Lunges vs Squats: Which Is Best for Strength?

Squats may be king, but lunges and other unilateral exercises can do wonders for muscular development, injury prevention, and yes, maximal strength and performance. In this article we will discuss why lunges and back squats should be a part of your training program regardless of sport and fitness goals.

The Lunge

In my previous article I discussed the dumbbell lunge (however in this piece let’s include all forms of lunges) and the various styles (reverse, forward, walking, etc) we can implement to elicit increases in strength, muscle growth, and movement patterning specific to sport. 

The Squat (Back-Loaded)

The squat (in this case let’s refer to the back squat) is a foundational movement pattern necessary for all strength and power athletes, in addition to fitness competitors and general movement-goers. The squat has been discussed in depth in our Ultimate Squat Guide, which could be very helpful in reiterating the immense benefit that squats play for overall physical development of the human body.

Which is Best for Strength Development?

While maximal strength is a function of long-term training, sufficient muscle mass, and neural recruitment (all of which must be developed in hypertrophy phases as beginners and throughout advanced stages), I will have to say that the squat reigns  supreme in this department. Lunges, while they can promote increases in muscle mass which can then by cultivated into great strength, are faulted by loading limits on the lunge (due to the unilateral nature of the movement).

Which is Best for Muscular Hypertrophy?

If there ever was a time to do lunges, hypertrophy phases would be them! Increased training volume and muscular damage can result in serious muscular hypertrophy. Squats and other lower body movements also play a large role in overall development, however lunges can and should be done to increase unilateral hypertrophy, muscular activation, and overall readiness before going into heavy loaded training. That said, squats are still one of the most influential movements you can do to develop hypertrophy due to the amount of loading and volume which can be implemented.

Which Is Best for Strength and Power Athletes?

While lunges are a great way to add stability and control to the knee and hip joint, strength and power athletes must perform squats to develop fully but also increase movement and very sport specific skills. Additionally, powerlifting and weightlifting have very defined movement stewards entailing a lifter/athlete o master the movement.

Which is Best for General Fitness and Athletics?

In my previous article about dumbbell lunges I discussed how lunges (of all kinds) are huge for increasing injury resilience at the knees, hips, and body. Squats are also highly beneficial for such goals, with the best approach being a mixture between the two. By implementing both movements you can increase strength, muscular hypertrophy, and injury resilience.

Final Words

Both movements have been repeatedly discussed in my articles, with my stance being that coaches and athletes need to maximize overall muscular development and injury prevention by increasing unilateral abilities while simultaneously loading the body with substantial amounts of load to elicit in skeletal, muscle, and neurological adaptations. Without proper programming of both valuable lower body movements, nearly every athlete may be missing out on optimal performance and injury prevention.

Featured Image: J2FIT Weightlifting


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Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.