Strong legs and glutes are crucial for everyday life, sports, and physical fitness. The stronger your legs are, the better you'll be at everything from walking to sprinting. An intense leg workout will help maximize your leg strength and improve your overall athleticism. 

Unless you're new to the gym, chances are you've come across the split squat and the lunge. Although they may look similar, they actually work different muscles.  

Today I will break down the split squat vs. lunge by looking at the major differences in technique, muscles worked, and everything else you need to know to get those killer legs. 

Still unclear on the difference between a split squat and lunge? There are three main areas the exercises differ. 

Movement

The lunge is a dynamic movement, while the split squat is a static movement.  

With a lunge, you take a physical step forward, backward to the side. With a split squat, you start the exercise with both legs already in position. 

The lunge is excellent for strengthening both legs equally, while the split squat works the front leg more than the back. 

Intent Of Performance 

The lunge is an excellent exercise for working out the lower body. It's used by athletes of all ages and backgrounds, from beginners to advanced trainees.  

On the other hand, the split squat is a perfect exercise for teaching bodyweight unilateral movements to beginners [3]. 

Target Muscles Worked 

Lunges are a compound exercise that primarily targets the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. However, they also heavily involve the calves, abs, and lower back muscles. 

The split squat is an ideal exercise for building up your quadriceps and glutes [2]. It's also an excellent exercise for working on your balance and posture. 

woman doing lunges in the gym

What Is A Split Squat?

A split squat is a great exercise to help you build strength in your legs. Unlike a lunge, the split squat is a static movement that begins with one foot in front of the other instead of both feet in the same place. 

Benefits of Split Squats

Split squats also improve daily movement. By performing knee flexion exercises, your joints are going to be better primed to run, squat, and jump.

How To Correctly Perform A Split Squat

5 Best split squat variations To Try

Here are some popular split squat variations, perfect for adding to your favorite exercise routine.

1. Dumbbell Split Squat 

The split squat is a movement that helps to address muscular and movement asymmetries between the right and left leg.

If you're one of those people who notice that one of your legs has a tendency to swing more widely than the other during walking, running, and other exercises, then the split squat can help to address this issue. 

To perform the dumbbell split squat, start by holding a pair of dumbbells at arm's length down at your sides. In a split stance and while keeping your upper back straight, slowly lower yourself down into a squat until your back knee lightly touches the floor. 

Related Article - Do Squats Make Your Shorter?

2. Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat 

The Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat is the perfect exercise to target the glutes and the quads while also working on your balance and core.

The best part is that this exercise can be done at home or in the gym. This exercise is identical to the typical squat, except that the rear foot is elevated using a bench or chair. 

3. Split Squat Jumps

Split Squat Jumps are a great way to build lower body strength and explosive power.  Start in a split stance with your right leg forward and your left leg back.

Bend your knees and lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Then explode into a jump as high as you can, landing on your feet in an opposite lunge. 

4. Barbell Split Squat

The barbell split squat is a great exercise to include in your routine as it builds balance, mobility, and strength in the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Instead of holding dumbbells, this exercise is performed with a barbell on your back. 

The barbell split squat is one of the best exercises for increasing unilateral hypertrophy and strength. This is because the split squat requires a single limb to support the weight of the barbell throughout the entire range of motion. 

5. Goblet Split Squat

In the goblet squat, you hold a dumbbell vertically in front of your chest with both hands. Then, you slowly lower your body until your knees are bent at right angles, and then you slowly rise back up to the starting position. 

The goblet split squat is a great way to learn how to use the posterior chain in human movement and sport. The posterior chain refers to the muscles on the backside of the body, including the glutes, hamstrings, erector spinae, and calves. 

woman doing lunges outdoors

What Is A Lunge?

Lunges are one of the most basic exercises in any fitness routine. They work your quads, your hamstrings, your glutes, your calves, and your core, and they are really great for building strength in your lower body. 

Benefits of a lunge

The lunge is an incredible effective exercise to strengthen and grow all muscles in your legs. Studies have found that lunges are great for building strength in muscles such as hamstrings and calves [1].

By training one leg at a time in a dynamic movement, the lunge will mobilize joints, enhance balance and coordination and stimulate muscle growth. 

Lunges have a higher demand on joint stability and control than a split squat. Good hip, ankle and knee control is required to lunge well, which increases neurological and muscular demands of the lower body.

One of the benefits of doing lunges is that they address balance weaknesses and they are also perfect for targeting weak glutes.

Strong glutes are essential in reducing injury to the knees and lower back, so by incorporating lunges into your fitness routine, you are protecting vital areas of your body from injury.

How To Correctly Perform A Lunge

4 Best Lunge variations To Try

There are plenty of variations to try to keep lunging interesting, to target different muscles or to increase the difficulty. 

1. Walking Lunge 

Walking lunges are a great exercise to get your heart rate up and engage your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. To do a walking lunge, take a giant step forward with your right leg, then bend both knees to lower your body towards the floor until your left knee is at a 90-degree angle. 

Repeat in a straight line. 

2. Reverse Lunge 

To do the reverse lunge, stand with your feet together and hold an (optional) pair of dumbbells at your sides.

Take a large step backward with one leg and lower your body until your back knee nearly touches the ground, keeping your front knee bent and your torso upright. Reverse the movement to return to the starting position. 

3. Lunge With A Torso Twist

A lunge with a torso twist is a great exercise to strengthen your core and glutes. It's also great for balance and hip flexibility. 

Perform a regular lunge with your right leg forward. As you lunge down, twist your torso to the right, placing your right hand on the floor. At the same time, extend your left arm upward as if you're trying to touch the ceiling. 

4. Side Or Lateral Lunge

Side lunges are a great way to work your obliques and hip flexors, so they're a great addition to your exercise routine.  

Stand with your feet together and lunge to the left, bending your left knee until your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your left knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. Return to standing, and then lunge to the right. 

man doing lunges

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Do split squats and lunges work the same muscles?

Split squats and lunges are two different exercises that target different muscles. Lunges target the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings, while split squats target the quads and glutes. Although they target different muscles, both of these exercises will work your glutes.

What happens if you do lunges every day? 

It's important to have variety in your workout routine. You don't want to do the same workout every day, as this can get incredibly boring very quickly. You can do lunges or squats every day if you choose, but you should also throw in some other kinds of leg exercises to mix it up. 

Do lunges make your thighs bigger? 

When you add lunges to your workout, it can help you get a better butt, but it won't make your thighs bigger. Your thigh size is primarily determined by your genetics, and it can be challenging to change your thigh size through exercise alone. 

Do bulgarian split squats build muscle? 

Bulgarian split squats are a great exercise for building glutes and quads. They're a challenging exercise that requires strength, balance, and flexibility. If you can nail the form, they're a great exercise to add to your routine.

Conclusion

So, are split squats better than lunges? Like any exercise, it depends on your goals. Split squats are a fantastic exercise to strengthen the muscles in your hips and quads. Lunges, on the other hand, are great for building strength in your lower body.

The good news is there is more than enough room in your routine for both exercises, so you don't have to choose between them.

References:

1.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19387378/

2.https://medium.com/performance-course/the-importance-of-unilateral-training-3a9525e82d1a

3.https://www.healthline.com/health/best-quad-exercises

Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website