Both front squats and static lunges, otherwise known as split squats, are effective exercises to strengthen your lower body. While they are executed differently, they primarily focus on the same major muscles, especially the quadriceps in the front of the thighs, and the glutes, with some differences in the assisting or stabilizing muscles that they also target.
Both front squats and static lunges focus primarily on the quadriceps muscles. They also both use the gluteus maximus, the adductor magnus on the inside of your thighs and the soleus in your calves as synergist or assisting muscles, and the hamstrings in the back of your thighs and the gastrocnemius in your upper calves as dynamic stabilizers. The two exercises differ, however, in the stabilizers they use. Static lunges use the erector spinae in your back, as well as the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The front squat, meanwhile also uses upper-body muscles, including your trapezius in your upper back and your deltoids or shoulder muscles, depending on which type of weight you are using. Stabilizers are strengthened to a much smaller degree than the primary and synergist muscles.
Front Squats – Execution
Front squats can be performed with the use of dumbbells or barbells. To perform with dumbbells, hold weights so that they are resting on your shoulders and your elbows flared outward. To use a barbell, position the weight on the front of your shoulders while it is still on a rack. Cross your arms and place your hands on the top of the bar with your arms parallel to the floor. Remove the bar from the rack. To execute the front squat, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees forward and push your hips back. Keep your back straight and descend until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Extend your knees and stand to get back to the starting position.
Static Lunges – Execution
To perform the basic static lunge, or split squat, stand in a split position with one foot forward and the other foot behind you. On the rear foot, only the toes should be touching the ground. Bend your knees to squat down, until your front thigh is parallel to the ground. Your rear knee should be almost touching the ground. Extend your front knee to stand and return to the starting position. Continue moving up and down without repositioning your feet. One you have performed your desired amount of repetitions, switch legs and repeat. You can increase the effectiveness of this exercise by holding a dumbbell in each hand or a barbell across your upper back as you perform the movement.
Other Leg Exercises
While both exercises are popular for leg and glute strengthening, more effective exercises can target some of those muscles. A study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise concluded that quadruped hip extensions are superior to squats and lunges for activating the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and hamstring muscles. Other exercises that are performed on a similar level for glute and hamstring activation included step-ups and four-way hip extensions.
Andrea Chrysanthou began writing professionally in 1993. Her work has been published internationally by "The Cyprus Mail," MochaSofa and My Favorite Trainer, among other magazines and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts in journalism from Ryerson University. Chrysanthou is a certified fitness instructor and personal-training specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the fitness industry.