Front squats are a popular squat variation that many gym-goers like to include in their lower body workouts.
Another lower body exercise that tends to get overlooked by many people is lunges.
In this article, we compare front squats and lunges to see if one is better than the other in terms of the muscles worked, difficulty, and variability offered by each one.
We also discuss some basic safety considerations for these exercises.
By the end of it, you should be in a good position to decide whether front squats or lunges are the better exercise for you and your fitness goals.
What’s The Difference Between Front Squats And Lunges?
Although front squats and lunges are both lower body exercises, the movements involved in each one are actually quite different.
Front squats involve a standard squat movement.
This is effectively an up and down motion.
Lunges require a forward and backward motion instead of the standard squat technique.
Lunges are also an exercise that works one leg at a time.
Front squats work both legs simultaneously.
This can have quite a big impact on the stability of your body during each exercise.
As lunges don’t work both legs at the same time, you’ll probably be in a more unstable position so you’ll need to work harder to keep yourself balanced throughout.
Which Exercise Is Best For Quads?
Both front squats and lunges will work your quads.
However, you will probably get more benefit by performing front squats if you’re trying to build strong muscular thighs.
This is because front squats are a quad-dominant exercise.
The weight being lifted is loaded on the front of your body making it quite challenging for your quads throughout the movement.
While lunges certainly provide a challenge for your quads, other muscles come into play a bit more and offer assistance to your quads during the exercise.
As your quads will be more of a focus during front squats, they’re likely to be a bit better for quad development than lunges.
Which Exercise Is Best For Hamstrings?
Lunges are a very good all-round leg-building exercise.
They bring pretty much all of your lower body muscles into the movement at certain points and they do a great job of activating your hamstrings.
As front squats are a very quad-dominant exercise, your hamstrings tend to be worked as a secondary muscle.
During lunges though, your hamstrings play a bigger role.
Lunges will be a good choice if you want to focus on other muscles in your legs equally as much as your quads.
Which Exercise Is Best For Glutes?
All squat variations bring your glutes into play to some extent.
That’s why your glutes will be worked a good amount during front squats.
However, as front squats are a front loaded exercise, the muscles on the front of your body will be worked more than those on the backside of your body.
Lunges activate your glutes to a higher degree than front squats so could be considered better for glute development.
As you only need a barbell to perform front squats, they’re a very accessible exercise.
A squat rack certainly helps but this isn’t necessarily needed for lighter weights.
Lunges require minimal equipment so have good levels of accessibility.
Some kind of weight and a bit of floor space is all that’s needed for this exercise.
Front squats and lunges are both very accessible exercises.
As lunges require minimal equipment, they have slightly better accessibility.
That being said, front squats only need very basic gym equipment so you should have no issues performing them in any gym environment.
Front squats aren’t a particularly difficult exercise in terms of the movements involved.
Probably the most challenging thing about them is that they require you to hold the weight on the front of your body.
This can be quite tough as it can affect your balance and stability.
The elbow and wrist position needed to hold the bar isn’t always that comfortable either which can add to the level of difficulty.
As lunges are performed one leg at a time, you need good levels of balance to perform them effectively.
Your core muscles will play a big role in keeping your body stable throughout the movement.
If you struggle with your balance, lunges can be a very challenging exercise to get right.
Lunges have a slightly higher difficulty level than front squats as you need to keep yourself stable throughout.
However, the position of the weight in front squats brings them much closer together in terms of the difficulty of both exercises.
Front squats aren’t a particularly adaptable exercise.
Apart from changing your grip on the bar or using dumbbells instead of a barbell, there aren’t really too many ways to move away from the original movement.
It’s worth keeping in mind though, that if you decide to use dumbbells for front squats, you could actually be limiting the amount you can lift during the exercise.
This is because you’ll need to be able to lift the dumbbells from the ground to your shoulders where they’ll be positioned for front squats.
With a barbell, you have the option of using a squat rack which can help get the weight into position more easily.
Lunges are a very adaptable exercise.
You can perform static lunges where you step forward on the first rep and then stay in that position for the remainder of the set.
On the other hand, there’s alternate leg lunges where you step forwards and back with alternate legs each rep.
You can also do lunges with dumbbells, a barbell, kettlebells, weight plates, or any other weighted piece of gym equipment.
Lunges offer greater variability than front squats.
As you can change the equipment used and the movement itself, lunges are a very adaptable exercise.
The main safety considerations for front squats and lunges are no different from the safety considerations of pretty much every exercise you can do.
You should always be sensible and realistic about the weight you are trying to lift in either exercise.
Lifting more than you can safely manage will likely result in an injury and potentially having to stop training in order to recover.
The technique of front squats and lunges is important to get right too.
Even making small errors in either technique can put excessive stress on the working muscles and joints which is something that should be avoided.
(Here’s a short vid showing how to do front squats correctly…)
Front Squats vs Lunges: Which Is Best?
If you want a quad-dominant exercise that works both legs simultaneously, then front squats could be a good choice.
If you prefer to work each leg individually and bring your hamstrings and glutes into play a little more, lunges might be the better of the two exercises for you.
Hope this helped!
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.