No Difference Between Squatting and Lunging When Building Athleticism

Mil APC-13


By Adam Scott and Rob Shaul


1. Purpose

Some coaches have taken a stance against traditional bilateral movements, saying that squat-based training is less safe and less transferable to athletic performance.

The purpose of this mini-study was to test the effects of both squat-based and lunge-based training on high school athletes. Is one type of training better at improving strength, power or agility?

2. Subjects

Ten voluntary members of a high school strength and conditioning program participated in the study (nine male and one female).  The subjects had a mean age of 16.5 years (+/-1.1), a mean height of 67.0 inches (+/- 2.5), a mean weight of 159.0 pounds (+/-42.1) and 2.7 years (+/- 1.3) of strength training experience.


3. Design

Subjects trained 3 times per week for 5.5 weeks.  Subjects were divided into two groups: Squat-based and Lunge-based.  The two groups completed nearly identical training programs.  The sole difference was the lower body movements.  The squat group trained back squat, front squat and box squats.  While the lunge group trained barbell lunges, barbell split squats and rear leg elevated split squats (RLESS) with dumbbells.  Due to the group sizes and the requirements of the after-school program, unfortunately, no control group was utilized.


4. Results & Discussion

Both groups had statistically significant gains in strength (1RM Squat and 1RM Lunge) and agility (Pro Agility and T-Agility).  One of the most peculiar findings in the study was that the lunge group actually improved more than the squat group on their 1RM squat (22.6% and 7.2%, respectively) and the squat group improved more than the lunge group on their 1RM lunge (22.1% and 13.6%, respectively).  Improvements in agility were fairly even between the lunge group and squat group (8.6 and to 5.8% in the Pro Agility, respectively; and 9.9% and 5.5% in the T-Agility, respectively).

GRAPH 1: Pre-Training and Post-Training Strength Measures

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 1.08.10 PM
GRAPH 2: Pre-Training and Post-Training Agility
(Note: Decreases in time mean better performance)
Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 11.54.56 AM


Based on our three measures of lower body power (vertical jump, left-leg vertical hop and right-leg vertical hop) neither type of training produced statistically significant improvements.  The lunge group did improve slightly more than the squat groups, but none of these differences met the threshold for statistical significance.


GRAPH 3: Pre-Training and Post-Training Lower Body Power
Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 11.55.49 AM



5. Conclusion and Recommendations

When it comes to building strength and agility there does not appear to be a significant difference between squatting and lunging.  Furthermore, it seems that neither type of training alone is sufficient to build lower-body jumping power. 

It should be noted that in our study the lunge group did out-improve the squat group in every measure except the 1RM lunge.  Although none of these between-group differences were large enough to be statistically significant they were noticeable and could possibly hint at some unmeasured benefit.

Therefore, if a coach had to pick only one form of training we would recommend unilateral training like lunges. However, our study does show that squatting does have a positive impact on both strength and agility.
Read the full report → Squat vs Lunges White Paper


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