What Are Bulgarian Split Squats Good For?

Medically Reviewed on 2/17/2021

Bulgarian split squat is a type of squat exercise that is good for lower-body training.
Bulgarian split squat is a type of squat exercise that is good for lower-body training.

Bulgarian split squat is a type of squat exercise that is good for lower-body training. This exercise helps strengthen the following muscle groups:

  • Quads
  • Glutes (butt muscles)
  • Hamstrings (those in the back of thigh)
  • Calves
  • Spinal erector (back muscle)
  • Abdominals (core muscles)

Amongst all these muscles, the single-leg balance in the Bulgarian split squat particularly targets the quadriceps and core. The balancing and coordination required during this exercise increase the level of the core and upper body engagement. This helps in maintaining proper body posture during standing and sitting.

By improving side-to-side balance, Bulgarian split squats make you less likely to fall while bending or lifting so that you can avoid getting injured. This is particularly helpful for older people.

How to perform a Bulgarian split squat?

To perform the Bulgarian split squat, you need about a knee-height bench or a sturdy chair. Here are the steps of this exercise:

  • Stand at a 2 feet distance from the bench with your legs placed hip-distance apart, arch your back, tighten your core, hold your shoulders back, and keep your chest out.
  • Pick up your left foot and position it on the bench behind you while your right foot is still on the floor. To do this, flex your left ankle and balance with the ball of your foot and toes.
  • You may need to hop your right foot several times during the exercise to find the best balance.
  • Bend your right knee and inhale as you go downward.
  • Remember to focus your balance on your right leg and not on your backfoot.
  • Return to your standing position by pushing through your right foot and using your right quad and glute to power the upward phase of the exercise. Exhale while you do this.
  • Lower your left foot on the floor and repeat the same for the other side. This completes one repetition (or rep) of the Bulgarian split squat.

As per your tolerability, you can try doing many reps of the Bulgarian split squat over time. Make sure you repeat the same number of times for each side.

As you become comfortable with the exercise, you can add weights (dumbbells or kettlebells) for increased resistance. The weights should be in both hands in a vertical position in front of the chest and the elbows close to the rib cage during the squat.

What care to take while doing Bulgarian split squat

It takes some trial and error to find proper foot placement while performing the Bulgarian split squat. You may lose your balance until you find the most comfortable foot placement. It is OK to try and repeat several times to perform it comfortably, and most importantly, correctly.

Avoid the temptation of leaning forward from the hip. This may make your center of gravity to be on the front of your knee and put excessive stress on the knee. This will not allow you to achieve the intended aim of the squat, and you may end up injuring your knees.

Your back leg is only to offer support. The primary aim is to feel the “burn” in the muscles of your front leg.

Before going ahead with this exercise:

  • You need to have a reasonable level of balance, coordination, and lower-body strength. This exercise is not for beginners, who are doing strength training exercises for the first time. Also, you should not try this if you cannot balance during traditional lunges.
  • You should not have any knee or ankle pain or injuries. Any such injuries may not give the kind of mobility, flexibility, and support necessary for performing the squat.

If you feel any pain while doing a Bulgarian split squat, do not attempt it further. Instead, try the split squat variation in which your back foot is balanced on the floor instead of the bench.

If you are a beginner and not sure about doing it correctly, or you are not getting results from Bulgarian split squat, do not hesitate to ask a fitness expert. They can identify at which step of the exercise you might be going wrong.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/17/2021
References
Andersen V, Fimland MS, Brennset O, et al. Muscle Activation and Strength in Squat and Bulgarian Squat on Stable and Unstable Surface. Int J Sports Med. 2014;35(14):1196-1202. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25254898/

The American Council on Exercise. Bulgarian Split Squat. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/exercise-library/366/bulgarian-split-squat/