Often times when people think lower body compound exercise the first thing that comes to mind is the squat or deadlift. Both are great exercises, however in my opinion you get more bang for your buck from the dumbbell alternating static lunge. This movement is a compound movement just the same as the squat, deadlift, or leg press as it involves two or more joints and works many different muscles. I find that the dumbbell alternating leg static variation of the lunges is far superior than the traditional lunges as it will cause your front leg to generate power while your back leg is being trained for balance. The muscles incorporated into this movement are plentiful and include glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip adductors, hip abductors, calves, abs, traps, and forearms.
Below I will detail why you should incorporate this into your leg training and why in some aspects it is better than the squat and deadlift.
Take it from me, as someone with 2 herniated disc the last thing you want is a spine injury. Spinal injuries are for life. There is no 'cure' for spinal injuries, you are simply stuck managing it for the rest of your life. You never know when that next flare up is and all it takes is one back movement and its anywhere from days to weeks of crippling back spasms. I do squat, however I do find most of the time when I do have a flare up it seems to be while squatting. Unfortunately dead lifting is not an option for me. But enough about me, truth is both the deadlift and squat can be brutal on your lower back. Bad form on a deadlift could cause a serious back injury and the loaded weight on your shoulders during a squat compressing your spine obviously over time will cause wear and tear. Because with the dumbbell lunge the weight is out to the side it takes the load off your back and instead moves it to your traps and grip strength.
Bilateral exercises such as squat, leg press, and deadlift make it easy for one leg to do more of the work without even realizing it. This could lead to muscle imbalances that can effect posture and even cause injury. Lunges use one leg at a time which is also better for sports performance and improved balance.
The stimulus to fatigue ratio is the amount of muscle building adaptations an exercise can give you relative to the systemic fatigue it forces you to recover from, a term I learned from Mike Israetel who's video I will post below. Conventional deadlifts probably have the worst stimulus to fatigue ratio in the gym. Squats are not far behind it.
It is very easy to stay in perfect form with the alternating static lunge. you want to keep your torso pretty upright and you touch your knee to the ground. Where as most people dont go low enough when squatting and they dont even know it. Which actually leads to an awful stimulus to fatigue ratio. I'll post a video below of the exercise.
Lunges are best to do at high reps I always do sets of 20 and sometimes more. You can push lunges close to failure because even if you fail you can simply drop the dumbbells and your down on one knee. Have you ever seen what true failure looks like on squatting? Because of this you can push a set of lunges further than squats because failing on squats could be catastrophic.
The dumbbell alternating static lunge is an exercise I strongly suggest you incorporate into your leg workouts. Id even say to pull some sets out of squats and deadlifts and add this in. Especially for fellow lifters over the age of 40. Your injury risk is greatly reduced and I feel if you push it hard and use progressive overload you can get as good if not better hypertrophic and sports performance progress than just doing squats, deadlifts, and leg presses.