Split squats and lunges are great forms of exercises to strengthen your legs as well as your glutes. Both of these lower body movements can be incorporated into your daily workout regime to strengthen your lower body and improve endurance. Because of its similarity in posture, it is very easy to get confused between the two. However, technically there’s more to what adds to the difference between the two lower body exercises.
Differences between Split Squats and Lunges
The main difference between the split squat and lunge is the movement during the exercises. While both movement pretty much engages the same muscle groups, the split squat is performed stationary while lunges are more of a dynamic exercise.
Because of the position of the legs, the technique seems very similar. However, there’s a fundamental difference between the two.
In a split squat, your back leg is planted firmly to the floor. It stays in a fixed position so all the emphasis is on the front leg that’s leading the movement. Here, the front leg is the main driver in executing the movement, while the back leg acts as an anchor to ensure stability.
In the case of a lunge, its more of a dynamic movement and the rear leg is involved as well. When you perform a lunge, you either move forward or backward which requires the active involvement of the rear leg.
Due to the movement of the legs in a specific direction, lunges are technically considered a more active form of lower-body exercise than the split squat.
Although both exercises work similar muscle groups, the way the muscles are affected is the main difference between the two.
In a split squat the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, and core muscles are activated during the movement. The quadriceps is worked on because of the knee extension of the front leg. The greater the distance is between the front foot and the rear foot, the more pressure is created on the quadriceps.
The hamstrings provide stability to the legs during a split squat thereby, strengthening themselves in the process. The pelvis and hips are involved in split squats as well which are stabilised with the help of the gluteal muscles. Also, an upright posture has to be maintained in a split squat position which automatically demands the core muscles being activated.
While performing lunges, all the leg muscles are activated including the quads in the front, the gluteal muscles and hamstrings at the back, and also the calf muscles. However, the effect on these muscles depends on what type of lunge you’re performing. For instance, a sideways lunge leads to the muscles of the inner and outer thighs to be worked on the most. While in the cases of forward or backward lunges, the gluteal muscles have a higher degree of activation.
It is also important to warm up before performing any type of exercise to get your blood flowing and prevent injuries.
Benefits of Split Squats
Hypertrophy refers to building muscles which is one of the most prominent effects that can be obtained through the correct performance of split squats. This, in turn, increases caloric expenditure, improves strength ability, and promotes better physical performance.
Split squats help the hip flexor muscles to stretch out which not only increases flexibility on the hips but also prevents multiple muscle strains that may lead to back problems or weak posture.
Helps Muscle Asymmetry
Unilateral exercises such as split squats help to distributing equal amount of strength to both the legs thereby, minimizing imbalances.
Benefits of Lunges
Improves Core Stability
While performing lunges, you have to move your hips up and down which engage the abdominal muscles. This helps to build a stronger core while improving your posture at the same time.
Boosts Spinal Health
The parts of the body that are the most active during performing lunges are the hips and pelvis. To exert maximum concentration on the muscles of those parts, the load from the spine is automatically taken off. As the body becomes more upright, it leads to an aligned spine.
Promotes Better Balance
Unilateral movements like lunges help to bring attention to weaker parts of the body especially if you need to improve the balance between your right and left leg. Moreover, limb coordination can be improved significantly through lunges.
Variations on Split Squats and Lunges
Challenging variations can be added to the basic splits squats or lunges by incorporating weights and resistance. Continuous exercise of these will not only build up stronger quadriceps but also improve the core strength of the body significantly.
Adding Cable Resistance
Adding resistance using a cable machine is an effective way to make the split squats or lunges more challenging. During a split squat, place the weight stack in front of you and hold the handle with the hand opposite to the foot that is placed in the front. When you go down during the squat, keep your arm extended, and fight the resistance when you rise up. As the cable will pull you forward, you must use your strength to withstand it while keeping your torso upright.
In case of a lunge, hold the handle of the cable while placing the weight stack in front of you. Take a few steps away from the weight stack. Then, lunge forward and go back to your first position. This will strengthen your calf muscles significantly.
There are multiple ways you can add weight to these exercises. You can hold a weight plate above your head with your hands stretched out, while making sure that you have a firm grip to prevent it from dropping on your head. Besides, you can use dumbbells to add variation as well – hold dumbbells weighing 5 pounds each by your sides, or hold a kettlebell across your chest with both your hands.
Each of these exercises is tailored towards a specific fitness need. If your goal is to improve overall leg strength, as well as improve balance, you should focus on lunges. Whereas split squats are catered toward fitness routines that solely concentrate on quadriceps. However, if you want to improve the overall lower body strength and performance, include both split squats and lunges in your workout routine.