Lunges or Squats: Let Your Legs Decide!
By Gary Picariello
It's hard to argue with the benefits of squats. Squats hit virtually every part of the upper leg while also working your core muscles. It's not just the weight, it's you being forced to maintain a straight back and tight abs and also balance (so you don't drop the weight balancing on your shoulders).
Lunges are like the squat's younger cousin. The weight displacement can be different (via dumbbells or barbells), plus you have the added challenge of moving. And that is where the benefits of lunges tend to leave squats far behind.
All About the Balance
Whatever sport you're in, lunging (also called unilateral lunging) forces you to up your game in terms of balance. It's hard to argue with an article on Livestrong.com which points out that “Lunges do a wonderful job of addressing weaknesses in balance and coordination, as well as demanding dormant muscle groups to develop.” Think about it: you're lunging forward and alternating legs;handling the weight, you're focused on form and your glutes are bearing much of the brunt.
The glutes, comments King of the Gym.com, “are a powerful muscle group that can be targeted (especially in wide stance lunges), which can lead to enhancements in your takeoff or power output, while minimizing lower back pain, running economy, and speed. The end result is a significant improvement in what is referred to as muscle firing and activation rates, which will improve your performance no matter what you participate in.
Everybody do the Locomotion
The medical community refers to locomotion patterns as movements such as walking, running, jumping, hopping, marching and even skipping. Locomotion patterns rely heavily on balance and coordination so why wouldn't you want to do an exercise that, according to King of the Gym, is going to create greater single leg performance (running, sprinting, jumping, formal sports, etc) in addition to greater bilateral output (jumping, squatting, etc).
Stronger and Farther
And furthermore, as you become more lunge-efficient you will gain a better sense of balance and also your leg strength with improve. Did I miss anything? The lunge technique also forces you to stretch your hip-flexor muscles which, because we spend so much time sitting, are chronically tight for many individuals.
I don't want you to stop doing squats. But I would encourage you to give lunges a few weeks of your time.
To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Spartanburg, S.C.