Do Lunges Make Your Thighs Bigger?

Lunges can make your thighs bigger
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Lunges are one of the most popular lower-body exercises, often incorporated into strength training and HIIT workouts.

I add them even to my daily stretching routines. The move 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

To answer the pressing question: Yes, lunges can make your thighs bigger, but this largely depends on how you perform them, your genetic predisposition, and your overall training and dietary habits.

If your goal is hypertrophy or bigger thighs, incorporating weighted lunges with other compound lower-body exercises, and ensuring adequate protein intake, will optimize results. I know that this process takes more time, but in the end, your consistency will pay off, trust me.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for toned thighs without a significant increase in size, focus on bodyweight lunges with higher reps.

Which Muscles Are Worked?

  1. Quadriceps (front thigh muscles)
  2. Hamstrings (rear thigh muscles)
  3. Glutes (butt muscles)
  4. Calves

Muscle Growth & Hypertrophy

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

  • Mechanical Tension: This is the amount of force produced in the muscle. Heavy weightlifting causes high mechanical tension, stimulating muscle growth.
  • Muscle Damage: Engaging in unfamiliar exercises or increasing workout intensity can lead to small, micro-tears in muscle fibers. The body repairs and rebuilds these fibers, making them larger in the process.

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.

However, 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.

Muscle Damage

As with any exercise, when you first introduce lunges into your routine, you’re likely to experience some degree of muscle soreness. This is indicative of muscle damage (in a good way!) and the subsequent repair process.

Over time, as your body becomes accustomed to the movement, the soreness will decrease, indicating less muscle damage and potentially slower growth.

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

Beginner Level: Static Lunges

Start with your feet hip-width apart. Step forward with one leg and lower your body until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. The back knee should hover just above the ground. Push through the front heel to return to the starting position.

  • Repetitions: Start with 2 sets of 10 lunges on 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. Stand a couple of feet away from a bench or raised platform. Extend one leg behind you and place the top of your foot on the bench. Lower into a lunge, ensuring your front foot is far enough forward that your knee doesn’t go past your toes.

  • Repetitions: Aim for 2-3 sets of 8 reps on 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. This could be a quick 5-minute cardio session or leg-specific stretches.
  • 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.

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