Exercise of the Month: Bulgarian Split Squats

The Bulgarian split squat is an infamous exercise. This leg builder is both loved and hated for how brutal and effective it is. With squats, deadlifts and various machined based leg exercises often stealing the spotlight, the Bulgarian split squat stands out for being different in a few areas:

  • It’s a single leg exercise – this eliminates our core and lower back as limiting factors, which, in a standard squat or deadlift, can reduce the effectiveness of direct leg stimulation. This allows us to effectively train our legs with less stress throughout the rest of our bodies. 
  • The movement pattern is very focused – by emphasising one leg at a time, you can really focus on a full range of movement (ROM), and control the movement. 
Bulgarian Split Squat Variation Examples

The constant to this exercise is in having one leg elevated to the rear, and not directly contributing to the movement. There are, however, variants to the technique.

Bodyweight Bulgarian Split Squat

A simple variant includes performing this exercise with your bodyweight only. 

Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

Try dumbbells in either hand to perform a dumbbell Bulgarian split squat. 

Barbell Bulgarian Split Squat

Utilise a barbell across your shoulders to complete a barbell Bulgarian split squat.

You can also hold a weight at chest height with both hands to perform a goblet Bulgarian split squat. If you’re looking for a more complex variation, elevate the front heel to complete a heel-elevated Bulgarian split squat; or adjusting the placement of the front foot. Placing your foot farther away will place emphasis on the glutes and placing it nearer to you will place emphasis on the quads.  

Considerations

It is important to consider the level of your knee health before performing this exercise. Allowing the knee of the front foot to come past the line of the toes may be painful for those with lesser training or knee issues, and a great variation for those who are well trained. This is ultimately up to you, however, working with an experienced trainer will help to determine what is best for you! 

Overall the Bulgarian split squat is an exceptional resistance based exercise for those who are up for a challenge. If you’re considering adding it to your routine, start light, and work on nailing your technique and mind-muscle connection before progressing up in weight! Using light dumbbells is a great place to start, as this will still be a challenge for most!