Friday, November 22, 2013

Fitness Friday - Squats vs. Lunges

Lunges were our topic of choice for last Fitness Friday, I started thinking more about this subject after writing that post up and it lead me to wondering if lunges are better than squats or vice versa.  They both work similar muscle areas and I have found that lunges are much harder for me to do.  Is it a better use of my time to work to better my lunges or is it more useful for me to continue my squat routine?  I set out to find the answer to my question and decide how to best use my time during leg day, I have limited time until the end of finals and need to maximize every moment that I have at the gym.

I found a great article from Pop Sugar Fitness that addressed this topic and gave me a much better idea of how I should be using my time at the gym.  The article agrees with me that squats seem to be much easier for beginners and lunges are a more advanced exercise.

We will start with Pop Sugar Fitness' thoughts on squats.  "If you're just starting to get your backside into shape, then consider squats your go-to exercise. Because they are a functional movement, squats are a good introduction to the weight room; it's easy to add weight or resistance to the exercise, which quickly helps to increase strength. Since the weight is distributed onto your heels when doing squats, the exercise requires less balance than lunges. Instead, doing a squat is much like sitting down in a chair, making them a great exercise for working the glutes and hamstrings. Turn squats into a quick cardio workout by adding jumps, or challenge your core with the addition of a BOSU ball. Whatever you decide, expect to build a firm backside in no time!"

I do add weights to my squats but I have never tried adding jumps or any type of BOSU ball.  I have squats pretty well mastered but I was excited to see ways to make them harder and to burn more calories working through them

Lunges work many of the same muscles but in a very different way.  "Rather than the up and down motion of a squat, lunges require a step forward or backward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Because lunges involve the transfer of weight to one leg, they are a test of balance, especially when using weights, meaning your core gets a workout too! And depending on the variation, lunges can also allow for an increased focus on the glutes or inner thighs; do side lunges to work your hips or reverse lunges to counter the forward movements of everyday life. Bonus: lunges offer something that most exercises don't — a good stretch! Depending on your depth and range of motion, lunges help to increase flexibility in your hips"

Pop Sugar is very correct when they state that lunges require much more balance than squats do, I tend to lose my balance at least once or twice during a set of lunges.  I also can feel the core work that this exercise does and I love that they work two muscle groups at once, I can get double the bang for my buck once I get better at these exercises.

Reading over this article, I feel that my best bet for gym will be to spend some time working more cardio into my squats and then deciding how it balances out with reducing my time spent on the treadmill.  I need to continue to improve on my lunges and keeping my balance while doing them so that I can do a bit of extra core work on leg day.  I'm not surprised that this article didn't give a clear answer as to which exercise is better and I agree that doing both of them will be more beneficial than trying to only do one.  It will be easier for me to work the cardio into my squat routine now and then I will need to take more time at the gym after finals in order to put the time into perfecting my lunge formation.

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