The Bulgarian Split Squat is a fantastic movement, which has a place at home and in the gym.
You can make it harder by adding weight, but also by changing the position of the weight(s), which can alter your centre of gravity and hit the core and glutes even more! Slowing the tempo and increasing the range of motion also increase the intensity without adding weight (ideal for home or hotel settings).
You do not need to use weights initially, but these are handy to apply progressive overload as you begin to master the technique and advance in strength and skill.
How to Bulgarian Split Squat:
- Stand facing away from a bench, sofa, or appropriate stable surface, with your upper calf touching the object.
- Take a big stride forwards with one leg. Planting the toes forwards or slightly outward (as you plant your foot for a normal step).
- Straighten your front leg, brace the core and stare at the floor or bottom of the wall 2 metres in front of you (importantly, a surface or object that isn’t moving).
- Now, keeping the shoulders relaxed, lift your back leg and place the foot/ankle on the bench. Balance by weighting and straightening the front leg.
- Make sure you are staring at the same point, breathe in and descent smoothly until the thigh is parallel with the ground.
- As you drive back up through the front leg, brace the knee outwards to prevent it caving across the body. Your knee caving will load the quad and disable good posture and glute activation.
- Breathe out as you squeeze the bum at the peak, balance if needs be and repeat.
Key Teaching Points:
- Keep your breathing consistent; in before you descend, and out when you extend the hip/stand tall. This helps with rhythm and good posture.
- Weight through the heel on the descent and whole foot on the ascent. Keeping the weight through your heel on the ascent will restrict balance and weight used.
- Use an appropriate object to mark where your front foot should be so you don’t have to reset between each set. This also helps with consistency between sets and improving technique.
- Have 30-45 seconds between legs. On single limb exercises you should always do this, as your CV system (breathing and pulse rate) needs to recover so we don’t impede one limb through fatigue.
- Start with light dumbbells in each had, before experimenting with using a barbell; between the legs, in a front squat position or a regular back squat position. The higher you take the weight the harder it will be to balance.
- Try to regain your balance using the core and extending the front leg. Using your arms (especially with weights in hand) will cause more instability as you contract the biceps, shoulders and traps.
- Place a towel or squat pad on the bench so your ankle can rest on it. This will make it more comfortable for taller trainers and those with restricted ankle mobility.
This movement can be used for building strength, muscle and goals of fat loss. The most important thing for all the aforementioned goals is your diet, consistent training and lifting heavy with good technique. Do not be fooled by people telling you low reps will make you bulky and high reps ‘toned’.