Lunges are one of the primary exercises that I try and include in any leg routine. But a lot of guys shy away from them. There seems to be a disposition that lunges are a ‘girls’ exercise because you see so many women using them. It is true; women do a lot of lunges. But that is because they are a great exercise and many women shy away from squats.
While it is generally agreed that lunges are great for helping shape the legs, especially the glutes, many people are confused as to whether or not you can gain mass with lunges. Let’s look into it.
Mechanics of Lunges
Lunges can be performed in a wide variety of ways. You have step forward or step back options and you can step on a box as well as to the side. For the most part this exercise targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and butt. The hip flexors, lower back, abdominals, and calves receive a nice secondary workout. From a straight muscle comparison of parts worked, lunges are just behind squats as a compound exercise for the lower body.
The Idea of Mass
Muscle mass has always been equated with strength. The idea is that to build mass you lift very heavy weight for low reps to build the density muscle fibers. While that is true, there is more than one type of fiber that can be worked. Also muscles can become accustomed to training in a certain manner over time and it becomes difficult to keep gaining mass in the same way.
Lunges are an exercise that requires more control and good form as well as balance. You often can’t use as much weight in the position you are in compared to what people like to shove on a leg press machine, but that doesn’t mean the muscles are working just as hard if not harder. In the case of people overloading a leg press they usually get less of a workout to the actual target muscles and build less mass because then begin using a lesser range of motion and aren’t shocking the muscle anymore.
Most people use lunges as a higher repetition exercise. It is great from an endurance standpoint and numerous athletes use this exercise to help gain valuable strength and endurance. But this can also help with mass gaining. As you work your muscles with endurance training it will positively affect your other strength training for legs. That is why so many people recommend doing high-rep squats as well as low rep.
The Bottom Line
You can gain mass with lunges. The exercise can never replace the squat because you cannot lift the same amount of weight. The squat will be the king because it can help spike size gains in the entire body. But, you can lift heavy weight in lunges and do lower repetition work in the 6 to 8 range as for strength and density as well as shifting to higher repetition work for endurance. Lunges are still a compound exercise and as such have a propensity to work the body of the muscle bellies and utilize more weight than in isolation exercises.
While some people may still view them as a ‘girl’ exercise, you can gain mass with lunges.