is when we progressively increase the stimulus placed upon the body so that the body continues to adapt. Arguably the easiest way to implement progressive overload is to increase resistance over time.

The deficit reverse lunge allows us to do this. We simply use heavier dumbbells over time. With strength and muscle size closely correlated, if we can get stronger, we’re likely going to get bigger.


Final Thoughts

The deficit reverse lunge is a secret glute builder. It’s not often you’ll see anyone in the gym performing them, but they should be, they are great for building strength and size in the glute region.

Applying the tips discussed during the article can help shift the focus from the quads to the glutes, proving more bang for your buck in every rep to bring real results in your glute-building journey.

You’ll also benefit from giving the back a well-earned rest as it isn’t as heavily loaded as the alternative exercises.

Keep your form tight, apply progressive overload, eat well, and you’ll add size to the backside in no time.



[1] Oranchuk, D. J., Storey, A. G., Nelson, A. R., & Cronin, J. B. (2019). Isometric training and long-term adaptations: Effects of muscle length, intensity, and intent: A systematic review. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports29(4), 484–503.

Thomas D
Thomas D


Thomas is a dedicated fitness enthusiast with over 12 years of experience in the gym. As a level 2 qualified gym instructor, he combines his passion for working out and nutrition to help others achieve their fitness goals. Thomas stays up to date with the latest fitness research and follows the work of top experts in the field. With a balance of textbook knowledge and real-life experience, he provides practical guidance to help others reach their full potential.

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