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Stronger Legs: Bulgarian Split Squat

Athletes in Motion
Athletes in Motion
August 30, 2017
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Want to build bulging quads, hamstrings, and glutes? You should! You may think that heavy squats are the only way to build a hulking set of legs, but there is another way, a way that is much more kind to your lower back—the Bulgarian split squat, also known as rear-leg elevated split squats.

The Bulgarian squat is a unilateral movement, meaning one limb is working at a time, which can help you fully develop your legs and help solidify hip strength. It is also extraordinary for balance because you call on your stabilizing muscles to support you in this exercise. Many people who have had back injuries or who have poor squat form due to flexibility or range of motion limitations have found that Bulgarian squats are equally effective as squats when it comes to hypertrophy. Research data from the International Journal of Exercise Science states that similar lower body muscle activity can be achieved using the RLESS with half the load of a traditional back squat which would likely result in a less compressive force on your back.

How To Perform The Bulgarian Split Squat:

  1. Stand lunge-length in front of a bench with your back to the bench.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms fully extended by your sides. Your palms should be facing each other.
  3. Place the top of your rear foot flat on the bench behind you. Your feet will be approximately three feet apart. Adjust your body by sliding or jumping your lead foot in toward or away from the bench.
  4. Keeping your torso upright, lower your hips toward the floor so that your rear knee comes close to the floor.
  5. Pause and then drive through your front heel to return to the starting position.

Trainer Tip:

Do you want more emphasis on your hips, glutes, and hamstrings? Simply lengthen the distance between your front and back foot for this exercise.

Exercise Routine:

  • Bulgarian Split Squat 3 sets each leg of 10-12
  • Leg Press 3 sets of 8-10
  • Goblet Sumo Squat 3 sets of 10
  • Prone Hamstring Curl Machine 3 sets of 10-12
  • Weighted walking lunge 3 sets of 20
  • Calf Press Machine 3 sets of 12-15
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