Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is an interesting exercise. Both in name and appearance.

But it can be intimidating to attempt for the first time. And you might not know exactly what it’s working.

So in this article, I show you how to do a Bulgarian split squat. As well as how to use it to target glutes or quads.

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What Is A Bulgarian Split Squat?

The Bulgarian split squat is a lower-body exercise that’s sort of a hybrid between the squat and lunge movements. That is, your feet stay in one spot but you work each leg independently.

Bulgarian Split Squat vs Lunge

A Bulgarian split squat is very similar in execution to a traditional lunge. Both are essentially a squat with one leg in front of the other.

However, the main difference is that your back leg is elevated for a Bulgarian split squat. This transfers more of the weight to the front leg.

As a result, the leg muscles and stabilizers work a little harder.

Bulgarian Split Squat Muscles Worked

The muscles used during a Bulgarian split squat are the quadriceps, hips, glutes, and hamstrings. But your foot placement can change the emphasis on certain muscle groups. Which I’ll explain in more detail below.

Bulgarian Split Squat Benefits & Limitations

Pros

  • No special equipment needed
  • Many variations to fit your gym and experience level
  • Can be adjusted to target more quads or more glutes
  • Also builds balance and coordination skills

Cons

  • Not the best exercise for overall power and strength
How To Bulgarian Split Squat

How To Do A Bulgarian Split Squat

Start by standing with both feet facing away from a bench or step. Now extend one leg back so that your toes rest on the bench. Your front leg should be about 24-30″ away from the bench.

Next, bend your front leg so your hips drop straight down. Lower your hips slowly until your back knee touches the floor. Then extend your front leg back to the starting position.

As you perform the exercise, keep your back straight and your chest up. Continue until the working leg fatigues, then switch legs.

Try this exercise with your bodyweight first. And hang on to something until you can keep your balance.

Once you master balance and form, you can add weights to make it more challenging.

Bulgarian Split Squat Form

  • Place one leg behind the other on a bench or step
  • Lower hips until back knee touches ground
  • Keep back straight & chest up
  • Don’t lean forward
  • Don’t place front foot too close or too far from bench
  • Don’t slam knee on floor

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Bulgarian Split Squat For Quads

In order to target more of the quadriceps on the front of the leg, start by taking a shorter stance. That means keep your front foot closer to the bench.

When you perform the squat movement, your knee should pass over your toe. This increases knee flexion and activates more quads as you push back up to the starting position.

Bulgarian Split Squat For Quads

Bulgarian Split Squat For Glutes

On the other hand, to target more glutes, start by taking a slightly longer stance. That means your front foot will be further away from the bench.

Now when you perform the squat, your knee should stay behind your toe. This increases hip flexion and activates more glutes and hamstrings as you lift your body out of the bottom of the movement.

Bulgarian Split Squat Variations

There are several different ways you can do the split squat movement. While the form remains the same, each offers a different way to add resistance or make the exercise harder as you progress.

Bodyweight Bulgarian Split Squat

For the bodyweight variation, you don’t hold any weights. Your body provides all the resistance. Perfect for beginners or warm-up sets.

In this case, you can hold on to something for balance. When you’re comfortable balancing, keep your arms at your sides or crossed in front of you.

Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

The DB Bulgarian split squat can be performed with a weight in each hand as demonstrated above. One nice thing about dumbbells is you can easily drop them if you lose your balance.

Or you can hold a dumbbell in one hand and brace yourself with the other. The single DB option is demonstrated below.

Barbell Bulgarian Split Squat

Another way to add resistance is with a barbell on your back like a traditional squat. However, this variation is a little more challenging to get started and to balance.

Once the bar is on your shoulders, the exercise is performed as normal. But the drawback is that it’s not easy to drop the bar if you lose your balance. So don’t attempt this variation unless you’re experienced.

Goblet Bulgarian Split Squat

A goblet squat is when you hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest while doing a squat movement. And you can apply the same technique to the split squat.

An advantage of this position is that it shifts your center of gravity forward which makes it easier to target your quads. Also, you can elevate your heel to emphasize your quads even more.

Goblet Bulgarian Split Squat

Bulgarian Split Squat Jumps

Another way to make the exercise more challenging is by adding a jump to the end of each rep. Although it’s best to try this one with your bodyweight first.

In order to do a jump squat, you have to accelerate faster out of the bottom of the movement. This helps you develop more explosive power.

Deficit Bulgarian Split Squat

Over time, your flexibility will increase. So when this happens you can increase the range of motion by creating a deficit. This simply means elevating your front foot so your knee travels down further.

Smith Machine Bulgarian Split Squat

A Smith machine is basically a barbell on guide rails. Doing Bulgarian split squats on a Smith machine allows you to add weight while also getting some assistance on balance.

The only downside is that the guide rails can somewhat restrict your natural movement path.

Banded Bulgarian Split Squat

Lastly, you can use bands to add resistance if you don’t have any free weights. To do a banded split squat, place the center of the band under your lead foot.

Then grab the ends and pull them up to your shoulders. From this starting position, perform the movement as you normally would.

17 Best Resistance Band Exercises For Legs

Hypertrophy Training Program

Bulgarian split squats are a good addition to your leg day workout whether you use them to target quads or glutes. But if you really want to reach your fitness goals, you need a complete resistance training plan designed for muscle gain.

In order to maximize muscle growth (aka hypertrophy), you should adjust 10 specific training variables. Check out my free hypertrophy training program to see how to optimize your workouts.

Hypertrophy Training
Gain More Muscle

With this information, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your fitness goals. And if you found this exercise tutorial helpful, click on the articles below for more workout tips!

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