Lunges help women get great-looking legs, building both strength and size. Some women find using their own body weight provides enough resistance when performing lunges. If you’re going to kick it up a notch and put a weighted barbell on your shoulders, the amount of weight on the bar depends on your fitness goals.
Lunges target the major muscles in your legs, including your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. You develop strength when you do the lunges with a relatively heavier weight for a relatively low amount of repetitions. Beginners can see strength developments when performing one set of 12 repetitions, notes Mayo Clinic. However, more advanced lifters and athletes who strength train regularly need to perform multiple sets of lunges, with each consisting of six or fewer repetitions, according to Dr. Helen M. Binkley of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. No matter your training level, your legs should be fatigued at the end of each set. Use a weighted barbell that is adequate to bringing about fatigue once you complete the assigned repetitions on each leg. If the weight’s not heavy enough, you won’t be putting your legs under adequate stress for stimulating strength gains.
If you’re using lunges to build up the size of your leg muscles, use a lighter weighted barbell and perform more repetitions. A workout that’s designed to build size is one where you lunge for three to six sets of about 12 repetitions, notes Binkley. At the end of 12 repetitions on each leg, your muscles should be struggling; if they aren't, load up your barbell with more weight next time you work out. The weighted barbell you put on the back of your shoulders should allow you to do about 12 lunges. If you can do so easily, you're getting stronger, so add more weight to increase the challenge to your legs.
When getting yourself set up for barbell lunges, use a squat rack to put the barbell on the back of your shoulders. Set the bar on the rack at a height just below the line of your shoulders and then add any weighted plates you’ll be using. Step underneath the barbell and set the back of your shoulders underneath the bar -- don't rest the barbell on your neck. Stand fully erect to pick the bar up off the rack. Don’t try to put the barbell on the back of your shoulders by swinging it over your head with your hands. This puts an enormous amount of stress on your shoulder muscles and can lead to injury.
Knowing the right weight for barbell lunges goes beyond muscular strength and size developments. As women get older, natural hormonal changes cause your bones to lose density and become brittle. Common problem areas include the spine and hips. When you load the spine up with a weighted barbell for your lunges, you stimulate bone growth. The stress of the bar on your spine also signals your body to strengthen your bones so that they can better handle the weight.
- ExRx.net: Barbell Lunge
- Bodybuilding.com: Barbell Lunge
- FitDay.com: How to Do Barbell Squats
- National Strength and Conditioning Association Performance Journal: Strength, Size, or Power?
- Natural News: Bone Density Sharply Enhanced by Weight Training, Even in the Elderly
- Mayo Clinic: Strength Training Sets: How Many for Best Results?
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.