Bulgarian Split Squat

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Bulgarian Dumbbell Split Squat Exercise Guide

Bulgarian split squat (single-leg squat) was designed by the Bulgarian national weightlifting squad to develop strength, balance, and flexibility, simulating the movement in the Olympic snatch. It is ideal for developing balance and strength in your hips and thighs.

The Bulgarian dumbbell split squat is really great exercise. It is done like a regular split squat but with your back leg up on a bench.

Bulgarian Dumbbell Split Squat Exercise

Bulgarian Dumbbell Split Squat Exercise

Bulgarian split squat is ideal for people with back problems (especially cervical damage), or who find it difficult to grip a barbell securely. It can also be used for the sake of variety. Hold the dumbbells in a neutral grip (palms facing) on either side of your body.

You can  perform this effective bodybuilding exercise with a set of dumbbells, but you can obviously go a lot heavier when you use a barbell. Bulgarian dumbbell split squat is similar to the barbell split squat, but holding the dumbbells to your sides gives you a lower center of gravity and improves your stability.

Exercise Instructions

STARTING POSITION: To perform Bulgarian split squat you’ll need a pair of dumbbells and a flat bench or chair. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and place the top of your rear foot on a bench or stable step that is approximately 22 to 24 inches (55 to 60 cm) high. Place your other foot as far forward as possible with your knee slightly bent. Hold the dumbbells at arm’s length at your sides. Your back knee should be slightly bent and your torso as upright as possible.

Bulgarian Split Squat - Exercise Animation

Bulgarian Split Squat – Exercise Animation

MOVEMENT (ACTION): Squat down as far as you can while keeping your torso upright. In other words, slowly lower your rear knee almost to the floor. Stop when the top of your front thigh is parallel to the floor. From the bottom of the movement, straighten your front leg to the starting position. Finish all your reps with your non-dominant leg before doing the same number of reps with your dominant leg forward.

Exercise Key Points To Remember

  • Do not let the knee of the working (forward) leg go out over the toes. Keep an upright posture with a wide stance to alleviate this problem.
  • Lower yourself as far as you can without discomfort. Your rear knee almost meets the floor at the bottom of the movement. Your range of motion will be limited by your hip flexor and quadriceps flexibility.
  • Start with fairly light weights – the microtrauma induced by this exercise can feel like major surgical rearrangement of your muscle fibers the day after you try it for the first time.

Bulgarian Split Squat Variations

  • Bulgarian Barbell Split Squat
Bulgarian Barbell Split Squat

Bulgarian Barbell Split Squat

  • Bulgarian Body Weight Split Squat
Bulgarian Bodyweight Split Squat

Bulgarian Bodyweight Split Squat

  • Swiss-Ball Bulgarian Split Squat

Muscles Engaged in Bulgarian Split Squat

  • Main muscles: quadriceps, gluteus maximus
  • Secondary muscles: hamstrings, adductors, gastrocnemius, muscles of the lower back and along the spine
  • Antagonists: iliopsoas, sartorius

Summing Up (Conclusion)

Bulgarian split squat (single-leg squat) is one tough exercise that should be attempted only after you have mastered the technique of a regular squat. Although the movement for this exercise is similar to the squat, since the legs are isolated, it is harder to get hip activity because the glutes prefer to work in pairs when it comes to standing up from a deep position. You want to take a more upright position to further reduce hip demand and increase quad load. This exercise is primarily a body-weight movement, but adding dumbbells, barbells, or other forms of resistance is encouraged. Before adding resistance, as with any exercise, make sure your technique is perfect. We encourage you to include this exercise in your leg workout routine, but be careful.

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