In the battle of lunges vs squats, which exercise will reign supreme in effectively building leg muscles? Read on and find out!
In this article:
- What You Should Know About Lunges
- What You Should Know About Squats
- Lunges vs Squats: Which Is Best for Muscle Hypertrophy?
- How to Build Massive Legs with Squats and Lunges
Lunges vs Squats: Which Is the Ultimate Leg Builder?
What You Should Know About Lunges
What Muscles Do Lunges Work?
Forward lunges work the quads, hams, and glutes. Lunges can be performed several ways, each emphasizing a different set of leg muscles.
When a person performs a short, forward lunge, that person primarily works out the quads or thigh muscles. Increasing the length of the lunge’s forward stride shifts more of the weight from the quads to the gluteus maximus.
Side lunges, on the other hand, activate the leg’s adductor and abductor muscles.
The adductor muscles are also known as groin muscles and are found in the upper thighs. The abductor muscles, meanwhile, are muscles that move the leg away from the body and are also responsible for leg rotation at the hip joint.
Aside from all the muscles mentioned above, lunges activate the small pelvis stabilizing muscles of the gluteus minimus and gluteus medius muscles. It also activates the core muscles (abs and lower back) for stabilization.
Why Do Lunges?
Lunges help athletes build multi-directional skill and power. These can translate into significant performance improvements over time.
These are particularly important for sports that involve sudden changes in direction like basketball, tennis, soccer, and American football. The ability to stop on a dime and change directions is crucial for “ankle breakers” in basketball as well as returning deep serves and quickly going side to side on the court in tennis.
Lunges can also help build serious leg mass. Just look at eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman who used barbell lunges to build the biggest and freakiest wheels ever to walk the Olympia stage.
Yet, the limited amount of weight that can be lifted when performing lunges makes it a secondary mass-building leg exercise. This means the best way to incorporate lunges in one’s leg-building routine is to do them after the squats.
Who Should Do Lunges?
Those who want to significantly improve sports-related performance should consider incorporating different kinds of lunges in their training regimen. Lunges can help develop multi-directional power and speed.
People who are already adept at squatting can also benefit from lunges because it can help activate other leg muscles more.
What You Should Know About Squats
What Muscles Do Squats Work?
Squats are considered the “king” of all weightlifting exercises because it uses the biggest muscles in the body. It also works the most number of muscles, especially heavy squats.
Squats primarily work the quads (thighs), the glutes (butt), hams (hamstrings), adductor muscles, and calves. With heavy barbell squats, the core muscles (abs and lower back), shoulders, upper back, and chest muscles also contribute to balancing the weight on one’s shoulders.
By tweaking how squats are done, a person can engage a particular group of muscles over others. For example, squatting below parallel (thighs parallel to the ground) activates the glutes and hams more while squatting to parallel focuses more on the quads.
Why Do Squats?
Muscular hypertrophy or muscle growth is dependent on the amount of weight lifted regularly, so one must lift the heaviest weight possible to make muscles grow. A person can lift heavier weights with squats compared to lunges because of two reasons.
One reason is having both feet standing firmly on the ground provides balance to be able to lift heavier weights when needed. As opposed to lunges, it will be harder to stay balanced on one leg while lifting the weight at the same time.
Another reason for doing squats, especially heavy ones, is the increased production of human growth hormones or HGH. This particular hormone doesn’t just help make leg muscles grow but all other muscles in the body, as well.
The last reason is squats are friendlier to weightlifting newbies compared to lunges. It’s because it requires less muscle coordination and balance compared to the forward-stepping movement of lunges.
Who Should Do Squats?
Anybody who wants to build serious muscle and strength should do squats. In particular, beginners should learn this exercise because it helps develop the necessary foundational strength for more advanced lifting exercises.
Lunges vs Squats: Which Is Best for Muscle Hypertrophy?
When it comes to building bigger legs, the clear winner is squats. This is due to the amount of load and volume one can lift when performing squats.
And more than just subjecting the leg muscles to the heaviest weights possible, squats can also help optimize the body’s growth hormone levels. Muscles, including leg muscles, can grow optimally when adequate amounts of growth hormone are available.
That doesn’t mean one should stick to squats only to build leg muscles. For optimal leg development, the best strategy is to incorporate lunges together with squats in one’s leg-building routine.
Lunges are great in increasing unilateral hypertrophy as well as getting the muscles ready for some heavy lifting.
How to Build Massive Legs with Squats and Lunges
There are two ways to incorporate lunges for massive legs. One is to perform them in the middle or at the end of a leg workout.
If increasing leg mass is the goal, one should prioritize lifting the heaviest possible weights. It will be best to do squats and stiff-legged deadlifts first to work the quads and hams with optimal weights.
After doing squats and deadlifts, lunges can follow. Any isolation leg exercises, like leg extensions or curls, should be done last.
The other way to incorporate lunges is to alternate them with squats during leg days. If somebody trains legs twice a week, that person squats on the first leg day and do lunges on the second leg day.
That person can lunge with heavier weights or higher volume if on an alternating basis with squats. That person can also use different variations of lunges for more holistic leg development, too.
The most important thing to keep in mind is this: never work out legs on consecutive days. Why?
Optimal workouts require optimal rest and recovery. Muscles need at least 48 hours to completely recover from grueling workouts, which is what muscle-building workouts typically are.
Learn the key difference between lunges and split squats in this video from BarBend:
While squats are the king when it comes to building massive legs, incorporating lunges in one’s leg-building routine can help maximize gains. By activating other leg muscles that aren’t optimally activated through squats, lunges can help build bigger and fuller looking legs.
Which is your favorite leg exercise between lunges vs squats? Why? Let us know in the comments section below.