How to Do a Bulgarian Split Squat: Techniques, Benefits, Variations

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Also known as: Split squat

Target: Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, abs, spinal erectors

Necessary equipment: Bench or sturdy chair

Level: Intermediary

The Bulgarian squat is a version of the one-legged squat in which the back leg is raised on a bench or sturdy chair. As a one-leg, one-sided squat, this exercise focuses more on the quadriceps than other similar lower body fusion moves. It also requires a lot of balance and coordination, which increases the level of upper body engagement needed to maintain proper form.

The main thing to remember about the Bulgarian squat is that you need to try a few times to find the right foot position to perform the exercise comfortably. You’ll be placing one of your feet on the back bench, but you may need to hop your front foot around a bit to help you find the exact spot where you feel best. You can try repeating a few workouts before starting your actual workout to make sure you’ve got the right setup.

This exercise targets your front leg—your back leg is there for balance support, but the grip and “burn” should be felt primarily in the front leg, especially the quadriceps of the front leg.

As a combination exercise for the lower body, the Bulgarian squat is a great move to add strength to your lower body or full body workout routine. Because of the synergistic, balance-focused nature of the movement, it’s a good idea to include it early in your workout, perhaps after a good warm-up and some combination of exercises that provide a bilateral focus, such as: Traditional squats, Romanian deadlifts, or dumbbell jerks.


The Bulgarian squat is a great way to take your compound, lower body exercise to the next level. This move targets all of the same muscle groups you see targeted during squats and lunges—the glutes, glutes, hamstrings, calves, abs, and spine muscles—but with focus. more into the quads and core due to the single-leg balance challenge that exercise provides.

Any time you can work your body unilaterally — meaning you target one side of your body independently of the other — you have an opportunity to improve bilateral muscle imbalances.By correcting this imbalance, you’ll be less likely to be “encroached” by one side when bending, lifting, or moving throughout your life, making it easier to maintain proper alignment and avoid injury. hurt over time.

Additionally, by improving your balance with compound exercises, your lower body, agility, and core strength are likely to be improved, making you less likely to fall when you lose your balance. plain. For young people, this may not seem like a big deal, but the consequences of falling are much more evident in an older population. Older adults who can keep their balance and fall less likely will avoid life-changing injuries like hip or wrist fractures.

Step by step instructions

All you need for the most basic version of the Bulgarian squat is a bench or a sturdy chair. Once you’re comfortable with the exercise, you may want to add weights or kettlebells to increase resistance.

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  1. Stand close to your feet in front of a sturdy bench or chairfeet hip-distance apart, center of gravity, shoulders back, chest and eyes straight forward.
  2. Lift your right foot and place it on the bench behind you. You can do this one of two ways, and it may take a few tries before you decide which version you prefer. One option is to place the tops of your feet on the bench, so that your ankle joints are roughly in line with the edge of the bench. Another option is to bend your ankles and find balance with the ball of your feet and toes, just like you would in a traditional lunge. Neither version is better than the other and really depends on personal preference.
  3. Check to make sure your feet are still hip distance apart, if not slightly wider. You don’t want your elevated foot to align directly behind the front foot, as this will make balancing much more difficult. You may have to jump or wiggle your front foot to find a safe and balanced position. This is something you may have to do a few times after doing a repeat or two, as finding the right footing position based on your comfort and preference can take some time.
  4. Remember, your back foot is only there to help you keep your balance– the participation and movement of the exercise focuses on the front leg.
  5. Grab your attention with your chest up and your eyes looking straight aheadand bend your left knee, allowing your right knee and ankle to flex naturally as you move through the downward phase of the exercise without bearing the load on your back leg.
  6. Try to balance the load evenly on your left foot when you lower down. Bend slightly forward at your hips, making sure your left knee stays in line with your left toes (not inward or outward). You may find that your left knee starts to stick out slightly from your left toe towards the end of the exercise. This is not necessarily bad or wrong, and just depends on your comfort level and the flexibility you have in your ankle. If it feels uncomfortable, return to the starting position and try to move your front foot forward slightly before doing the next rep.
  7. Inhale during this downward phaseLower until your left quadriceps are almost parallel to the ground.
  8. Press back to standing by pushing through your left leg and use your left quadriceps and glutes to power the upward phase of the exercise. Exhale as you press to stand.
  9. Step right foot off bench or chair after exercise aside. Make sure you keep everything even by doing the same number of repetitions and sets on each side.

Common mistake

Place the rear foot directly behind the front

If you align the back foot directly behind the front foot, it will be difficult for you to balance throughout the exercise. Because movement is provided by your front foot, this is already a unilateral balancing challenge, forcing you to keep your balance as you move through a squat supported primarily by the front foot. your.

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If you reduce your support base by placing your back foot directly behind your front foot, you will have trouble mastering proper form.

When you place your back foot on the back bench, make sure it is hip-width apart or even slightly wider than your front foot. Even though you’re not doing the exercise with your hind or hind legs, having this wider “base” for support will help you complete the Bulgarian squat effectively.

Leaning too far forward from the hips

It’s really tempting and common to lose focus on your core – especially the abs and spine – when you move into the downward phase of the Bulgarian squat. Leaning forward not only limits the core benefits of the exercise, but it also makes you more likely to put too much pressure on your front knee, causing your weight to shift too far forward. (A little thin is fine.)

Also, if you’re doing a Bulgarian squat with a barbell at shoulder level, leaning forward as you squat is more likely to lead to injury. Before you begin the downward phase of the exercise, reactivate your core muscles and roll your shoulders back. Try to stay in this pose and align throughout each repetition.

Rise up to the toes

A really bad habit that sometimes happens when your alignment and form are not good, if not, is to lift the ball and toes of your feet before you squat down. This usually indicates one of two things: 1) your front foot is too close to the bench and you need to move forward for better balance and alignment, or 2) you’re leaning forward hip when performing the squat, and you need to be on your tiptoes to support the forward shift of the weight for balance.

If you find yourself standing up with the ball or the front toe of your forefoot, stop the exercise and put it back. Check the position of your forefoot—you may need to shift it forward—and make sure you’re keeping your torso upright and tall as you perform the exercise.

Support for rear foot movement

Remember, the Bulgarian squat is a form of one-legged squat. While the back leg is intended to help with balance, it is not used to perform the exercise, which would make it more wobbly. At any point of the exercise, you can “shake” your back leg to make sure it stays loose and doesn’t engage in supporting your weight.

Allow the front knee to lose alignment

As with all squat and lunge variations, a common and important mistake in the Bulgarian squat is letting the front knee shift inward or outward, losing alignment with the toes on the same side. This puts too much pressure on the knee, especially in single leg exercises where weight and resistance are both supported by one leg.

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Pay attention to your front knee and make sure it stays in line with your toes, especially as you transition between the downward and upward phases of the exercise.

Modifications and Variations

Need a modification?

While the terms “squat squat” and “split squat” are often used interchangeably, they are actually two different variations of the exercise. The Bulgarian squat refers to the version where the back leg is raised on a bench or a sturdy chair, while the split squat is the version performed without raising the back leg.

If you have trouble balancing while your back leg is elevated, or if the angle of the raised foot feels uncomfortable, perform the exercise the same way, but with your back foot. on the floor.

Just remember, this move is not the same as the lunge where the back leg is also involved in the exercise. You can use your back foot for balance, but the whole movement must be supported by your front foot.

Want to join a challenge?

Once you’ve mastered proper form, make things harder by adding weight. You just need to hold a pair of dumbbells or dumbbells to increase the difficulty of the exercise. And for an even tougher variation, place an empty or shoulder-loaded barbell before performing the Bulgarian split squat.

Safety and Precautions

Proper setup and effective core engagement are the best ways to make sure the Bulgarian squat remains safe. Take your time to find proper leg placement and alignment so you’re not tempted to lean forward from your hips and throw your weight forward on your front knee. This puts too much stress on the knee and can lead to injury.

In general, this exercise is safe for anyone who has been involved in strength training for a while and has a decent level of balance, coordination, and lower body strength.

If you’re a beginner in strength training or if you’re having trouble keeping your balance while doing a traditional leg swing, you may not be ready to try the Bulgarian squat. Likewise, if you have pain or injury in your knee or ankle, the flexibility and mobility required to perform this move correctly may not be comfortable for you.

If you feel pain or discomfort, stop the movement and try the squat variation with your back foot balanced on the floor.


Incorporate this move into one of these popular exercises:

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