Barbell Lunge vs Dumbbell Lunge (Is One Better?)


Both Barbell Lunges and Dumbbell Lunges are popular lower body movements that can help to strengthen the legs and glutes, but they differ in the type of equipment used.

The question is, is one of these lunge variations better than the other?

In this article, we will take a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of each exercise, as well as provide tips on how to properly execute the movements to get the most out of your workouts. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned gym-goer, this comparison will provide valuable insights to help you decide which lunge variation is right for you.


Barbell Lunge


Barbell Lunge

Equipment Needed

  • Barbell
  • Bumper Plates
  • Squat Rack (Not completely necessary as you can clean and press a bar onto shoulders if needed, but a rack is going to make this a whole lot easier especially if lifting heavier weight)

Muscles Worked

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Core (stabilizers)

Instructions

  • Unrack the barbell similar to how you would unrack a bar for a back squat.
  • Grab the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades and engage the lats to create a stable shelf to sit the bar on
  • Place the bar across the traps, brace the core and remove the bar from the rack by standing tall and then walking back out of the rack.
  • Once you’ve created enough room for yourself from the rack you can begin the movement.
  • Step forward with one leg, giving yourself enough room to drop into a lunge comfortably without feeling overextended.
  • Keep the chest as upright as possible and drop the back knee to roughly one inch from the floor.
  • Now drive through the heel and midfoot of the front foot to drive yourself back up tall.
  • Repeat on the opposite leg and alternate back and forth until all reps have been completed.

Coaching Points

When you step out, make sure to keep the feet shoulder-width apart. If you’re feeling very off-balance in your lunge there is a good chance that you are stepping the lead foot directly in front of the back foot (essentially placing yourself on a tight rope).

Keep the front foot flat on the floor when in the lunge position. One of the most common mistakes is raising up onto the ball of the front foot. One of the reasons for this is often the next most common mistake that I see with Barbell Lunges

Make sure to take a big enough step. Often times I see athletes take way too small of a step. This leads to lunge being extremely cramped and can lead to a whole host of other issues.

Benefits

Single Leg Movements like Barbell Lunges are an extremely important addition to any athlete’s workout regimen, regardless of sport.

Many (if not most) athletic movements are often done on one leg. This includes sprinting, jumping and cutting.

Single Leg Exercises help improve leg strength, balance, stability and also show any strength imbalances the lifter may have from one side to the other. Single Leg Exercises can also be part of the solution if and when an asymmetry is found.

For more single-leg exercises, check out these 9 Barbell Lunge alternatives.


Dumbbell Lunges


DB Lunges

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells

Muscles Worked

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Secondarily: Grip (Forearm Flexors)

Instructions

  • Grab two dumbbells, one in each hand
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades and engage the lats to create a stable back to help with bracing the upper body
  • Once you’ve created enough room for yourself from the dumbbell rack (or wherever you pulled them from) you can begin the movement.
  • Step forward with one leg, giving yourself enough room to drop into a lunge comfortably without feeling overextended.
  • Keep the chest as upright as possible and drop the back knee to roughly one inch from the floor.
  • Now drive through the heel and midfoot of the front foot to drive yourself back up tall.
  • Repeat on the opposite leg and alternate back and forth until all reps have been completed.

Coaching Points (Fixes to Common Mistakes)

When you step out, make sure to keep the feet shoulder-width apart. If you’re feeling very off-balance in your lunge there is a good chance that you are stepping the lead foot directly in front of the back foot (essentially placing yourself on a tight rope).

Keep the front foot flat on the floor when in the lunge position. One of the most common mistakes is raising up onto the ball of the front foot. One of the reasons for this is often the next most common mistake that I see with Dumbbell Lunges

Make sure to take a big enough step. Often times I see athletes take way too small of a step. This leads to lunge being extremely cramped and can lead to a whole host of other issues (like coming up on the ball of the foot as mentioned above).

Benefits

Single Leg Movements like Dumbbell Lunges are an extremely important addition to any athlete’s workout regimen, regardless of sport.

Many (if not most) athletic movements are often done on one leg. This includes sprinting, jumping and cutting.

Single Leg Exercises help improve leg strength, balance, stability and also show any strength imbalances the lifter may have from one side to the other. Single Leg Exercises can also be part of the solution if and when an asymmetry is found.

Barbell Lunges vs Dumbbell Lunges: Is One Better?

Now, let’s do a side-by-side comparison of some common lifting goals to see if one of these exercises is better than the other.

Better For Building Size and Strength: Toss Up

Saying that one of these exercises is better than the other for developing muscle mass and strength is really splitting hairs. Both can be with relatively heavy weight (assuming you have access to heavy enough dumbbells) and the movement patterns for both are the same.

Barbell Lunges, because of the position of the bar, will work the erectors and core muscles more than dumbbells. However, holding dumbbells will be more effective for strengthening the shoulders and forearms.

Bottom line: both exercises are extremely effective for building size and strength.

Better For Beginners: Dumbbell Lunges

One of the biggest mistakes I see with Barbell Lunges is leaning forward too much and not keeping the torso upright. This is often due to either lack of mobility or just simply using improper form.

And, while, Dumbbell Lunges won’t necessarily fix the problem, they will cause much less stress to the low back if done incorrectly. This is why I would suggest for beginners to start with Dumbbell Lunges as they learn proper technique and then progress onto a barbell.

Having said that, it is important to note that both Barbell Lunges and Dumbbell Lunges can be effective exercises for beginners, as long as they are performed with proper form and technique. It is also important to start with a weight that you can comfortably handle and gradually increase the weight as you become stronger.

Final Thoughts

I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better – Barbell Lunges vs Dumbbell Lunges. However, the truth is, there is no reason you shouldn’t have both exercises in your strength training program.

Both are excellent single-leg exercises for developing lower body strength and muscle mass. Incorporating both exercises into your training program can also add variety and keep your workouts from getting stale.

So, my suggestion would be instead of trying to decide between the two exercises, figure out how you can utilize both Barbell Lunges and Dumbbell Lunges in your training plan.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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