Last Update  On November 21, 2011
Lunges Vs. Squats

by Rusi
The fight between lunges and squats may not be as hot as the war between the leg press and the squat but still we have to finally settle it down.

In my opinion the squat beats the lunge in every aspect and I will try to make it as clear as possible in the following article.
Stage 1: Leg and Hip Hypertrophy

When it comes to hypertrophy the squat is a better exercise for two reasons - bigger range of motion, less balance requirements and more stress on the legs rather than your whole system.

Obviously a squat to
correct depth offers a larger range of motion than a shaky lunge. Unless you put something under the working leg during lunges you will be left with a very small range of motion - way above parallel. Small range of motion equals less muscle damage. As the great Mike Mentzer has said: "Exercise is about movement. The greater the movement, the greater the exercise."

At the same time the lunge requires a lot of balance. In this case we are trying to take our legs to fatigue state because we are looking for muscle growth. When you fail on a lunge your whole system goes down not your legs. In other words your primary movers end up with smaller stimulation than a squat. You may argue whether the activation of the mythical stabilizers is important but when we are trying to stimulate growth too much balance requirements may take away from our goal. This stays true to some point when we are doing squats as well but the lunge takes it to extreme. As Dorian Yates have said:

"Lunges are a silly exercise for leg mass."
Stage 2: Sports

The squat still kills it when it comes to sport preparation. The lunge may work the legs independently but it's too dangerous when done with a heavy weight. Here is a story from an interview with the weightlifting coach John Broz:

"KG: Is it true you are not fond of lunges?
JB: I consider the lunge the worst exercise ever invented.

KG: Why is that?
JB: Because itís not a natural movement. You never see a child lunge to pick something up - they squat. What happens with this movement is that you often end up using a weight that is too heavy and you end up twisting your knee and becoming injured, especially with women because of the angle of the knee joint. I told my old girlfriend never to do lunges, and one day she sneaked into the womenís only section of the gym and did them heavy as I just described. She ended up tearing a meniscus and was in a leg brace for seven months, and she had problems with that knee for the next five years. You can get the same or better benefits from doing a squat, and itís much, much safer."

Link to the whole interview.
At the same time the balance required by the lunge is not similar to any sport. If you are a circus acrobat walking on ropes you still don't need lunges because they are not specific to your skill. You can't count on an exercise to improve your balance abilities when it comes to so unique movements. 

Conclusion: Lunges are dangerous and the squat offers more benefits while keeping your knees safe from twisting and tearing a ligament. If you want mass do squats and/or leg presses, if you want to improve your sport performance (as much at it is possible to achieve that with assistance exercises) the squat is still better because the movement is more basic and "natural" and allows the knee joint to work over its full range of motion.
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