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How Lunges Can Make Your Thighs Look Bigger?

Lunges can make your thighs bigger
Written and edited by: Author
Reviewed by: Reviewer

Lunges are one of the most popular lower-body exercises, often a part of strength training and HIIT workouts.

I made them a part even of my daily stretching routines. The movesta is lauded for its ability to activate several muscles in your legs, from the quads to the hamstrings and glutes.

But do they actually make your thighs bigger?

Can You Get Bigger Thighs With Lunges?

Can You Get Bigger Thighs With Lunges

Lunges can indeed pack on the pounds to your thighs, but that largely depends on how you tackle them, your genetic makeup, and your overall training and dietary regimen.

If the goal is hypertrophy or bulking up those thighs, pair weighted lunges with other compound lower-body exercises, and ensure you’re getting enough protein. It might take more time, but trust me, consistency is key.

On the flip side, if the aim is toned thighs without significant growth, stick to bodyweight lunges with higher reps.

A 2009 study led by Sven Jönhagen involved 32 soccer players who added forward lunge exercises to their regular soccer training, twice a week, over a 6-week period. [1]

The research compared two types of lunges:

  • Walking lunges, which improves hamstring strength.
  • Jumping lunges, which enhanced the athletes’ sprint running capabilities.

The effectiveness of the exercises was measured through maximal hamstring and quadriceps strength tests, functional tests (such as 1-leg hop tests and 30-m sprint runs), and pain evaluation using a visual analogue scale and algometer readings.

The results indicated that while walking lunges significantly increased hamstring strength, jumping lunges were more beneficial in improving sprint performance.

While this is a 15-year old study, its results are quite indicative regarding what can be achieved about significant thighs growth via using lunges.

Surely, there are more modern studies, but I strongly believe this one is particularly useful for beginners to understand what they can achieve if they work persistently.

Here are the muscles stimulated in this process:

Muscle Group Primary Functions
Quadriceps Extending the knee; essential in walking, running, jumping, squatting
Hamstrings Bending the knee, extending the hip; important for running, jumping, climbing
Glutes Hip extension, abduction, external and internal rotation; stabilizing hip and pelvis
Calves Elevating the heel, controlling ankle movement; vital for walking, running, jumping

Muscle Growth & Hypertrophy

Hypertrophy is the process by which our muscles grow in size. Two main factors contribute to muscle hypertrophy:

  • It is the amount of force produced in the muscle. Heavy weightlifting causes high mechanical tension, stimulating muscle growth.
  • Engaging in unfamiliar exercises or increasing workout intensity can lead to small, micro-tears in muscle fibers.

So, to determine if lunges make thighs bigger, we need to understand how they contribute to these two factors.

Lunges & Mechanical Tension

Girl performs Lunges loaded with weights

Lunges, especially when loaded with weights like dumbbells or barbells, definitely apply mechanical tension to the thigh muscles.

The act of lowering and raising your body engages the quads and hamstrings, providing resistance and subsequently encouraging muscle growth.

The degree of tension is often less than other lower-body exercises like squats or deadlifts, especially when lunges are performed with only body weight.

Lunge Variations

Not all lunges are created equal. By changing up lunge variations, you can target different parts of the thighs and create more balanced muscle growth.

The effect of a lunge on thigh growth can differ based on its variation:

  1. Static: These are basic lunges where you step forward and push back to the starting position. They mainly work on the quads.
  2. Reverse: By stepping backward instead of forward, there’s increased activation of the hamstrings and glutes.
  3. Walking: As the name suggests, you move forward, alternating legs. This variation engages the entire lower body and core.
  4. Lateral: Stepping to the side, you work the inner and outer thighs more.

Training Intensity and Volume

Whether or not your thighs get bigger from lunges also depends on your training volume and intensity.

Simply put:

  • High Reps, Low Weight: This generally leads to more muscular endurance rather than significant hypertrophy. Your thighs may tone up but won’t necessarily get much bigger.
  • Low Reps, High Weight: This creates more mechanical tension, leading to greater muscle growth potential. If you’re performing weighted lunges with heavy dumbbells or a barbell, you’re more likely to see an increase in thigh size.

Workout Program

Now, let us check out the most important workout programs, based on the level of your skills.

Beginner Level: Static Lunges

Plant your feet shoulder-width apart. Stride forward with one leg and squat down until both knees form right angles. The rear knee almost kisses the floor. Drive through the front heel to get back to where you began.

  • Repetitions: You should begin with 2 sets of 10 lunges for each leg.

Intermediate Level: Reverse

Begin in a standing position. Instead of stepping forward, step back with one leg and lower into a lunge. This variation can be easier on the knees and activates the glutes more intensely.

  • Repetitions: Try 3 sets of 12 lunges on each leg.

Advanced Level: Walking Lunge

From a standing position, step forward into a lunge, then push off with your front foot and bring your back foot forward into the next lunge, as if you’re walking.

  • Repetitions: Aim for 3 sets of 10 lunges for each leg, or approximately 20 steps in total per set.

For Muscle Growth: Weighted

A guy performs Lunges with Dumbbells

Hold a dumbbell in each hand or place a barbell across your shoulders while performing any of the above lunge variations. Ensure you maintain a straight back and engage your core.

  • Repetitions: Start with 3 sets of 8 lunges on each leg and gradually increase the weight as your strength improves.

For Stability: Bulgarian Split Squat

Bulgarian Split Squat with Dumbbells

This is a single-leg lunge variation. Feet set a bit back from the platform. Rear leg extended, plant that foot on the surface. Lean in, dropping the hips – gotta make sure that front knee doesn’t creep too far. Simple enough, right?

  • Repetitions: Look to do 2-3 sets of 8 reps for each leg.

Dynamic Challenge: Jumping Lunges

Start in a lunge position. Jump explosively into the air, switching your leg positions in mid-air, and land back into a lunge with the opposite leg forward.

  • Repetitions: Begin with 2 sets of 8 jumps (4 for each leg).

Additional Tips:

  • Always warm up before starting any exercise, including lunges.
  • Focus on maintaining good form.
    • It’s essential to keep your core engaged, and back straight, and ensure that your front knee doesn’t go past your toes as you lunge.
  • If you experience pain (beyond typical muscle soreness), consider consulting a fitness professional to ensure you’re using the correct form or to make necessary adjustments.

REFERENCES

  1. Jönhagen S, Ackermann P, Saartok T. Forward lunge: a training study of eccentric exercises of the lower limbs. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 May;23(3):972-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181a00d98. PMID: 19387378.

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