How Many Sets And Reps For Lunges To Optimize Your Leg Workouts
By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, & PES, PN-L1
Learning how many sets and reps for lunges is going to help you optimize your leg day workout and reap the benefit of stronger, leaner, and more defined legs.
The ideal sets and reps for lunges will depend on your experience level, how good/bad your balance is, what your current goals are, what else you will be doing in your workout, and what type of lunge variation you perform.
For the average gym goer, 2 - 5 sets of anywhere between 6 - 20 reps per leg of lunges will help you build strength and muscle. Rest 2 - 3 minutes if you do between 6 - 12 reps as this is considered more hypertrophy (muscle building) or 1 - 2 minutes if you do 12- 20 reps as this is more muscular endurance.
I’ll tell you this. Doing a heavy set of lunges, whether they are walking lunges, reverse lunges, or lateral lunges, is going to spike that heart rate!
Let’s break down what type of lunge rep range is best for you.
Lunges are an amazing exercise that all skill levels should be performing. Many people get stuck doing the same bilateral movements at the gym, such as squats, leg extensions, leg press, and forget to to incorporate unilateral exercises, like lunges.
Or they purposely choose to skip it because they know it’s hard…
As a beginner, the most important thing you can do is take the time to learn perfect form before you start adding weight.
For most of my online and in person clients, I start them with bodyweight lunges (reverse or walking), and once they can do them with good form and pain free, we add dumbbells.
If you don’t take the time to learn proper form, you risk having bad form that can lead to knee, hip, and lower back pain.
Generally speaking, you want to stay away from low reps (which means heavier weight) until you feel confident with the movement.
Guidelines for lunges sets and reps for beginners:
- Start with bodyweight lunges until you feel confident with and can perform pain free and with good form.
- From there, add dumbbells in each hand.
- Perform 2 - 3 sets of 6 - 10 reps per leg.
- Rest 2 - 3 minutes to ensure you are fully recovered.
- Start at the lower rep range (6 - 8 reps) at the beginning since you’re going to be doing both legs and can fatigue quickly at the higher rep range.
- If using weight, find a weight that you do for the 6 - 10 reps and still have 2 - 3 reps left in the tank. For example, if you do walking lunges with 10 pound dumbbells in each hand for 8 reps, you should be able to do 10 - 11 reps with confidence. This is a safe and smart spot to train as a beginner.
Once you get comfortable with using dumbbells for your lunge variations, you can start experimenting with a wider range of reps that can focus more on hypertrophy and muscular endurance.
Also, you can experiment with harder variations of lunges like deficit lunges, barbell lunges, half reps, paused reps, etc.
Additionally, you’ll feel more comfortable pushing the intensity with the movement, allowing you to get closer to failure with your sets.
Guidelines for lunges sets and reps for intermediate and advanced lifters
- Perform 3 - 5 sets of 6 - 20 reps per leg.
- Rest 2 - 3 minutes for a rep range of 6 - 10 and 1 - 2 minutes for a rep range of 10 - 20.
- Use different training techniques (pauses, half reps, deficits) to increase the difficulty.
- Leave 1 - 2 reps in reserve (RIR) on each set. This means you’ll be pushing it closer to failure than a beginner would.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lunges are considered a compound movement, meaning they work multiple muscles while performing them, so they have the ability to help you build strong, muscular legs.
You’ll need to be picking appropriate weights that will get you close to failure on each set to help build muscle.
Difficulty with lunges is due to weak leg muscles, poor mobility in the ankles and knees, lack of balance, and/or weak core muscles.
Starting with split stance squats or reverse lunges only would be your best option.
Additionally, adding mobility work for you ankles and knees will help your lunge pattern improve.
Learn more about whether you should be doing squats or lunges.
The weight you choose for lunges will depend on your experience level and how comfortable you are getting close to failure.
Pick a weight that will allow you to be within 1 - 3 reps of failure.
For example, if you do 10 lunges one each leg with 30 pounds and you get done and think “I could only have done one more”, then you are picking correct weights.
If you get done and think “I could have done 10 more on each leg”, that means you had 10 reps in reserve. You would need to increase the weight.
If you can perform 10 lunges per leg with perfect form where you knee almost touches the ground, you don’t lose balance, and you don’t experience any pain, you should add weights and start with 6 - 8 reps.
Build up from there with more reps and more weight.
How Many Sets And Reps For Lunges Recap
As you’ve learned, there is a wide range of options when picking your sets and reps fo lunges. If you’re a beginner, stick with 6 - 10 reps for less sets, less weight and focus on form. Once you get more advanced, add more sets, more variety with rep ranges, higher intensity, and harder variations.