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Exercise: Barbell Backward Lunge

Graham, John F MS, CSCS*D, FNSCA

Author Information
Strength and Conditioning Journal: August 2011 - Volume 33 - Issue 4 - p 80-82
doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e31820e6a7c
  • Free



Lower body/multijoint.


Gluteus maximus, quadriceps, and hamstrings.


  • Position a standard Olympic barbell at chest level in a Squat or Power Rack.
  • Load barbell evenly on both sides and secure weights with collars.
  • Step underneath the barbell and position the base of the neck/upper middle back and the hips and feet directly under the barbell.
  • Grasp the barbell using a pronated grip at least slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Place the barbell evenly above the shoulders at the base of the neck.
  • Raise the elbows upward to prevent the barbell from sliding down the back during the execution of the lift.
  • To lift the barbell from the rack, extend the hips and knees to lift the barbell off the rack and take a few (2-3) steps backward to clear the rack and allow adequate room to lunge forward. Ensure that there is enough space to lunge backward and return forward.
  • Feet are between hip and shoulder width apart and pointing forward.
  • Torso should remain erect.
  • Keep chest out and up.
  • Shoulders are back.
  • Keep head and neck straight with eyes looking straight ahead.
  • Before stepping backward, breathe in and hold it (Figure 1).
  • Figure 1
    Figure 1:
    Backward barbell lunge: starting position.


  • Take an elongated step straight backward with the right leg (trail leg).
  • Make sure that the lead foot is flat on the floor with the foot pointing straight forward.
  • Keep the arms firm and the torso in an erect position as the trail foot goes backward and comes in contact with the floor. Keep the head up.
  • The front leg (lead leg) remains fixed in the starting position, but as the trail leg moves backward, balance should shift to the ball of the foot of the lead leg, as the trail leg is lifted off the ground and begins to flex.
  • To maintain balance, ensure that the trail leg moves directly backward from its original starting position and the lead ankle, knee, and hip remain in the same vertical plane. Avoid stepping to the right or left or allowing the knee to shift to one side or the other.
  • Once balance is established on both feet, flex the lead knee, which will enable the trail leg to bend toward the floor. The trail leg should flex to a degree slightly less than the lead leg.
  • The torso should remain erect with the shoulders kept directly above the hips and the head erect facing forward.
  • Ideally, the lowest finish position of the descent should occur when the trail leg is 1-2 inches from the floor, the lead leg is flexed to 90°, and the knee is directly above or slightly in front of the ankle. The depth of the barbell backward lunge depends on the exerciser's hip joint flexibility. The lead leg should remain flat on the floor as the toes of the trail foot are extended and the ankle is dorsiflexed.
  • To avoid potentially harmful stress on the lead leg knee joint, it is critical that the lead knee does not extend past the lead foot.
  • At the completion of the descent, a concentrated effort to “sit back” on the trailing leg should be made as if sitting on the front edge of a bench (Figure 2).
  • Continue to hold breath throughout the descent.
  • Figure 2
    Figure 2:
    Backward barbell lunge: completion of descent/start of ascent.


  • While maintaining an erect torso, shift the balance forward to the lead foot and forcefully push off the floor with the trail foot by plantar flexing the trail foot while extending the lead knee and hip joints.
  • As the trail foot returns to the starting position, balance should shift to the trail foot, resulting in the trail foot regaining full contact with the floor.
  • The trail foot should be lifted back to its original starting position with feet between hip and shoulder width apart and pointing forward (Figure 3).
  • Figure 3
    Figure 3:
    Backward barbell lunge: completion of ascent/start of descent.
  • Avoid touching the trail foot to the floor until it is returned to the finish position (unless balance is lost, in which case, the trail foot should be dropped to the floor to regain balance).
  • Once the trail foot is returned to the starting position, divide the body weight equally over both feet.
  • Torso should remain erect and head up, similar to the beginning position.
  • Exhale throughout the Ascent.
  • Pause momentarily to fully gain balance, switch trail legs and repeat the procedure.


  • At the completion of the set, return the barbell back to the rack by slowly walking forward and returning the barbell to the support hooks of the rack.
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