The squat and the lunge. The two most popular lower-body exercises and first on our list when we're getting ready for Labor Day pool parties, cruises, or any other time when we want to look our best. This begs the question, which one is the best?
Advantages of the Squat
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The squat is a simple exercise. So simple in fact, that it's the first thing we did before we learned to walk. The squat is excellent for toning your glutes, hamstrings, and quads; if you're looking for a home workout without equipment, it's hard to beat bodyweight squats. Just because you're working your legs with squats, don't think that you're not working on your six pack. The core is actively engaged the entire time you are squatting.
Advantages of the Lunge
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We look to the lunge for so many answers. You want great-looking thighs? Lunge. You want a tight butt? Lunge. You want to pay less in taxes? Lunge...well, not exactly, but you know what I mean. Lunging allows each leg to work individually. So when your sweating and lunging away, each glute, hamstring, and quad is getting the individual attention it deserves. All those benefits that the squat provides for the core are here too. Your abs are tightening along with your legs to provide stability for the movement. You can do lunges with bodyweight as well so you can get a great workout from your own home.
Disadvantages of Both
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The American Council on Exercise (ACE) considers the barbell squat to be an advanced exercise. This means there will be a learning curve before you are able to use a barbell to get additional strength gains. Although the lunge is a great exercise for newbies, if the knee doesn't stay over the second toe of the foot, the pushing back motion of a forward lunge can aggravate existing knee issues.
And the winner is...both! The best exercise is the one that you enjoy. Allow yourself the flexibility to use either exercise as you see fit. Do yourself a favor and give both of these exercises a try. Your legs will thank you.
Carl Galloway is a strength-and-conditioning coach at a high school in Southern California. He is certified as an Olympic lifting coach through USA Weightlifting and as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Galloway holds a bachelor's degree in kinesiology and a master's degree in coaching and athletic administration.