Most devoted lifters present as much as the health club able to do what it takes to work in the direction of their targets. But it’s not all the time enjoyable and video games, and a few exercises are approached with much less enthusiasm than others.

Leg day often separates goal-focused lifters from those that’d get a tongue tattoo reasonably than prepare. Many leg workout routines take a look at psychological fortitude as a lot as muscular skill, and the Bulgarian cut up squat is certainly one of them.

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Sometimes known as the very wordy “rear foot elevated split squat” or RFESS, the Bulgarian cut up squat combines single-leg coaching with a protracted vary of movement (for a deep stretch) to construct measurement, energy, and total-body stability. Here’s why this motion must discover a spot in your subsequent leg exercise.

How to Do the Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian cut up squat might seem intimidating because of the stability issue, however with a correct setup and some particular cues, you will be knocking out reps in a powerful, secure place. Here’s what to deal with.

Step 1 — Set Up the One-Legged Stance

Sit sideways on a flat bench whereas holding a pair of dumbbells. Extend each legs straight and plant your heels on the bottom. Place the foot of your working leg flat on the bottom as you get up with out transferring your toes from their spots on the bottom.

Place your non-working leg on the bench along with your shoelaces down. Stabilize your physique and pull your shoulders again to maintain your self upright. Allow the dumbbells to hold straight by your sides along with your palms going through in in the direction of your physique.

Form tip: If a normal flat bench is just too excessive to comfortably place your leg, use a decline bench and place your foot at a decrease and extra sensible peak. You may use a plyo field. 

Step 2 — Squat Under Control

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Take a deep breath, flex your core for added stability, and bend your entrance leg to squat down. Keep your shoulders pulled again and your torso upright. Keep your shoelaces involved with the bench always and don’t rise onto your toes. In the underside place, your rear knee ought to method the bottom, in case your mobility permits.

As you descend, the hip flexors of the rear leg will bear a big stretch which some lifters discover uncomfortable. Never power your physique right into a place it’s preventing towards. Over time, your mobility will enhance, and your physique will adapt.

Form tip: Before you start the train, contemplate putting a towel or foam block below the spot your rear knee will find yourself. This offers you a goal for constant depth and presents to cushion in case you descend too shortly and by chance smash your knee into the bottom. 

Step 3 — Stand to Lockout

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Keep your entrance foot flat on the bottom and press via to return to a standing place. Move at a managed tempo to keep away from being knocked off stability. Focus on driving via your entrance foot and use the again leg passively to keep up stability.

In the highest place, your entrance leg must be locked straight, and your rear leg must be bent at a slight pure angle.

Form tip: As you progress throughout the rep, maintain your eyes locked on one mounted level immediately in entrance of you, whether or not on the wall, on the bottom, or a random dumbbell rack in entrance of your bench. Focusing on a stationary object will help you keep a way of stability. Avoid closing your eyes, which may make it tougher to stability.

Bulgarian Split Squat Mistakes to Avoid

Because the cut up squat requires extra coordination than different workout routines, there are a number of frequent method errors that lifters can run into. The stability element of the train requires additional consideration to element. Using a barely slower lifting velocity to descend and stand may assist to deal with correct kind.

The leg that’s planted on the ground will obtain essentially the most muscle activation. Your rear leg must be used primarily for stability and stability, to not increase your physique from the underside place.

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Interestingly, some analysis has proven that even should you do attempt to drive up via the rear leg, it’s merely not efficient and doesn’t contribute to energy or muscle development. (1) Also, urgent exhausting with the rear leg might throw you off-balance, making it counterproductive.

Avoid it: Be certain to maintain the shoelaces of your again foot on the bench and use your rear leg to keep up stability.

Hopping Around Too Much

While the Bulgarian cut up squat does require some sense of stability, wobbling and readjusting between particular person reps could also be obligatory. If it occurs excessively, for instance, greater than two or thrice in a single set, you’ll be spending an excessive amount of time centered on stability and never sufficient time constructing energy.

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Too many corrections between reps may scale back the muscular tissues’ time below rigidity, which is able to scale back the muscle-building stimulus.

Avoid it: Use the method cue in step one of many how-to part to typically gauge your stance distance. Sit on the bench, lengthen your toes, plant them in place, and get up. Perform a number of bodyweight-only repetitions to fine-tune your stance earlier than choosing up dumbbells in your working set.

Leaning Forward

To be truthful, it is a “mistake with an asterisk.” Meaning, it’s technically a mistake in case your aim is to focus on the quadriceps muscular tissues on the entrance of your thighs, which is the commonest goal of this train. Leaning your higher physique ahead as you squat alters your physique’s leverage and reduces quadriceps activation.

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However, in case your aim is to focus on your glutes, then leaning your ahead will be the fitting factor to do. It shifts your heart of gravity and creates extra of a hip hinge or deadlift-type place which prompts the glutes and hamstrings extra considerably.

Avoid it: Know that leaning ahead as you squat down shifts the train from a quad-builder to a glute-builder. If that’s your aim and also you’re leaning intentionally to focus on particular muscular tissues, no downside. But in case your aim is to construct your quads and also you’re leaning ahead to stability your self, you then’re utilizing improper method.

Benefits of the Bulgarian Split Squat

This motion is a unilateral (single-leg) train which helps to deal with muscular imbalances and energy discrepancies between legs.

Over the long-term, these kind of workout routines can construct extra well-rounded improvement and should scale back the danger of damage. Here are some extra convincing causes to include this train.

Leg Size

The Bulgarian cut up squat means that you can focus work onto the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings of the working leg. (2) Because every leg is working individually throughout a set, the general muscular rigidity and muscle-building stimulus is elevated in comparison with working each legs concurrently throughout an train.

The Bulgarian cut up squat has additionally been proven to be much less aggravating to the knee joint in comparison with two-legged workout routines just like the again squat, making it a more sensible choice for lifters coping with joint ache. (3)

Leg Strength

Most lifters imagine it’s essential to load heavy weights onto a barbell if you wish to construct severe energy. However, the unilateral Bulgarian cut up squat can ship comparable energy and energy positive factors in comparison with bilateral (two-legged) workout routines. (4)

Treating the Bulgarian cut up squat as a heavy foremost raise whereas sustaining sound method will be a particularly efficient method to set off new energy positive factors.

Lower Body Mobility

Lifting weights is commonly prioritized over stretching or mobility work as a result of, let’s face it, stretching simply isn’t too pleasing for some individuals. However, mobility and suppleness coaching will be simply as essential for long-term joint well being.

Because the Bulgarian cut up squat places the rear leg right into a stretched place, it’s primarily a “free stretching session,” particularly for the hip flexors. Stretching the hip flexors is related to diminished decrease again ache and improved general energy efficiency. (5)

Muscles Worked by Bulgarian Split Squat

Like many squat variations, the Bulgarian cut up squat prompts all muscular tissues of the leg to various levels.

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While sure method changes can shift the goal muscle focus, it’s primarily thought-about an train for the quadriceps.


The quads, on the entrance of the thigh, are the biggest muscle on the leg. They perform primarily to increase your knee and straighten your leg. The Bulgarian cut up squat works the quadriceps all through the whole repetition, most importantly within the higher vary of movement as you method a standing, locked out place.


The glutes primarily work to increase your hip (straighten your leg from the hips down) and to regulate leg rotation on the hip joint. The Bulgarian cut up squat prompts each of those capabilities as you rise out of the underside place, whereas additionally stabilizing your leg to keep up stability. (6)


While the Bulgarian cut up squat is usually thought-about a quadriceps-focused train, the hamstrings are engaged and activated throughout every repetition. Your hamstrings work to bend your knees and (at the side of your glutes) lengthen your hips.

The backside portion of the train recruits the hamstrings considerably to gradual your descent and provoke your transition to face up.

Adductors and Abductors

Your adductors and abductors are your “inner thigh” and “outer thigh” muscular tissues, respectively. They management leg motion, appropriately, in in the direction of your centerline or away from it. During the Bulgarian cut up squat, these muscular tissues are consistently activated to keep up stability as they micro-adjust to maintain the knee of your working leg from buckling in or out.

Who Should Do the Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian cut up has gained a burst of recognition lately, being utilized by top-level aggressive bodybuilders, elite powerlifters, CrossFit champions, and world-class athletes in a wide range of sports activities. Safe to say, it has one thing to supply for everybody.

Physique-Focused Lifters

Anyone trying to pack measurement onto their legs can use the Bulgarian cut up squat as a key participant of their decrease physique exercise. This train offers a big development stimulus to almost each leg muscle, aside from the calves which don’t bear any vital vary of movement throughout the motion.

General Sports Athletes

Strength and conditioning coaches in conventional sports activities have been introducing unilateral workout routines just like the Bulgarian cut up squat to construct energy and athletic energy with out vital joint pressure. Incorporating unilateral decrease physique coaching has been proven to enhance energy output in comparison with focusing solely on bilateral coaching. (7)

Strength Athletes

Competitive powerlifters, strongmen and strongwomen, CrossFit athletes, and different energy athletes don’t should raise super-heavy to get super-strong. The Bulgarian cut up squat has been proven to be as helpful for again squat energy as particularly again squatting. (4)

This makes the Bulgarian cut up squat a super motion for lifters who want to remain on observe with energy positive factors whereas decreasing put on and tear on their joints.

How to Program the Bulgarian Split Squat

Because the Bulgarian cut up squat will be helpful for quite a few targets, it may be programmed a number of alternative ways. Here are among the best plans to suit the train into your routine.

Moderate Weight, Moderate Repetition

Training this train utilizing two or three units of eight to 12 reps delivers an optimum coaching stimulus for muscle development. (8) Because your rear leg is actually resting whereas your entrance leg is working, you may considerably minimize down on coaching time by resting 30 seconds or much less between every leg as a substitute of an extended, extra conventional relaxation interval after working each legs consecutively. This is an efficient intensity-boosting method.

Heavy Weight, Low Repetition

Once you could have an understanding of fundamental method, strive performing three or 4 units of 4 to 6 reps with a comparatively heavy weight. Going excessively heavy can negatively have an effect on method, however approaching muscular fatigue within the 4 to 6 rep vary is a adequate window to set off energy positive factors with out compromising kind.

Bulgarian Split Squat Variations

The Bulgarian cut up squat with dumbbells could also be too tough for some lifters, or not difficult sufficient for others. Here are some equally efficient choices to contemplate.

Trap Bar Bulgarian Split Squat

Using a entice bar to carry out the motion opens the potential for loading a lot heavier weights, making it ideally suited for skilled lifters who wish to construct severe single-leg energy.

Depending in your arm and leg size, the entice bar mustn’t make contact along with your rear leg at any level throughout the train. Perform the train slowly with an unloaded bar to examine your particular person vary of movement.

Safety Bar Bulgarian Split Squat

The security bar is usually known as a lifter’s secret weapon as a result of it permits lots of the similar advantages of squatting with a straight barbell, plus some added bonuses. The thick bar pad raises the load out of your heart of gravity, which will increase recruitment of the higher again muscular tissues. The ahead handles additionally scale back shoulder pressure by permitting a extra pure gripping place.

With this Bulgarian cut up squat variation, sustaining an upright torso will likely be much more essential as a result of the bar will work to break down you ahead. This makes it a super train for reinforcing strict quad-building method.

Plyometric Bulgarian Split Squat

This explosive leaping motion is good for athletes trying to construct agility and energy. It’s additionally a extremely efficient selection for any lifters trying to fireplace up their nervous system for improved efficiency previous to heavy lifting. (9)

Begin with body weight solely — including resistance with dumbbells or a weighted vest is for extremely skilled lifters. Focus on making use of most energy to realize peak with every bounce.

Bulgarian Split Squat Alternatives

Some lifters aren’t in a position to carry out the Bulgarian cut up squat because of immobility, coordination points, or different elements. These are some comparably efficient single-leg workout routines for measurement and energy.

Reverse Lunge

The reverse lunge means that you can deal with one leg at a time whereas decreasing knee joint pressure. This motion additionally helps to remove the stability element of the train, making it a more sensible choice for lifters who had hassle balancing on one foot all through a set.

Numerous different lunge variations is also used — ahead lunge, strolling lunge, and many others. — however the reverse lunge is the best and most normal motion for almost all of lifters.


The step-up will be extremely efficient when carried out accurately. Unfortunately, it’s usually carried out incorrectly which compromises its advantages. It’s important to deal with driving up via the elevated foot, not the foot on the bottom.

Many lifters make the error of bouncing off their backside foot, which generates momentum and reduces the work accomplished by the leg on high of the field.

Single-Leg Leg Press

This is essentially the most secure and least balance-demanding train of the lot. The leg press offers complete stability whereas nonetheless permitting single-leg centered coaching. This motion additionally permits a big load for use as a result of it’s not supported by your again, shoulders, or arms.

Be certain to take a seat totally within the chair help. Don’t rotate, shift, or twist whereas urgent with the working leg as a result of you may improve the danger of damage.


I really feel my again leg working greater than my entrance leg. How do I repair it?

This is commonly because of poor hip flexor mobility, which is a typical situation for a lot of lifters. The Bulgarian cut up squat places the rear leg right into a pressured stretch place.

If you at present lack mobility, that muscle would be the “weak point” and also you’ll really feel fatigue or discomfort there earlier than the goal muscle is sufficiently skilled. Your physique will adapt and enhance as you apply the train, simply you’ll want to work inside a cushty vary of movement and progressively push your self.

Why does this train make me extra sore than some other leg train?

Several variables contribute to “delayed onset muscle soreness” or DOMS, which is the technical time period for post-workout soreness. One of essentially the most vital causes is the eccentric stress which happens when a weight is lowered or a muscle is lengthened. (10)

While each train has an eccentric part, the Bulgarian cut up squat is usually carried out at a comparatively slower tempo with a purpose to keep stability and focus. This will increase the length of the eccentric and may improve DOMS.

This doesn’t imply you need to decrease your self shortly, as a result of that may be counterproductive and reduce the muscle-building stimulus. Your physique will adapt, particularly when supported by ample vitamin for development and restore.

Step Back to Get a Leg Up

Whether you name it the Bulgarian cut up squat, the rear foot elevated cut up squat, the RFESS, or the “weeble wobble one-leg bench squat,” keep it up and also you’ll quickly be calling it your ticket to larger, stronger legs. Don’t let somewhat stability requirement scare you away from this highly effective and productive motion.


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