If a Bulgarian split squat conjures an image of a Khal drogo-type flexing quads of steel, well, you’re not wrong. This intense lower-body isolation will light you up and build rock hard legs—but it’s also one of the best moves to correct imbalances and build functional, single-leg strength and power, says Harris Murrieta, CSCS, coach for personal training platform Ladder and director of recovery at Performix House in New York City.
How To Do a Bulgarian Split Squat
How to: Stand in front of a low bench or step with both feet underneath your body. Place your left toes on the bench so your foot is elevated two to four inches off the ground. Hop your front foot forward (proper distance may take some trial and error) until your right foot is directly below your knee when you lower down into a full squat.
Bulgarian split squat is a great lower-body strength exercise that tones the quads and glutes.
Engage your core and your glutes and lower down with control. Most of your weight should be in your front leg with the back primarily used for balance. Stop when your back knee hovers just off the ground, or when you are as low as you feel comfortable. Drive through your front foot and squeeze your glutes as you stand back up, tall and centered over your front leg.
Reps/sets for best results: This move will light up your lower body, even without weight, so aim for lower volume sets—four to five rounds of five to eight reps.
Benefits Of Bulgarian Split Squats
The Bulgarian split squat is a great lower-body strength exercise that primarily focuses on the quads and glutes. The biggest perk of this move, over others, is that it helps develop functional, single-leg strength and power.
“By putting somebody in a single-leg stance, you can identify weakness and strength in a more functional way than you could with symmetrical-stance squats or deadlifts,” Murrieta says.
That means whether you run races, play intramural soccer, or just want to to balance out your body, this move should be in your strength program.
Want a complete butt workout? Try this routine:
Make Bulgarian Split Squat Part Of Your Workout
The best way to work it in: As one of the first moves on lower-body strength day, after a warm-up but before full-body fatigue exercises, Murrieta says. He prefers to combine it with other athletic training—footwork drills, running drills, plus isolated moves like pistol squats, single-leg hip thrusts, and single-leg deadlifts.
You can incorporate the move safely up to four to five times a week.
TBH, the Bulgarian split squat is super hard as is, so start with both feet on the ground if you want to make it easier at first. Taking the balance aspect out of the equation will let you develop the foundational strength, Murrieta says.
To make it more difficult, add some weight—dumbbells held at your sides, a kettlebell in front of your chest, or a barbell in a back rack position. But start light, Murrieta says—small weights add up fast for this move.
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