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Fitness » Workouts » Leg Workouts » Squats vs Lunges: Which One of These Time-Honored Exercises is More Effective?

Squats vs Lunges: Which One of These Time-Honored Exercises is More Effective?

squats vs lunges

Squats vs Lunges

Squats and lunges workouts are two of the must-do exercises for anyone seeking ways to increase strength in the lower part of their bodies. Considering the two forms of these exercises from a perspective, each of them is unique, and they are easy to perform once the process is mastered. Both are worth trying out if there is sufficient practice time. However, when patience or time becomes a limitation, how does one decide between squats vs lunges?

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In terms of significance on the body, both squats and lunges are good exercises. Integrating them into a daily workout plan can never be a bad decision. Besides, when comparing their effectiveness, individual workout goals must be considered. At the same time, before deciding on which one to settle for, a knowledge of their benefits must form part of the yardsticks used. 

What are the benefits of Squats?

Squatting exercise makes the leg muscles and booty stronger. It also works on the core if done correctly. It can engage the hip, knee, and ankle joints for better performances. Those who prefer a slimmer body will also find the workout plan effective as it effectively burns calories, especially when weight is added to the regimen.

What are Lunges good for?

Those who want to tone their bodies, improve their structure, and enhance their athletic performance will find the lunging exercise beneficial. This form of training works on the legs, hips, and back as well. There are many benefits of engaging in it, and it can also correct any form of misalignments and imbalances in the body. The muscle in charge of stability can be worked on to improve coordination and balance. As stress on the spine reduces, the core and back muscles are built up to give a better posture.

squats vs lunges
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Squats vs Lunges, which is better?

The squatting and lunging workout plans have similarities. For instance, both exercises work on the same muscles: the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, gluteus maximus, and the inner thighs (10). Interestingly, as these groups of muscles are worked on, the body’s metabolism speeds up, thereby making weight loss easier for those who aim for that (9). A person should bear in mind that when a lunge is performed, the hamstrings and glutes are more engaged (8). Also, the gluteus medius muscle, which is responsible for the thigh rotation for a steady movement, has to be more active for body-leg balance to be achieved.

Besides, we cannot overrule the fact that the squat exercise is easier to do than the lunge. When in a rigid position, squats allow the weight of the body to stay balanced. This is why newbies are usually encouraged to start by mastering this form of exercise before graduating into the lunging exercise to avoid injuries.

The lunging exercise increases muscle mass and shapes the lower body to make the hips more tractable and the core to be more productive. Those who engage in sporting activities demanding a lunging motion such as yoga, tennis, and basketball, will benefit more from it. At the same time, anyone aiming to work on a more vital part of their muscles will find lunge workout useful because of the different ways of practicing it to target specific muscles in the lower part of the body than squats.

lunges vs bulgarian split squats
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Lunges vs Bulgarian Split Squats

The Bulgarian split squat is like a single-leg squat. When practicing this exercise, the back leg is positioned on a sturdy chair or a bench to focus more on the quadriceps. Balance and coordination are required for this exercise. The upper body is engaged, and the level of core rises to achieve the right form (3). This exercise’s primary focus is the front leg; the back leg ensures balance. So, the feeling of burn and engagement is mainly in the quadriceps of the front leg. To take the lower body’s training to another phase, the Bulgarian split squat is useful. 

Interestingly, the muscle groups that the lunges target are the same as the Bulgarian split squat. The only difference is that it focuses more on the core and quadriceps since it provides a balance hurdle when exercising on a single leg. Each time a side of the body is targeted without affecting the other, any muscle imbalances from one side to the other is worked on to guide against future injuries and to maintain proper alignment.

dumbbell reverse lunges vs squats
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Benefits of Bulgarian split squat

A study carried out in September 2017 found out that the Bulgarian split squat has two significant benefits: the opportunity it grants when addressing variation between the legs in terms of velocity, force, and power, and its effectiveness in empowering the glutes (2).

However, one may not achieve the necessary result if the right leg is placed directly in front of the left leg. So much stress would have been exerted on the front knee if there is a shift of attention from the core, thereby leading to deprivation on the benefit of the workout.

In a nutshell, although the Bulgarian split squat and lunges have similar motion, practicing the Bulgarian split squat helps a person to improve on the lunging movement. Then, both forms of exercise work on the gluteus maximus, which is an additional benefit for anyone seeking to improve how to extend their hips (11). The only thing that must be avoided is the temptation to only use the Bulgarian split squats to strengthen the glutes.

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squats vs walking lunges
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Squats vs Walking Lunge

This form of exercise is a good option for someone who doesn’t like static lunge exercises. It makes the leg muscles more energetic, and just like the squats, it engages the glutes, quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, hips, and abdominals correctly. The difference between the static and walking lunges is that, for the latter, a person needs to lunge out with a leg while ‘walking’ forward with the other instead of being in an upright position with a straight back after lunging forward with a leg. To make the exercise more challenging, one can do a torso twist or add weights (5).

How to perform?

A dumbbell is required when adding weights. The person practicing it will hold a dumbbell in each hand and move the shoulders back as they maintain a standing position. The torso must be upright, and the arms plunged by the sides. With the right leg, the person steps forward and allows the weight to rest on their heel. They then bend the right knee once the foot is stable on the floor and remain in a lunge position. Afterward, the left foot is moved forward, while the right leg remains rigid. Once that is completed, the second leg can be worked on.

Alternatively, when trying out the torso twist, a free weight or medicine ball is required. Depending on what is used, the object is grabbed with both hands before the midsection, and then the abs are engaged while standing with the feet apart. The elbows are bent, as the right leg shifts forward, and the weight is buried in the heel. Once the foot is stable on the floor, the right knee is bent before maintaining a lunge position. In a balanced position, the weight remains in the hands while twisting the upper body in the right direction, then backward, and later to the center. The process is repeated with the left leg, but the twisting will go left.

dumbbell reverse lunges vs squats
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Dumbbell Reverse Lunges vs Squats

The dumbbell reverse lunge engages the hamstrings, glutes, and core during a workout. With the help of a dumbbell, the front leg gains more strength and reduces stress on the joints. As the lower part of the body moves, the upper muscles in the back and the core are engaged. Anyone suffering from partial hip mobility, those who cannot balance well, and anyone with knee problems will find this form of exercise beneficial. Practicing it promotes balance as the back moves or when there is a directional change during movement, and anytime the muscles are being trained for various functions.

How to perform Dumbbell Reverse Lunges

The workout is done by holding a dumbbell in each hand while standing. The shoulders should be away from each other while the feet remain flat on the ground and the toes point forward. Slowly and gradually, a backward step is taken once there is an alignment with the torso. The person goes down with knees bent to make the front thigh form a parallel line with the floor before pushing upward, forward, and then returning to the starting point (6).

This form of exercise helps improve core stability and makes the hip more flexible. Also, apart from the fact that it is one of the ways of overloading the lunge movement pattern, some people prefer it to forward or walking lunges as they don’t overwork the knees.

squats vs lunges vs stepups
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Squats vs Lunges vs Step-ups

These three forms of exercise reduce your risk of injury due to an imbalance movement and increase leg mass. Then, as they improve balance and increase muscle mass, their impact is felt when making the ankle, hip, and knee joints more stable.

The step-up exercise requires a person to either climb a chair or somewhere higher than the base level. As an attempt is made at stepping onto the chosen place, the entire body weight is transferred to a leg. This is why there is a need for some strength in the core to do this exercise and maintain the necessary balance effectively. After stepping on a stationary object, not only is a balance achieved, but momentum is also gained. So, as the entire body weight rests on a leg, the abdominals and glutes try to keep the body in the expected position.

Squats vs Lunges vs Step-ups (in terms of difficulty)

In terms of difficulty, the step-up exercise is among the most reverted, unilateral leg exercises that are programmable for any level. For instance, the ability and purpose of engaging in the workout determine how the training would go. Then to increase the intensity of the practice, the height of the step is improved.

On the other hand, what places the lunge among complex dynamic unilateral movements is that an increased level of stability and proprioception are required each time you are in a changing environment (7). As for the squat, the exercise is worth doing before lunge because it helps master the rudiments of the hip, knee, and ankle joint management when you are stationed at a spot.

weighted lunges vs squats
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Weighted Lunges vs Squats

The weighted lunge is another variation of the lunge, and as the name implies, it works with a weight, usually dumbbells. Primarily, this form of exercise is highly beneficial to those who want to strengthen their lower body as it helps in training the muscles of the buttocks and upper leg. The weighted lunge works the quadriceps muscle located before the thigh, the soleus of the calf, the adductor magnus of the inner thigh, and the gluteus maximus of the buttocks (4).

It would be best if a person avoids some mistakes when practicing this exercise so that they don’t end up depriving themselves of the benefits of getting injuries in the long run. For instance, if care is not taken as a person bends their leg and the knee goes beyond the toes, it may harm the knee joint. If by mistake, it may also hurt if the knee is turned in or out without ensuring that the back knee aligns with the body.

So, how many weighted lunges should I do? You may want to ask. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), for each leg, try and do three to four sets, but if you are a newbie, two to three sets are okay to start with (1). Also, carefully select a weight that you can efficiently work with before increasing the heaviness.

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Conclusion

The squat and lunge exercises are functional, depending on the purpose of exercising. But then, while combining them may not be wrong, it is sometimes safer to seek professional advice. Besides, anyone with an ankle injury or unstable pelvic, and whosoever feels lower body pains is especially discouraged from practicing lunge exercises because of its demands on each leg. 

While both activities work on similar muscles, squats can serve as an alternative exercise to lunges. So, those with knee-related issues can work more with the squat exercise. Try this 20-min Full Body Workout At Home to get a snatched body.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. 5 Lunge Variations for Leaner Legs (2018, acefitness.org)
  2. Between-Leg Mechanical Differences as Measured by the Bulgarian Split-Squat: Exploring Asymmetries and Relationships with Sprint Acceleration (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. How to Do a Bulgarian Split Squat (2019, verywellfit.com)
  4. How to Do Dumbbell Lunges (2019, verywellfit.com)
  5. How to Step Up Your Workout with Walking Lunges (2019, healthline.com)
  6. Reverse Lunges with Dumbbells (2010, topendsports.com)
  7. Split Squat vs Lunge vs Step Up — What Are the Differences? (2019,barbend.com)
  8. Squats vs Lunges: Which exercise is better for weight loss and toning your legs (2019, timesofindia.indiatimes.com)
  9. The Benefits of Lunges (2019, livestrong.com)
  10. Which Are Better: Squats or Lunges? (2020, livestrong.com)
  11. Why Bulgarian Split Squats Are Better for Your Butt Than Lunges (2019, livestrong.com)
Laura VanTreese

Laura VanTreese

Hi! My name is Laura VanTreese. I am a professional nutritionist as well as personal trainer who has over 8 years of experience in the health and wellness world. I have worked in a variety of different settings as well as with a vast array of clientele. I worked primarily as a nutritionist in a public health setting working mainly with pregnant and postpartum women helping them to maintain a healthy lifestyle while juggling the new demands of motherhood. I've also worked for several years as a personal trainer and have helped numerous clients create a sustainable healthy lifestyle through manageable healthy eating habits and regular exercise routines. My main goal in life is to help others achieve their health and wellness goals and I'm so happy to have this platform to be able to do just that! :)

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