The Bulgarian Split Squat. They’re grueling at the best of times.
Even unloaded, Bulgarian split squats—or rear-foot elevated split squats—will have you feeling your quads, glutes, hamstrings, abs and erectors in your back working hard to help you build stability, balance and strength.
How to perform the bULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT
Step 1: Start by assuming a split squat stance and elevating your rear foot, either on a box or a bench.
Step 2: Descend into a lunge position until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your front shin is perpendicular to the ground (i.e. make sure you keep your front knee behind your toes). Keep your torso neutral and slightly leaned forward.
Tip: As you’re descending, think about sending your hips straight down like you’re lowering yourself into a hole.
Step 3: Use the front leg to return to full extension—focus on driving into the ground with your front foot—to return to your starting position.
Benefits and Uses of the Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian, or Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat, is a great movement to:
- Build both balance and unilateral strength, as it forces you to target one leg at a time. As a result they’re especially useful for both exposing and fixing side-to-side muscle imbalances. This is one reason the Bulgarian split squat is a great movement to monitor: It allows you to track improvements in left-to-right muscle imbalances.
- Work multiple muscles, including the quads, glutes, hamstrings, abdominal muscles and erectors in your back.
- Improve strength with minimal equipment. Even unloaded, tempo rear-foot elevated split squats, for example, are an effective way to maintain and build strength without requiring a squat rack, barbell and full set of plates. In fact, if you don’t have a barbell, the rear-foot elevated split squat has been shown to activate muscles comparable to back squat.
Variations OF THE BULGARIAN spLIT SQUAT
If adding load and elevating your back leg onto a box or bench is too challenging, try:
- Reducing the height of elevation (a 45-pound plate works well), or
- Eliminating the elevation entirely to become a split squat with both feet on the ground.
- or, if you’re still having a hard time getting the full range of motion, moving to a partial range split squat.
On the other hand, once you are ready to add some load and some elevation, some great variations include:
1. Dumbbell, or kettlebell, front rack rear-foot elevated split squat, or split squat
2. Farmer hold dumbbell, or kettlebell, rear-foot elevated split squat
3. Barbell (front rack or back rack) rear-foot elevated split squat
Sample bulgarian split squat Training Session
Here’s a sample lower body training session that includes some Bulgarian split squats, along with some accessory work to target the glutes and core.
A1. Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat, @2121, 6 reps per leg x 5 sets; rest 90 seconds between each leg
B1. Banded Glute Bridge, @20X0, 20 reps x 5 sets; rest 60 seconds
B2. Single Leg Wall Sit Hold, 30 seconds per leg x 5 sets; rest 60 seconds
LEARN HOW TO WRITE TRAINING PROGRAMS THAT GET RESULTS
The Bulgarian Split Squat can be a great exercise, but it’s not always the best option for every client.
To choose the best exercise for every individual, you need to understand how to assess a client’s movement, periodize their program, and progress it over time.
Thankfully these are all skills that can easily be learned. Sign up for our free Fitness Coaching Course today and learn how to create personalized training programs that drive results.