Kindal doing a double racked bulgarian split squat

Bulgarian Split Squats - A Must Do No Matter Your Fitness Level

You need to be doing single leg exercises.

Using only one leg is amazing for:

  • Balance...
  • Coordination...
  • Brain muscle (neuromuscular) connection...
  • Strength...
  • Endurance...
  • And it puts your hips in extension... which we don't do enough of (we sit - flexion - way too much.)

Plus single leg training makes your two leg exercises a lot stronger as well.

The bulgarian split squat is a single leg exercise even a beginner can get started with safely.

From The Ground Up - Why The Bulgarian Split Squat?

Your Feet

Nobody ever talks about weight distribution across your feet... but it matters. A lot!

The bulgarian split squat teaches two things really well... each will help you with your normal squats and with a lot of kettlebell exercises .

Knee Placement

Your knee should be slightly outside your foots midline... I'll show you more pictures below.

This is mechanically how you will get the best balance and power from the movement.

Weight Across Your Foot

Your weight should be towards the outside of your foot with the arch of your foot off the ground... in other words... activated.

Your Hips

If you're like most women... you have tight hips from sitting. And even if you're on your feet the majority of the day... your hips still get wonky.

For most of us (myself included) the front of our hips are very tight.

And because the muscles in the front of the hips are tight... and tend to pull your hips forward.

When you do a bulgarian split squat... this pulling will pull your torso forward as well... messing with your balance and posture.

OR...

Your hips will be pulled open... tilting to the side of your body with the leg that is back (or in extension).

Feeling this is important because now you can correct it using stretching exercises and trigger ball exercises .

Your Torso

Your torso will have to lean forward a little... but pay attention to it going too far forward.

Your Eyes

This is more about balance... notice where you're looking.

Don't look straight down. I prefer to look about 12 feet in front of me.

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Kindal doing squats during a live workout

How To Setup Correctly And Safely

Distance from Box or Bench or Couch

Have some tape to help mark where your foot is. This helps a lot when you're doing faster circles that require you to get into this position a little faster.

  • Don't be too bunched up
  • Don't be too splayed out

This is really only a concern when you're using weights.

  • Sometimes getting too bunched up can help with ankle mobility...
  • Sometimes going too wide can help with hip mobility and balance...

Back Foot Position

There really is no correct way. I use all of these depending on what's going on.

  • On toe
  • On top of foot
  • Foot on really hight box
  • Foot on really low box

Sometimes my feet will be really tight and start to cramp when I go down in the squat.

So I'll quickly pop the foot up to my toe and it instantly helps.

Kindal pushing really hard in a pushup
Intensity Tip

You don't always have to use a box. Think about using a ring or suspension system to test your balance even more.

This is a much harder position to get into so going heavy is probably out of the question... but it's a lot of fun.

I prefer rings. They are a lot easier to deal with.

How Low Should You Go?

  • Start small if you're new.
  • Go big as you increase flexibility and confidence.

Bulgarian Squat Variations

Normal Bodyweight

Start here to find your optimal distance from your box.

Use bodyweight to work on mobility. Go really low and stay there in tension for a little bit.

Play with your hip position and trying to square them up at the bottom of the squat.

Finally start working on your high rep endurance (higher rep counts) with your bodyweight.

Overhead Bodyweight

Speaking of mobility... grab a PVC pipe... band or belt... even a broom stick...

Raise it over your head... arms locked out... and knock our some split squats.

This will

Racked with Kettlebells

I prefer kettlebells when doing single side racked... it's awkward racking a dumbbell. And uncomfortable.

Racked split squats are great because the weight offset causes your:

  • Abs to work harder...
  • Balance to work harder...
  • Shoulder and upper body to work harder...

And I think this automatically helps you keep your hips a little more square.

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Kindal doing squats during a live workout

Suitcase

I don't know why... but suitcase split squats and lunges always feel harder.

Actually I do.

It's because you don't need your upper body strength as much. And that makes it easier.

You can go single sided and get a lot of the benefits from racked split squats...

Or you can go double... go heavy... and get a real challenge.

It doesn't matter if you use dumbbells or kettlebells for this variation.

I also feel this variation helps you stay more upright... pay attention to that.

Plyo

Keep this bodyweight only.

And you don't have to do plyo split squats. I bring them up because it is a great way to practice some single leg power.

Here's how I like to do these:

  • Go down slow focused on balance and knee position.
  • Briefly pause at the bottom and get your arms ready to help you explode up
  • Pop up and try to jump your front foot only a couple inches off the ground.

You don't have to go crazy high. Stay in control with this exercise.

Kindal walking out in an inchworm with great form
Form Tip

Jumping is dangerous.

For us normal people... jumping is dangerous and drastically increases the risk of injury.

We don't practice jumping or learn how to do it correctly.

It is not necessary at all to do. Personally I just do it because it is fun... and I know I won't injure myself because I practice.

Pulses

Keeping your muscles in tension is important for endurance and strength.

Pulsing during bulgarian split squat will never let the tension up. It's brutal.

Don't go too heavy with these... I feel it's better lighter so you can go longer.

  • Try pulsing at a normal smooth speed...
  • Pulse and pause at the top and bottom for one second...
  • Pulse down super slow and up a little faster...

Play around with your tempo and pauses. You leg will be destroyed in a great way.

Negatives

I will always bring up negatives because this is how you will get stronger.

You cause more muscle damage on the eccentric phase of every movement... so use it.

This is when I like to use suitcase split squats.

I can go really heavy and at the bottom just put the weights down.

It's much safer than racking kettlebells.

Video pause cover

Dynamic Step Off to Full Lunge

Keep this variation bodyweight only or very light.

Here's what you're going to do... and I have used this many times in real workouts.

I'm not just being different for the sake of it.

  • Once you come up from the bottom of the split squat...
  • Step your back foot forward...
  • Step (only for a half second) midway with your knee high in control...
  • Step all the way forward into a front lunge...
  • Fire off that foot and come back with your knee high at the mid point...
  • Plus your back toe on the bend and go into your next split squat.

I like to use my toe for the back foot here. You get more balance and confidence knowing your set in a good position.

This is a fun variation you can play off of more.

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Add The Bulgarian Split Squat Into Your Routine

Use this exercise more and your body will thank you.

Just writing this post makes me want to focus on it more myself.

It's such a great single leg exercise.

I think it's safer than doing pistol squats. Plus a great exercise to build up to pistol squats.

If you want to get started with kettlebells... I have a list of posts about kettlebell training for women . Go check that out.

Follow me on my social account if you want to see me do more exercise like this.

And if you have any questions... message me and I'll help you get the answers you need so you can train safely and benefit long into the future.

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