There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing weighted lunges, what benefits can you expect?
Doing weighted lunges is simply doing lunges while you carry external resistance with your body. Popular types of equipment for this are dumbbells, kettlebells, heavy chains, a weighted vest, and weight plates but in theory, you could also use a heavy backpack.
Since lunges do involve some balancing at times you generally want to avoid a single weight you have to hold with 2 hands. That way you can use your arms to stop yourself from falling.
How much weight you should use to do weighted lunges varies from individual to individual. When in doubt you can start with low weights and build up from there.
You do have to keep in mind that adding weight to regular lunges increases your injury risk. Make sure your lunge technique is good before adding any external weights to the exercise.
Some people question how useful weighted lunges can be but adding weights to your regular lunges can offer you some amazing benefits.
1. Can help you lose more weight
Losing weight is about using up body fat, which is basically energy stored. To do this you want to make sure that you require more energy throughout the day than there is coming in from food.
One way to try to make this happen is by doing a workout. By increasing the intensity of your movements for a period of time you use up more energy than usual. Weighted lunges can help with weight loss since they generally require more energy compared to doing lunges with just your body weight.
A big factor in how many calories you burn during a workout is your weight. To move around your body needs energy, measured in calories. The more weight you carry, the more energy you need to fuel movement.
For example a 155-pound (70 kg) person doing lunges for 15 minutes burns around 110 calories.
On the other hand, a 185-pound (83 kg) person doing lunges for 15 minutes burns around 131 calories.
There will likely be a difference in how much external weights increase calorie-burning vs the same weight in body fat but that just shows how doing weighted lunges can benefit weight loss.
Another way workouts help you lose weight is by increasing your muscle mass which in turn helps with burning more energy with everything you do. Weighted lunges help increase muscle mass too.
Doing weighted lunges or not will likely not make or break your weight loss journey but even a small improvement in a workout you often do will make a big difference over time.
Keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like what you eat are important when trying to lose weight no matter what exercise you do. You can work out and gain weight at the same time if your other lifestyle habits are not good.
2. Helps you build more muscle
Lunges are mainly a strength training exercise, which means they are mostly for improving muscle strength and endurance. Extra muscle is not only beneficial for your health in many ways but it is also considered to be visually appealing.
Some of the muscles worked with lunges include:
Generally the more weight you have to move, the more muscle you will build with an exercise. That’s one of the reasons why people go to a gym instead of doing bodyweight exercises at home.
As a strength training beginner regular lunges are a great bodyweight exercise choice to build muscle mass. To build the most muscle mass you want to do about 4 sets of 10-40 lunges depending on how advanced you are.
That being said, at some point your body weight may stop being enough resistance to build extra muscle mass with lunges. When this is the case you can start doing weighted lunges to be able to build extra muscle mass.
3. Improved cardiovascular health
Your cardiovascular system is the circulatory system inside of your body and includes heart and blood vessels. These transport many types of important nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout your body.
When you move more intensely your body needs to transport these things, which means using your heart, at a higher rate.
Your heart is a muscle that can be trained by using it more intensely. Doing weighted lunges makes your heart beat faster and thus helps you strengthen your cardiovascular system more compared to lunges with just your body weight. This in turn leads to a wide variety of other benefits (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
Do keep in mind that muscles can get injured. If you have not done any physical activity in a long time you may want to start out with low-intensity movements without external weights and build up from there.
4. Can improve athletic performance
Getting better at a certain sport or exercise isn’t necessarily done by doing these activities more. Cross-training which is training in a different sport can be useful.
A training exercise like lunges can help you increase your jump height by strengthening your leg muscles. Weighted lunges instead of lunges with just your body weight even more so.
One study suggests that jump height in turn is related to sprint performance (6). This means that adding weighted lunges to your routine can improve your performance in basically any sport that involves fast running.
5. Helps you build fast muscle
Not all muscle is the same, it can be made of different types of muscle fibers. These different types have different properties with accompanying advantages and disadvantages.
A common categorization of these muscle fibers is “type 1, slow-twitch muscle” and “type 2, fast-twitch muscle”. Your muscle groups are not made of one or the other, they are made of a certain ratio of type 1 vs type 2 fibers. The way you train can influence this ratio (7).
The type 1, slow-twitch muscle fibers are generally more useful for longer duration workouts like jogging, swimming at a low tempo, cycling at a low tempo,… Basically activities at intensities you can do for an extended period of time.
The type 2, fast-twitch muscle fibers are generally more useful for short duration, fast body movement workouts like sprints, powerlifting, javelin throwing,…Basically activities at intensities you can only do for a short period of time.
As a strength training beginner bodyweight lunges will initially help you build type 2 muscle fibers. Once you get to a point where lunges start being a less intensive exercise they will help you build more type 1 muscle fibers. If you add external weights at this point you can continue building more fast type 2 muscle fibers.
6. Improved bone density
This is helpful for avoiding broken bones. Depending on your age you may not be that worried about something like this right now. However, exercising right now can help you avoid broken bones in 40 years. The things you do today have an impact on the future.
The way many parts of your body work is that by challenging them you set in motion processes that strengthen these body parts. The same goes for your bones, by putting pressure on them you make them stronger in the long term.
Weighted lunges put more pressure on your bones than bodyweight lunges. This in turn will benefit your bone density in the long term.
Generally, workouts on land with a lot of jumping and strength training exercises are the best for improving bone density. Next, you have exercises that put less pressure on your bones like walking. Lastly, you have exercise in the water like swimming which will still benefit bone density but likely not as much as the other categories.
7. Makes your lunges more time-efficient
Another benefit of weighted lunges is that they can help you decrease the time it takes to get in a good workout. A good workout session isn’t necessarily about duration.
For example to build muscle you basically want to put enough strain on your muscles so muscle growth processes start. This doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time out of your day.
A more intense cardio workout can train your cardiovascular system in a shorter amount of time than one at a lower intensity.
Doing weighted lunges instead of bodyweight lunges can help with both of these things. This benefit of weighted lunges is especially useful if you have trouble finding enough time throughout your day to fit in a workout.
8. Healthier lungs
To move around your body needs oxygen, the more intensely the more oxygen. Your body absorbs oxygen from the air through your lungs.
Improving how well your lungs function leads to benefits like improved exercise performance and getting tired slower.
9. Improves coordination and balance
While the technique of lunges is not that complicated, you do need to use some coordination and balance. By using these frequently you get better at them like with most skills. Lunges with external weights are generally even more challenging for your coordination and balance.
Many people forget to implement balance training into their workout routine but it is a helpful fitness component.
The benefits of improved coordination and balance don’t just show up in other technical sports. Daily activities as simple as walking the stairs require coordination.
10. Improves posture
When doing lunges, even more with weighted lunges, with the right technique you train muscles that are important for a good posture.
Improving your posture will help you avoid related injuries. One small study even suggests that open non-verbal displays, which a good posture helps with, are attractive (19).
All in all, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from making one change in your lunge exercise routine.
One thing you need to remember is that even though there are benefits to weighted lunges, your injury risk is generally also slightly higher. Make sure your lunge technique is good before adding weights and pay extra attention to technique when adding weights.
Especially if you are more of an exercise beginner or intermediate you want to start with regular lunges without any extra weights and build up from there. Once you feel you can start doing weighted lunges you can start with lower weights first and if that goes well go up to higher weights.
If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that doing weighted lunges is not for you.
Also keep in mind that consistency is a big factor for a workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If you like doing weighted lunges, great. If not regular lunges, alternatives to lunges, and other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.