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Squats vs lunges: The flexibility challenge
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Squats vs lunges: The flexibility challenge

Squats and lunges target the same set of muscles but differ from each other in many aspects, including loading capacity and muscle flexibility
Both lunges and squats are intense compound bodyweight exercises
One should master bodyweight squats before moving on to lunges. (Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K/Happiest Health)

From playing sports to performing daily chores, leg strength is crucial. And when it comes to building strong legs, nothing beats the tried-and-tested squats and lunges. What’s more, they contribute to the overall conditioning of the body. As they target the same muscle groups, some might employ one as a substitute for the other. However, these differ from each other in several aspects, including their difficulty level and the prerequisite level of muscle flexibility for doing the exercises. 

“Both lunges and squats are intense compound bodyweight exercises, but we can’t say that they are the same”, says Mohammad Wasique Ansari, fitness coach and founder of sahilfitness.com, Gurugram, Uttar Pradesh.The conventional squats and lunges target the same groups of muscles. However, certain muscles can be isolated and targeted with specific variations of squats. Further, the stability factor and difficulty levels of these exercises and their variations can differ, with lunges being more difficult to perform.”

Which muscles are targeted by squats and lunges?

Common muscles targeted by lunges and squats include the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calf muscles, hip flexors and extensors. 

Walking lunges, a common variation of conventional lunges, can help in improving the range of motion by increasing the flexibility of the muscles. Moreover, variations of squats that aid in isolating certain muscles include sumo squats, which target the quadriceps and glutes and goblet squats, involving additional engagement of the core, shoulder and back muscles. Jump squats, which are part of HIIT workouts, increase the heart rate. This strengthens the cardiovascular system.

Squats vs lunges: Range of motion and flexibility

According to Ansari, the range of motion in squats and lunges is almost the same. However, a sedentary lifestyle can cause flexibility issues such as tightness in the hamstrings and hip joints. He explains that these decrease one’s range of motion, which increases the chances of injury while doing lunges. “Such people should always start with squats. However, when even this is difficult, they can start by sitting in and standing up from a chair before slowly progressing to bodyweight squats.”

Comparison of stability in lunges and squats

“Lunges need more static stability — where the feet remain at one position — as compared to squats. Only after one masters squats can they practice lunges,” shares Ansari.

“Both the legs and hip joints remain stable in squats, so one can lift more weight. On the other hand, while doing lunges, one leg bears the bulk of the weight. However, lunges help in improving static stability and provide greater core activation when compared to squats,” explains Ansari.

Experts share that the key to reap maximum benefits from these exercises is to ensure correct form. One of the common mistakes people make is bending the upper body forward, which leads to an arched back while the core is not properly balanced. This can lead to injuries and lessen the effectiveness of the exercises.

Benefits of lunges for powerlifters

For those into powerlifting or weightlifting, the main goal is to build strength. While the focus remains on improving their weight-loading capacity for squats, lunges are a part of their overall training routine.

“If the smaller muscles are weak, it affects your overall performance,” reminds Ansari. “Lunges form a part of the overall training routine for powerlifters, along with leg curls and leg extensions. They help in building the stabilizer muscles and focus on the muscles not targeted by squats.”

Takeaways

  • Lunges and squats target the same muscles. However, the former needs more static stability and muscle flexibility. 
  • Both the legs and hip joints remain stable in squats, so one can lift more weight.
  • Before attempting lunges, one should master bodyweight squats.
  • Lunges help in improving static stability and provide greater core activation.

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