Lunges vs Squats – Which Should You Do?

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Lunges vs Squats

Lunges and squats are probably the most popular lower body workouts out there, and both offer amazing benefits to your leg muscles.  But between lunges vs squats, which exercise is better for you overall?  If you had to only do one, which one should it be?  I’m going explain the similarities and differences between the two moves in this post.


Lunges vs Squats – What Are They?


Lunges are a single-leg exercise, in which one foot is placed in front of you, you bend your legs, and then you push up.  Although both legs are working as you lower and raise your body, the front leg is doing the heaviest lifting.  Your back leg is mainly used to keep your balance, since you are in a position that can easily have you swaying back and forth. lunges vs squats

Lunges work out your entire lower body, one leg at a time: glutes, calves, hamstrings, quadriceps.  That said, it is important to remember to switch legs to make sure that you are giving yourself an even and balanced lunge workout.

Lunges are challenging because you are lifting up all your bodyweight almost entirely with your front leg.  It is easy to get winded from them.

How to Do a Proper Lunge

  1. Stand with your feet together and keep your arms at your sides, even if you’re holding dumbbells.  With a bar, you will hold it behind your head on your shoulders and upper back.
  2. Take a step forward with one leg and leave your foot in place there.
  3. If you don’t have weights, you can place your hands behind your head if you want, or on your hips.
  4. Lower your body by bending your front knee.  Your front shin should remain perpendicular to the floor and your knee should not go forward past your toes.
  5. All the while, keep your spine vertical and continue to face forward.
  6. Dig your front foot into the floor to push yourself back up.  You should feel your front leg muscles really working at this point.
  7. Repeat for as many reps as you can/want, and then switch legs and follow the same steps.

Lunge Variations

I love doing lunges, and this powerful exercise has two great variations to motivate you to keep doing them, such as:

  • Jump lunges
  • Walking lunges

There are other lunge variations, but those are the main two that I like doing.



Squats are undoubtedly one of the most popular exercises in existence.  Both legs are worked equally at the same time.  The motion is simple in that you just bend your knees and squat down, then lift yourself back up.  But that doesn’t mean they are easy, because they get your heart rate going very quickly and even after just a few reps the motion will start to feel harder and heavier.lunges vs squats

Squats hit your entire lower body: glutes, calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, etc.

How to Do a Proper Squat

  1. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward.
  2. If you aren’t using weights, I like to extend my arms out in front of my body.  With dumbbells, you can keep your arms at your sides.  A bar is supported by your upper back and shoulders.
  3. Bend your knees, and as you do so move your hips/rear end back.  Bend down enough so that your thighs are parallel with the floor.  Depending on joint health, some people may be able to go down farther.
  4. All the while, keep your posture straight – don’t bend your back.
  5. Dig your feet into the floor and push your body back up with your legs, feeling the resistance in your legs as you do so.

Squat Variations

Just like the lunge, there are two main squat variations that I do on a regular basis:


Lunges vs Squats: Similarities

The main similarities between lunges vs squats is obviously that they both work the same muscles, just in different ways.  If you are looking to bring your heart rate up, lose weight, build and tone muscle, and increase mobility, then you will be able to do so with either lunges OR squats.  If you want to sweat and put in a lot of work, both lunges and squats will help you do that.

Another important similarity is that both lunges and squats can be made easier with raised platforms.  Especially for those who want a good lower-body exercise but who experience joint pain, doing chair squats or placing your front leg on a raised platform for lunges will reduce the range of motion and be much gentler on your joints, particularly your knees.

The other similarity that I want to mention is that neither your lunges nor squats should plateau, because you can add more weight as you continue to improve with both.  I believe I’ve mentioned it before, but lower body workouts are the one exception I make with my calisthenic training – I DO use weights for them, adding more as I get stronger over time.  You can also increase reps if you don’t have the weights you need, but it won’t have the same muscle-building effects, and eventually you should probably just invest in the weights.  Think about continuously increasing reps over the course of years – your workouts will start to take way too long!


That said, I recommend implementing both lunges AND squats into your workouts.  My reasoning for this stems from the differences between the two…


Lunges vs Squats: Differences

  • Lunges are better for improving balance and mobility.  Athletes and runners may find lunges to be overall more beneficial than squats because of the greater need for good balance and coordination.
  • Squats are better for beginners.  Squats are extremely simple and don’t require the balancing act of lunges.
  • Squats allow for heavier weights.  For muscle growth and leg strength, both exercises are excellent.  But the fact that it is much easier to increase resistance with squats means that they win out overall in this department.
  • Lunges hit the calves harder.  The extra balancing forces both calves to work extra-hard during lunges.


Lunges vs Squats: Overall

There is no winner here.  I guess it’s a tie, then?  If you have to pick one, it looks like most people would go with the squats, but my suggestion is to include both of them in your workouts.  Both lunges and squats have their own unique benefits, so it just makes sense to do both.  If, based on their differences, you prefer one over the other, you should still allow for a little time to be dedicated to the one you don’t prefer.  And no matter what type of lower body workout you do, remember to stretch!

Between lunges vs squats, which do you prefer?  Let me know in the comments below!



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