Weight Loss Made Practical » Exercise

Are Lunges Good For Weight Loss?

There are many exercises to choose from when you’re trying to lose weight. What about lunges, are they good for weight loss?

Lunges are a type of exercise that is done both with just bodyweight and external weights.

Even though lunges don’t burn as many calories as other exercises during the workout, they are great for long-term weight loss due to the muscle mass they help you gain. This in turn benefits long-term calorie burning.

Both bodyweight lunges and lunges with external weights are one of the best exercises in their category for the most long-term weight loss in the least amount of time spent working out.

Doing lunges with extra external weights will benefit weight loss more than the bodyweight version.

Keep in mind that your diet and other lifestyle habits are important when trying to lose weight no matter what exercise you do. You also preferably like doing your weight loss exercise, this will benefit consistency.

What exactly are lunges?

Lunges are an exercise that can be both a type of calisthenics, which means bodyweight, exercise and a weight lifting workout. Two lunge repetitions involve the following steps:

  1. Start from a standing position
  2. Take a big step forward until your knee of your front leg is at a 90-degree angle
  3. Depending on where you do your lunges the next step varies. You can either push yourself up and take the next step forward in a similar way or go back to the starting position and do the movement with the other leg.

There are other lunge variations that involve different postures and moving of arms and/or legs. For example doing a lunge where you twist your upper body at the low point of your lunge.

How to do walking lunges

Cardio versus HIIT versus muscle building

All forms of exercise can be divided into 3 main categories. These 3 categories are cardio, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and muscle building. In terms of what parts of your body they mainly impact you can bucket cardio and HIIT together.

Each workout will inevitably use both your cardiovascular system and muscles. However, usually one of the two really stands out.

The way cardio and HIIT help you lose weight are slightly different from how more muscle helps you lose weight. One or the other can be better depending on the situation.

You do train your cardiovascular health to some extent but lunges are mainly a muscle building workout.

Man doing lunges to lose weight

Muscle building

Muscle building helps you burn more calories by increasing muscle mass. How much you weigh is an important factor in how many calories you burn each day. That’s how many weight loss plateaus happen, you lose some weight and you start burning fewer calories with the same habits.

Building more muscle helps you add healthy weight. A certain amount of muscle also burns slightly more calories than the same amount of fat. This means that by spending a little time building muscle you can increase the number of calories you burn 24/7.

Some of the muscles you will train with lunges include:

  • Glutes
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Abdominal
  • Back muscles

Lunges are one of the best bodyweight exercises to build extra muscle mass since your legs are one of the biggest muscle groups you have. To build the most muscle mass you want to do about 4 sets of 10-40 lunges with each leg (20-80 total) depending on how advanced you are.

Do keep in mind that muscle-building exercises with external weights generally allow you to build more muscle mass in a shorter amount of time compared to bodyweight exercises. This in turn leads to more weight loss.

So for example doing weighted lunges by carrying extra weight, even if it’s just in the form of a heavy backpack, will benefit your weight loss results.

Cardio and HIIT

Cardio and HIIT mainly help you burn more calories by increasing the intensity and quantity of movement right now.

This makes those kinds of exercise great for short term energy usage. The flip side of the coin is that once you stop doing these kinds of exercise the extra calorie burning will stop fast.

HIIT is basically cardio but faster. So depending on your tempo you are doing one or the other. The higher the intensity of the exercise you are doing, the more calories you burn.

HIIT can also cause something called “afterburn”. This is basically having an increased metabolism for a while after you stopped the exercise.

Do this for long term weight loss

So cardio and HIIT are good for fat loss in the next hour or so.

For long term weight loss muscle building is usually more time and effort efficient.

You can also do both. The extra muscle will help you get more out of your cardio workout by increasing the amount of mass you have to move around.

However…

Often people forget that your choice of exercise isn’t only about how efficient the calorie burning is.

A full-on weight lifting workout might be more time-efficient for long-term weight loss but if you don’t like that kind of workout, chances are you won’t stick to that. This can make bodyweight lunges a better choice depending on the individual. The workout that doesn’t get done doesn’t burn any calories.

You can also do lunges while carrying external weights, this would make it a very good muscle building exercise.

Two women doing lunges

How many calories do lunges burn?

You have to keep in mind that the amount of calories burned by exercising depends from person to person. Things like age, weight, activity levels, and more influence it.

That being said, there are still approximations for how many calories you can burn by doing lunges. You can also see the calories burned for different kinds of exercises to see how all the workouts compare.

This estimation is for bodyweight lunges. The number of calories burned for lunges with external weights is even harder to predict accurately.

The following numbers are an estimation for a 155-pound person doing the exercises for 30 minutes (1).

  • Lunges: 220 calories
  • Water Aerobics: 149 calories
  • Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 186 calories
  • Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
  • Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
  • Elliptical Trainer (general): 335 calories
  • Running 5.2 mph: 335 calories
  • Jumping rope: 372 calories
  • Swimming (breaststroke): 372 calories

Not a lot of people can do lunges for 30 minutes. Nonetheless, this does give you a perspective on how effective this exercise is for calorie burning during the workout compared to others. You can check out the specific article on how many calories lunges burn for different time intervals and bodyweights.

The thing with these numbers is also that the more intense and the longer you do your exercise, the more calories you will burn. For example, if you do your lunges at a faster pace, or wear a weighted vest, you can burn more calories in less time.

The numbers above are great to get an estimation but you can’t rely on them being the exact same for you.

The amount of calories you can burn with lunges during the exercise is not great but the long-term weight loss benefits of building muscle are hard to quantify. If you want to burn a lot of calories during the 30 minutes of your workout there are better exercises than lunges.

How long does it take to see results from lunges?

One pound of body fat is about 3500 calories (one kg +-8000). How long it takes to see weight loss results from lunges will also depend on the number of calories in your diet.

One person might eat more than the other. This might make it so they need to exercise longer or more intense to see the same weight loss results. You can even lose weight without exercising so there are many factors that influence it.

15 minutes of lunges a day could help you burn an extra 1100 calories in 10 days which is about 0.31 pounds of body fat. 30 days 3300 calories and so on…

This is a low estimation that doesn’t take into account the afterburn and muscle mass calorie-burning effects. In reality you will likely see faster results than this from lunges.

Keep in mind that losing weight too fast can be harmful. In general, a 500 calorie deficit per day is considered to be a healthy weight loss rate.

Because of the muscle you may gain from lunges your weight might not move that much initially. That does not mean you are not losing fat. If you lose inches but not weight when you start doing lunges you are most likely gaining some muscle weight and losing body fat weight.

Woman doing the lunge exercise to lose weight

Should you do lunges for weight loss?

The number of calories burned during the workout per minute of lunges is rather low compared to many other exercises and workouts. However, lunges will help you build a relatively high amount of muscle mass which benefits long-term weight loss.

If you are specifically looking for a no-equipment, quick & convenient, exercise at home lunges are one of the best exercises to lose weight.

If you don’t mind going to the gym doing your lunges while carrying external weight will benefit weight loss even more. You can also combine lunges with some cardio workouts which burn a lot of calories during the workout.

The being said, even though lunges are great from a calorie-burning perspective, consistency is key for weight loss. If you don’t like doing lunges you may want to choose a different exercise. The other exercise maybe doesn’t burn as many calories in a short amount of time but may be easier to do consistently.

Keep in mind that the things you eat and other lifestyle habits stay important no matter what exercise routine you’re following. It’s hard to out-exercise a bad diet.

Do lunges reduce belly fat?

Some people get the impression that to burn fat you have to stay at a certain heart rate, eat certain foods, or do specific workouts.

Unfortunately, targetting fat loss in a specific area like your belly is generally not possible. To burn fat, or more specifically belly fat, you have to lose weight overall.

Since lunges have good calorie-burning potential they can also help you reduce belly fat.