The Bulgarian split squat is an excellent leg exercise that effectively targets and builds your lower body muscles. Incorporate a few reps of the Bulgarian split squat into your training plan, and it won’t be long before you can have well-toned glutes, quads, and hamstrings. 

What makes the Bulgarian split squat different is that you don’t need years of experience or tons of equipment to reap its benefits. In fact, performing the Bulgarian split squat using your own body weight is enough to boost your leg strength. This exercise also offers several core benefits, making it easier for you to get the Defined Abs you’ve always wanted.

How To Do Bulgarian Split Squat

What You’ll Need:

  • Dumbbells: You need a pair of dumbbells to activate your upper body muscles and engage your muscles.
  • Bench: A bench is also necessary to help maintain your stability and balance. 

Alternative Equipment:

  • Instead of using a pair of dumbbells, you can use water-filled plastic bottles. If you don’t have access to a bench, you can use a step stool or some weight plates.

Step 1. Step Your Rear Foot Back 

To perform the Bulgarian split squat, start by stepping your rear foot back onto an elevated surface, like the top of the bench, plates, or whatever you’re using as a step. As you keep your foot elevated, see that your front foot is about two feet in front of the bench. 

Step 2. Pay Attention To The Height Of The Bench

The bench height you’ll use when doing Bulgarian split squats should be small — 4” is enough. As you go along, you can increase the height of the bench as your hip mobility, balance, strength, and flexibility will also improve. 

Step 3. Start Descending

Point your whole body straight, keep your core engaged, and maintain your torso upright as you start to descend under control. The goal is to descend until your back knee touches or comes close to the ground. During this step, use your front foot to support most of your weight (around 80%) while putting the remaining weight (20%) on your rear foot. 

Step 4. Control Your Descend

Your front knee shouldn’t drift too far in front of your toes or cave into the sides; make sure it tails your front toes. Focus on controlling your descent and take time to reach the ground. 

Step 5. Start Ascending

Begin your ascend by driving through the heel of your front foot and resume a standing position. Keep your torso upright and maintain a neutral spine throughout this step. 

Step 6. Shift Leg Positions For Reps

After performing the Bulgarian split squat with the right foot in front, shift legs (by using your left foot in front) to start position, and do the reps.

Bulgarian Split Squat Benefits

The Bulgarian split squat is one of the best single-leg exercises because it targets multiple muscles simultaneously. This exercise can also improve your core strength and impact your day-to-day activities. Still not convinced? Here are some benefits of Bulgarian split squats:

Train Multiple Muscles 

Aside from putting stress on your glutes and quads, the Bulgarian split squat also engages your hamstrings, calves, and shin muscles. High reps of Bulgarian split squat also activate your lower body musculature, utilizing your leg strength more. 

Fix Muscle Imbalances

The Bulgarian split squat is a unilateral exercise that prevents you from overtraining or putting too much stress on your dominant side. As a result, you’ll have lesser risks of injuries. Unilateral exercises also reduce asymmetries and imbalances that usually occur in either one of the two sides of the body. 

Boost Core Strength 

As mentioned, the Bulgarian split squat also offers core benefits as it solidifies your core. In this exercise, your rear foot functions as your kickstand, meaning it does little work. Stability-wise, this is challenging and requires you to use most of the 35 muscles in your core, especially the small stabilizers in your waistline and hips. 

Improve Balance And Coordination

Because it’s performed on one leg, the Bulgarian split squat can also help improve your balance and coordination. This works because single-leg exercises require you to engage your core to keep your body stable. Aside from building your core strength, working your core muscles regularly will maintain your posture and boost your balance and coordination.

Common Bulgarian Split Squat Mistakes to Avoid

Trying out the Bulgarian split squat will require you to go through trial and error, especially when finding your base. To ensure that you’ll end up performing this exercise in the correct form, be cautious and refrain from committing these common mistakes: 

  • Rising Onto Your Knees: Refrain from raising onto your knee as this shifts the load away from your torso and onto your knee joint. Committing this mistake won’t cause problems right away, but it will put you at risk of developing injuries, especially around your knee.

  • Placing Your Back Leg Behind The Front:  If you’re having problems standing in an upright position, check your back foot and make sure that it’s not placed directly behind your front foot. Always maintain a shoulder-width stance, similar to the width of your squat stance.

  • Leaning Too Far Forward: Leaning too forward when you’re doing Bulgarian split squats will put unnecessary stress on your lower back and front knee. A slight lean forward while maintaining a neutral spine is okay but letting the position of your spine flex while moving isn’t. Always keep your core braced and abdominal muscles engaged when performing Bulgarian split squats.

  • Pushing Through Your Back Leg: The Bulgarian split squat requires single-leg strength, which means that your back leg should function as a balancer and doesn’t support any of your weight. The knee of your rear leg is in a vulnerable position as you’re doing Bulgarian split squat, and putting weight on it can cause pain, discomfort, and even injuries.
  • Your Front Leg Wanders Too Much: If your front knee tends to move as you squat down, it shows you have weak glutes and adductors. Over time, this will prevent you from remaining stable as you ascend and descent. Focus on your front knee when performing Bulgarian split squat and make sure it remains stable.

Bulgarian Split Squat Muscles Worked

One of the reasons why many people like to perform the Bulargain split squat is because it enables them to target different muscles simultaneously. But do you know what these muscles are? Do you have an idea what core muscles do the Bulargain split squat improves and tones?

Here are some of the muscles worked when you perform the Bulargain split squat:

  • Quads: Performing Bulgarian split squats every day strengthens your core, allowing you to walk, run, and move easily. Your quads are located in front of your thighs and are responsible for keeping your kneecap stable and protecting it from injuries. 

  • Glutes: The Bulgarian split squat promotes better glute activation, helping you reduce back and knee pain. Having strong glutes can also improve your overall power and exercise performance. 

  • Adductors: The adductors are comprised of multiple muscles found in your inner thighs. By doing several reps of Bulgarian split squats regularly, your adductors maintain stability and support explosive movements, such as running and jumping. 

  • Hamstrings: The hamstrings are a group of three muscles that run along the back of your thigh to just below your knees. The Bulgarian split squat will require you to work your hamstrings, resulting in increased flexibility and better posture. 

Bulgarian Split Squat vs Lunges

Generally, both the Bulgarian split squat and Lunge are unilateral exercises because they use one leg at a time. The main difference between the two is the Bulgarian split squat is a static movement while lunges are more dynamic. 

Static movements isolate one muscle group at a time and hold a position for a certain period rather than moving through a range of motion. Dynamic movements, on the other hand, require you to move your muscles and joints through a large range of motion. Lunges involve continuous movements, while Bulgarian split squats do not. 

Additionally, the Bulgarian split squat demands more balance and mobility because you have to balance your body weight on one working leg only. This will put more stress on your legs, which means that you can tone and strengthen them faster.

Our Trainer’s Suggested Sets and Programs

Can’t wait to perform Bulgarian split squats and add the exercise into your training plan? Here are some of our suggested sets and programs that include the Bulgarian split squat. 

To Complete A Full-Body Workout 

Do at least four sets of 10 to 12 reps of Bulgarian split squats with 40-pound dumbbells. Rest one to two minutes between sets. This program works your entire body as you’ll be using different muscle groups. You can use heavier dumbbells as you go along.  

To Increase Leg Strength 

To increase leg strength, perform four sets of 12 reps of dumbbell Bulgarian split squats on each side. Add a three-second hold at the bottom of the movement before pushing back up and slow down the downward movement for three seconds before pushing back up. Rest for two minutes between sets.

Bulgarian Split Squat Variations

We’ve listed down some of the best Bulgarian split squat variations. We’ve chosen these exercises as we believe they are just as effective as Bulgarian split squats in toning and strengthening your lower body. 

Barbell Bulgarian Split Squat

Unlike traditional Bulgarian split squats, the barbell Bulgarian split squat uses a barbell instead of a pair of dumbbells. This exercise allows you to use more weight, and you’re not limited by your grip strength. Since the barbell Bulgarian split squat puts more stress in your back, doing a few reps of this variation can tone and strengthen your back muscles. 

The Goblet Bulgarian Split Squat

The only difference of the goblet Bulgarian split squat is that you’re holding one dumbbell in front of your chest. This variation is an excellent option if you have problems balancing with two dumbbells. 

Two Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat 

Also known as the suitcase Bulgarian split squat, this alternative uses added weight on both of your arms. Aside from using two dumbbells, you can also utilize kettlebells or any other form of weight, as long as you hold them both by your sides. Performing reps of the two dumbbells Bulgarian split squat can improve the muscular balance on both sides of your body. 

Back Loaded Bulgarian Split Squat

This variation adds more resistance to the traditional Bulgarian split squat as you’ll need to load a barbell onto your shoulders. The backloaded Bulgarian split squat will put a lot of weight in your back, which is why you should focus on keeping an upright position to prevent your chest from tilting forward. 

Overhead Bulgarian Split Squat

You’ll need to keep your core engaged in order to complete reps of the overhead Bulgarian split squat. This variation places a greater emphasis on your midline than any other variation and can be an excellent addition to your full-body and strength training.

Bulgarian Split Squat Alternatives

If you’re looking for an alternative to Bulgarian split squat, this section is for you. Here, you can choose different alternatives, depending on your available equipment, fitness level, and target muscles. 

Ball Squat

The ball squat is a great alternative to the Bulgarian split squat as it provides stability using a gym ball or exercise ball. This is a functional exercise that works your lower body muscles. 

One-Leg Press

The one-leg press allows you to work each of your quadricep muscles unilaterally without having the need to maintain balance. Unlike the Bulgarian split squat, the one-leg press doesn’t require you to raise your rear leg. 

Cable Squats

This exercise targets your quads without putting too much stress or load on your spine, as you would do with the Bulgarian split squat. As a result, you can lift more weights without risking injuries. 

Curtsy Lunge

This variation targets the same muscles as the Bulgarian split squat but without any resistance. The curtsy lunge also allows you to work on your balance and coordination as you develop your single-leg strength. 

Single-Leg Hip Thrust 

If you solely want to target your glutes, do a few reps of the single-leg hip trust in place of the Bulgarian split squat. The single-leg hip thrust helps develop your glutes without any equipment.

Wrap Up

The Bulgarian split squat targets multiple muscles simultaneously, so make sure to include it in your training plan ASAP. The sooner you perform and master the Bulgarian split squat, the sooner you can enjoy the benefits of this exercise! For beginners that face difficulties with this exercise, you may start off with the Basic Squat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Bulgarian split squats are an excellent lower body exercise that targets multiple muscles, namely your legs, calves, glutes, and hamstring. Being one of the most effective single-leg exercises today, Bulgarian split squats also forces you to work your core, so you can maintain your stability and balance. 

Both lunges and Bulgarian split squats use the rear foot more and require a shorter range of motion. This exercise is great for your lower body because it helps build your butt, legs, and core muscles. 

However, between the two, the Bulgarian split squat is better simply because it puts more external load in your working leg. When you elevate your rear leg, you’ll end up relying more on your front leg to propel the body upward compared to regular lunges.

Although both these exercises focus on the quads and require balance, the two actually have subtle differences. In a single-leg squat, your stabilizing leg is in front of you. In a Bulgarian split squat, your stabilizing leg is behind and is planted on a lower elevated surface. The Bulgarian split squat also allows you to reach greater depth than a single-leg squat as it requires hip mobility and flexibility. 

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