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I’ve been following a semi-elaborate routine which adds intensity by using rest-pause training. Most of it is going well, except for the lunges in Legs B, with a goal of 50 reps over 5 sets. (My understanding is I’m to do “however many good-enough reps” on set 1, 30s rest, repeat for 5 sets.)

At a guess, that’s because having mostly done Starting-Strength-like workouts before, whichever small muscles keep you balanced side-to-side don’t really get a lot of work compared to the big muscles meant to move load upwards.

The lunges end up being strenuous beyond what seems like challenging-yet-sane exertion: I get very winded, sometimes even dizzy; occasionally to the point where I have to lie down on a bench or mat until it subsides. (I take medication daily which has nausea and heart pounding as possible side effects, which might be contributing to this.) Probably can’t maintain good form either, or develop it in the first place.

The overall effect is this ends up being a huge drag on what’d already be a lengthy workout. Since the rep goal is for each leg, they end up being this time consuming block of obnoxious suffering that makes me want to skip them or call it a day thinking “meh it’s just accessories.”

What I’m looking for is actionable suggestions on what I could change up to bridge this deficiency and motivation issue. My rough idea is:

  1. Lower the rep goal to say 30 or even 20.
  2. Do a full rest between sets. (I use a heart rate measuring app for this to wait until I drop below 70% max for my age.)
  3. Keep the load to a minimum. (A pair of 4kg/10lb dumbbells.)

progressing by removing the above limits in that order. (Increase reps, then reduce resting time, then begin adding weight.) All this while trying to focus on form and proper muscle recruitment. (Not sure what exactly helps here beyond gut feeling… Using a mirror, or slow and careful negative reps?)

Now, this is mostly me wildly guessing as an amateur, so I’m not sure if this makes sense in the context of the whole routine, or if I’m missing something, so it’d help me if somebody more experienced could look this over.

Other options that come to mind are: substituting split squats instead. (Since one leg is supported, there’s less to juggle mechanically - I’m not sure how important what the rear leg does is with lunges.) Or maybe there’s a difference between regular and reverse lunges - I’m doing reverse, and maybe I’m unnecessarily doing the fiddlier variant?

  • For clarity, is this for any exercise in which the actual movement is frustrating (be it balance, timing, position, etc) or specifically lunges? – C. Lange Aug 6 at 22:17
  • @C.Lange The specific problem I’m facing is that lunges are the most hateful part of my routine by an order of magnitude; the balance issues are my hunch as to why that’s the case for me. Whether the problem or its solutions generalize is probably a thing somebody equipped to answer can make a better call on. – millimoose Aug 6 at 22:20
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    I don't what other work you are doing but can it be a conditioning issue? How do you fare with bodyweight squats in a similar or higher rep range? Or maybe I misunderstnad your third paragraph. – mart Aug 7 at 11:11
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    @mart Not really sure about the bodyweight squats; my barbell squats are around 15 reps total at ~110% BW. It’s entirely possible I lack sustained endurance, most of my cardio is “not taking buses or elevators if feasible.” – millimoose Aug 7 at 21:24
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I’m not a big lunge fan myself, but they are certainly a useful exercise. While they aren’t an exercise that can be appropriately performed within lower rep ranges (say 10 or less), you certainly don’t need to do 50 reps to have an effective set. Anything between 15 and 30 should be fine, just work to (or close to) failure with reps done in good form. There’s no sense in torturing yourself with an exercise that is more mentally taxing than it is physically taxing.

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you can reduce repetition goal to 1 rep maxes and go with heavy weight.... obviously by ramping up the weight slowly first starting with warm up sets.

or by doing 5 x 5 with heavy weight. Any exercise can be loaded heavily if you dislike high rep work.

another option is to substitute Lunges with Shrimp squats, they are better at building glutes... as a matter of fact many people who can squat twice their weight can't do one shrimp squat because its more a glute exercise than a leg one.

if you struggle doing high repetitions on lunges, split squats will be worse.

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  • In the routine lunges are fourth in order after a bunch of lower rep, higher weight, more complex exercises, so I figure I should stick with doing them as an accessory. I may try shrimp squats at lower reps since it seems glutes and stability are the blockers for me, but they seem like they may be even harder. (That said, the correct form seems simpler in terms of keeping track which limb goes where.) – millimoose Aug 7 at 22:39
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If an exercise seems challenging to you, that's usually a bodybuilder/athlete's way of knowing that they are weak in that area and need to do it more often... although 50 reps is not very common at all for many people, especially lunges. Lunges burn a lot of calories which make an exercise seem "winded". 50 reps or "half-century" set can sometimes be more grueling than a simple 3 set of 10 with 4 times the weight. Lactic acid accumulates and your muscles get a lot of endurance. You could try variations of lunges, such as walking, static, dynamic, or other lunges. reverse lunges are different as they tend to target hamstrings and glutes a bit more, and quads a bit less, than regular lunges. It might be easier to do regular lunges. To be honest, I've done century sets, and its usually with exercises that are deemed "easy" such as cable machine exercises or isolation exercises like dumbbell curls. You could do leg extensions or something else that isn't so tough, but I'd say stick with it and just perform the regular lunges rather than reverse lunges. Overtime, the workout will get easier as your body adapts and doesn't release as much lactic acid and your muscles get stronger

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  • There’s challenging, and then there’s “I hate this and I want to die”, what I’m looking for is a sensible strategy to get from the latter to the former. Maybe you could confirm my hunch if you have time to look at the linked routine, my impression is it doesn’t have that much targeting the glutes, and they do feel distinctly sore after this day; so it might not be the worst idea to stick with reverse lunges to address the deficiency, but targeting 30 to start? – millimoose Aug 7 at 21:21
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    Romanian deadlifts and hip thrusts work the glutes? and 50 reps is week 3 I believe, the article mentioned "quality" reps so if you lose form, it doesn't count. I think you should stick with dumbbell lunges. With a front squat in the workout already, you might have to either go with a much lighter weight. I remember doing a metabolic circuit and I did the max weight I could lift, and it made me want to plunge my head in ice.. I couldn't breathe.. I had to lower the weight just to finish as I felt I was going to collapse. your heart is a muscle too, if its too much to handle(not just weight) – Ace Cabbie Aug 8 at 0:28
  • Good catch, so part of the problem might be overtaxing the glutes by doing reverse lunges as the third glute exercise in a row. – millimoose Aug 9 at 13:23

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