Variation is very important when you want to make changes to your physique and/or fitness level. Incorporating the Bulgarian Split Squat can make a real difference for your legs and glutes. The legs encompass big muscle groups, such as the gluteal muscles (glutes), the quadriceps (front of the leg), the hamstrings (muscles in the back of the leg), and the flexor group (lower leg). So, they have to be trained with different exercises and diverse planes of motion.
A wonderful leg exercise is the Bulgarian Split Squat (BSS). This is a single-leg unilateral squat where the back leg is elevated on a bench or step. Using a single leg at a time develops strength, and balance, as well as higher core and upper body engagement.
Bulgarian Split Squat’s Benefits
- Aesthetics: BSS sculpts your legs and glutes nicely.
- Strength: Working one leg at a time can build stronger legs, which can transfer to bilateral lower-body movements. It makes it highly advantageous when practicing sports too.
- Increased Flexibility & Mobility: This deeper movement increases the length of the hip joint’s range of motion, making it more flexible. In turn, it improves lower body mobility. Mobility restrictions when squatting due to past injuries, long femurs or long torsos, are not problematic when performing BSS.
- Correct Imbalances: Most people have muscular imbalances in their legs, and even arms, due to favoring one limb over the other. This happens due to previous injuries, athletic demands, or just bad habits. Training unilaterally can correct these imbalances, allowing both legs to be equally developed. This is important because imbalances tend to cause injuries over time.
- Stability: This single-leg exercise can improving stability. BSS puts additional demand on the core and stabilizer muscles, helping you to become more stable in unstable environments.
- Safer: Since you are using less weight, there is less stress on the spine which reduces the risk of injury.
- Less Equipment: You can achieve great results with a fraction of the weight since its harder to work each leg individually. You don’t need access to tons of heavyweight – great when traveling.
- Versatility: You can perform BSS in different ways. you can use your own body weight, a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, a weight plate, a hex bar, or the Smith machine. You can also change the platform where your back leg goes. Having a higher platform allows for a bigger range of motion and depth. On the other hand, a softer surface of the platform forces stabilization in the foot while a harder surface keeps you more sturdy. You can use a flat bench, a step, stability ball (this requires more balance), TRX rope, or simply a chair/ couch.
Bulgarian Split Squats Mistakes
- Avoid using a lot of weight. Bulgarian split squats are challenging and don’t require you to go heavy. Lifting super heavy at this extreme angle can be tricky. You may not be able to return to your starting position and end up hurting yourself.
- Avoid moving your front leg forward instead of downwards. You must keep the front leg on a 90-degree angle so that your knee doesn’t pass your toes, which can strain the knee joint.
- Avoid keeping your shoulders forward and rounding your back. This puts unnecessary stress on your back.
- Avoid placing the back leg directly behind the front leg. This decreases your base of support and throws off your equilibrium. The Bulgarian is a unilateral exercise so you are already working on your balance – it must be done in a safe way.
- Avoid leaning forward. This diminishes the involvement of the core, which is there to keep you straight and avoid overstressing your front knee.
- Avoid putting your weight on your toes or the ball of your foot, instead carry your weight on your heel. Make sure your front foot is not too close to the bench and you are not leaning forward.
- Avoid over-engaging the back leg. The is there to help you balance not to carry the weight. This is not a lunge but more of a one-legged squat.
- Avoid internally or externally rotating the knee. Your knee should go in the direction of the foot. Otherwise, you overstress your knee.
Video: How to Do Bulgarian Split Squats
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