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What Is the Difference Between Lunges and Squats?

A woman doing a lunge.
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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
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There are some noteworthy differences between lunges and squats, and whichever one a person chooses typically involves personal preference and any physical limitations a person may have. Lunges can be difficult for someone who has inner ear issues or trouble balancing, though a wall or chair can be used to make the exercise easier. Squats have become somewhat controversial in certain circles, and some argue that squats can place strain on a person’s back and potentially cause injury, though this often pertains to squats with weights or using a Smith machine. As forms of exercise, however, lunges and squats typically work out the same muscles and areas on a person’s lower body, though specific variants and forms of each exercise can target different areas.

Lunges and squats do have some differences, but in many ways they both achieve similar effects. Effective lunges, when properly done, target the upper thighs, hips, and gluteus muscles of a person and typically do not cause much strain. Someone just starting an exercise routine may find lunges somewhat difficult, and anyone with bad knees may injure himself or herself while doing lunges. A chair or wall can be held onto while doing lunges to help with balance, but the nature of the exercise can still be hard on a person’s knees.

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Squats can be somewhat easier for a beginner, especially if using a chair to make learning to do effective squats easier. One of the big differences between lunges and squats is that a chair can be used for a person just learning to do squats, allowing him or her to actually sit all the way down, and then stand back up. This gives someone with weak knees or excess weight a bit of an easier time when first learning, and he or she may then begin to squat just above the chair, before finally removing the chair completely once prepared to do the squats without support.

Lunges and squats are fairly similar in some ways, specifically in that they can both be altered to target some specific areas on the lower body, but these areas are often different. Someone can do sideways lunges, usually with a sliding disk or similar device, to target the inner thighs. Squats using a barbell can also be done to add further intensity to a squat workout. The barbell can be held behind the shoulders to increase the work from the gluteus muscles, or it can be held in front of a person’s chest to work out his or her quadriceps. Lunges and squats can both be used to exercise a person’s lower body, but the different forms of each exercise can be used to target different specific muscle groups.

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