With your doctor’s approval, the Bulgarian split squat can be a great addition to your fitness arsenal. It is a highly unique workout that provides a variety of potential health benefits. To get the best results, it’s important to understand and practice proper form. Below, you can find a rundown on how to do Bulgarian split squat and some tips on what to avoid for optimal results.
A Rundown On The Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat is a variation on a standard single-leg squat. Instead of placing one leg in front of you, the Bulgarian split squat stance requires you to elevate and place a leg behind you on a bench or chair.
What Type Of Exercise Is It?
Unlike other exercises that work both limbs simultaneously, the Bulgarian split squat is a unilateral exercise that only works one side of the body at a time. The benefit of unilateral training is that it mimics everyday movements. In this way, you can prevent imbalances in muscles to decrease the chance of injury by creating equal strength across the body.1
Additionally, the Bulgarian split squat is a compound exercise. That means it works multiple, large muscle groups at the same time. Moving all those muscles at once requires lots of energy, which your body gets by burning calories. In this way, you can actually build muscle while simultaneously cutting fat.2
What Muscles Does The Bulgarian Split Squat Work?
For many, the Bulgarian split squat is one of the most effective and comprehensive leg workouts out there. It engages many of the leg’s primary muscles, like the calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Plus, the balancing required also builds strength in the abs and lower back.3
Potential Benefits Of The Bulgarian Split Squat
In general, Bulgarian split squats can help build leg strength that supports everyday activities. But, because it is a unilateral workout, it does more than simply bulk up your leg muscles.4
Correct Muscle Imbalances
As stated above, the unilateral movement of the Bulgarian split squat can work to correct imbalances in muscle development. Distributing strength equally across your body can enhance your athletic performance during activities like running.5
Establishing consistent strength across the body is also important for older adults, as it may improve balance to help reduce the chance of falls that can lead to injury.6
Increase Core Strength
When you do a Bulgarian split squat, you hold your upper body and chest up high. Elevating your torso like this engages your core muscles. This can help build strength in the abdominal muscles — which also supports your overall stability and balance.7
Learn How To Do Bulgarian Split Squat
The only equipment you need to perform the Bulgarian split squat is a stable bench or elevated platform. As you become more familiar with the exercise, you can even begin to add a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells for additional resistance. Tony Horton recommends starting easy and progressing slowly to decrease the chance of injury.
Note: Always speak to your physician before attempting any new exercises.
Bulgarian Split Squat Instructions
- Stand about one or two feet in front of a workout bench or chair. Plant your feet hip-distance apart. Stand with your core engaged, shoulders back, and eyes looking forward.
- Slowly lift your left leg, and extend it behind you until it rests on the bench. You can place your foot top-down with your ankle on the bench. Or, you can balance on the ball of your foot. Take your time when performing this step of the workout. It’s okay to practice the backward motion a few times until you feel comfortable. Also, keep a chair or sturdy object nearby for balance, if needed.
- Hold your torso upright, and brace your core. Remember, your rear foot and leg are only for balance. The focus of the exercise is the front leg on the ground.
- Before you lower down into a squat, make sure your right foot is planted flat on the ground.
- To begin, slowly lower down by bringing your right leg toward the ground. As you come down, hinge slightly at the hips. Keep your right foot aligned with your right knee.
- Slowly lower down until your right quad is about parallel with the ground. Inhale softly as you lower down and try to keep all the weight on your right leg.
- Push back up through your right foot to lift back up to the starting position. Exhale as you push up.
- Complete 8-10 reps on your right leg, then switch sides and complete another 8-10 reps on the left side.8
How Often Should You Do The Bulgarian Split Squat?
How often you do Bulgarian split squats depends largely on your fitness goals. In general, Tony Horton recommends that you try to include a set of Bulgarian split squats at least once a week. Of course, your skill and fitness levels are important considerations as well. A more advanced exerciser may want to include Bulgarian split squats whenever they do lower body workouts.
Avoid Common Bulgarian Split Squat Mistakes
The Bulgarian split squat can be a very manageable exercise, but there are mistakes in form that can make it less effective. Tony Horton suggests you look out for these common mistakes to ensure you practice correct form and get the most out of your exercise.
Rising Onto Your Toes
There’s a natural tendency for people to lift with the balls of their feet. This can shift the weight load to your knee joints instead of your hips. Over time, that kind of strain on the knee could lead to an injury. Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground the whole time.9
Aligning The Back Leg With The Front Leg
When you swing your leg behind you, it’s important to make sure that it’s spaced about a hip-distance apart from your front foot. Keeping a wider stance can support your balance during the exercise, helping you complete the squat more effectively.10
Using Your Back Leg To Push
The Bulgarian split squat is a unilateral exercise intended to work one leg at a time. Your back leg is only there for balance, not to help support your weight. You should be able to wiggle your back leg at any point during the exercise to ensure it’s not doing any lifting.11
Give Your Lower Body The Bulgarian Split Squat Treatment
The Bulgarian split squat is a variation of a regular squat that can provide your whole body with some serious potential benefits. As a unilateral exercise, it can help you create consistent muscle growth across the body to help with balance. Plus, all of the muscles worked make it a compound exercise, which means it burns a lot of calories and builds muscle.
For Tony Horton, the Bulgarian split squat is one of the most effective lower body exercises you can do. It can take a little practice to master the stance, but with some time and effort, you can accomplish some pretty serious gains. So, grab a bench, and give this powerhouse workout a try. Of course, be sure to speak to a physician before beginning any new exercises.