Strong legs: Discover muscles worked in elevated lunges

Elevated lunges are a variation of the traditional lunge that involves placing the front foot on an elevated surface, such as a bench or step. This increases the range of motion of the lunge and puts more emphasis on the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.

The slight adjustment to the reverse lunge will target the lower glute muscles due to the increased range of motion of the hips and the extra stretch required of the glutes.

woman doing reverse deficit lunges

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You can perform elevated lunges with body weight or with weights — dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells.

Elevated lunges are a great option if you are looking for a challenging but effective way to improve leg strength and muscle imbalances.

Muscles worked in elevated lunges

Lunges are unilateral exercises that work multiple muscle groups in the lower body. The muscles worked in an elevated lunge:


The quadriceps are the muscles on the front of the thigh above the knee.

They are commonly called the quads, for short. They are composed of four muscles: the rectus femoris, the vastus intermedius, the vastus medialis, and the vastus lateralis. 

These muscles are responsible for flexing the leg at the knee joint and are important for walking, standing and jumping. 

The quads are activated while performing a lunge with each motion but are especially targeted while coming up back into the starting position. It’s also important to note that forward lunges will target the quads more than a reverse lunge will.


The hamstrings are the muscles on the back of the thigh. 

The hamstrings are composed of three different muscles: the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus. 

The hamstrings are responsible for bending the leg at the knee and help with a variety of different movements, such as running, jumping and walking. Strong hamstrings can help limit and prevent lower back and knee pain.

While doing front-foot elevated reverse lunges, the hamstrings are activated while lunging down into the lunge position and pushing back up to the starting position. Reverse lunges put a greater emphasis on the hamstrings compared to the forward lunge.


The glutes are the muscles, more commonly referred to as the butt muscles. They are the largest muscles in the body and are composed of muscles including the gluteus minimus, gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.

The glute muscles are crucial in providing the body stability and balance. They are also important in various movements such as running and jumping.

The glute muscles are targeted while doing lunges while going down into the lunge and coming back up. 


The calves are the muscles on the back of the lower leg. They are responsible for plantar flexing the foot (pointing the toes down). 

The calf muscles stabilize and support your ankles during the lunge, specifically the gastrocnemius and soleus.

These muscles are activated while doing a reverse lunge while pushing off the foot to enter the lunge position.

How to do elevated lunges

This single-leg movement can be done with just your body weight or you can add weights for added resistance, which will place more emphasis on the front leg and create a greater range of motion.

woman at the top of deficit reverse lunges
woman doing reverse deficit lunges
  • Start standing behind a box or platform that is a few inches high.
  • Place one foot on an elevated platform with your foot centered and toes pointing forward.
  • Step back with your other foot and lower the back knee until it is a few inches from the ground.
  • Keep your chest up and your core engaged as you lower into the lunge.
  • Push through your front foot to rise to the starting position, driving the back knee up in front of you.
  • Repeat for the designated amount of reps, then switch sides.

Tip: The box does NOT need to be tall. You can even use a weight plate to stand on. 

Rubber head dumbbells

A pair of dumbbells is a great and easy way to get in a strength training session. Pick a pair from 10 to 50lbs.

Smith machine deficit lunge

Smith machine deficit reverse lunge is a variation that helps increase lower body strength. The Smith machine will also assist with balance and stability.

woman doing woman at the top of deficit reverse lunges
  • Stand with one foot on a box or flat bench with your foot centered and toes pointing forward in front of the Smith machine.
  • Step back with our other foot and lower the back knee until it is just a few inches above the ground.
  • Keep your chest up.
  • Push through your front foot until your back leg is back to the starting position.
  • Repeat.

Benefits of elevated lunges

  • Strengthen and tone the lower body: Elevated lunges are a great way to strengthen and tone the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves. These muscles are responsible for moving the lower body, so strengthening them can help improve your overall fitness and performance.
  • Improve balance and coordination: Elevated lunges require you to balance on one leg while you lower your body. This can help improve your balance and coordination, which can benefit activities such as walking, running and dancing.
  • Reduce the risk of knee injuries: Elevated lunges can help to reduce the risk of knee injuries by strengthening the muscles around the knee joint. This can help to protect the knee from injury during activities such as running and jumping.
  • Functional Strength: Elevated lunges are practical because they mimic movements we do every day, like going up stairs or getting up from a chair. This can make daily activities easier.
  • Improve posture: The muscles worked in elevated lunges are also important for maintaining good posture. By strengthening these muscles, you can help to improve your posture and reduce back pain.
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