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What is a Bulgarian Split Squat? Discovering the Benefits of This Dynamic Exercise



Well-known member
Aug 7, 2023
Bulgarian split squats have emerged as a dynamic and efficient exercise in the fitness world, capturing the attention of trainers, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts. This distinctive exercise, distinguished by its split stance and posterior foot elevation, provides many advantages, contributing to its prominence and rising popularity.

This squat variation is a challenging exercise with numerous benefits. It is an excellent way to develop muscle and strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

Even though it is not a traditional lifting exercise, it is a highly effective method for powerlifters and weightlifters seeking new ways to optimize training regimens.

Bulgarian split squat

Definition of a Bulgarian Split Squat​

The Bulgarian Split Squat, also known as the rear-foot elevated split squat, is an unilaterally-focused exercise for the lower body. This exercise isolates a single leg, unlike bilateral exercises like squats and lunges that engage both legs simultaneously. One foot is placed on an elevated surface while the other foot remains firmly set on the ground.

The single-leg posture demands better balance and coordination than the standard squat or lunge. It makes the Bulgarian split squat more difficult, improving balance and coordination more effectively.

Due to the constant need to maintain balance, this variant emphasizes core engagement. Although beneficial, traditional squats and lunges do not require the same degree of core activation as the Bulgarian split squat. Additionally, this variation of the conventional squat allows the isolation of specific muscles and joints, thereby aiding in the prevention and rehabilitation of injuries.

The Historical Background​

In the 1980s, the Bulgarian weightlifting team popularized this single-leg exercise, which bears their name. The team was renowned for its strength and power, believing that the Bulgarian split squat was essential for developing these characteristics.

Even though weightlifters have been experimenting and stressing themselves with various leg exercises for ages, the origins of the Bulgarian Split Squat indicate a more recent era. Although the precise origin of the routine is unknown, the few surviving writings and narratives suggest that it evolved from Olympic lifting during the Cold War era.

As the beneficial effects of the Bulgarian Split Squat became widely recognized, various athletes incorporated it into their training regimens. The ability of the exercise to target specific muscle groups while simultaneously improving stability and balance made it an attractive addition to athletic training programs.

The Correct Technique​

Achieving an optimal range of motion is necessary to reap the maximum benefits of the Bulgarian split squat. A deeper squat recruits additional muscle fibers and increases flexibility. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how to execute a Bulgarian split squat:

  • Initial Position: Begin standing with one foot resting on the bench behind you. Maintain an upright position with relaxed shoulders and an engaged core. The alignment of your front foot is essential for stability and muscle activation.

  • Descending into the Squat: Bend your front knee and lower your body toward the ground. Attempt to form two right angles with your knees. Keep your chest and spine up and straight. Ensure your front knee does not extend beyond the tip of your toes.

  • Ascending from the Squat: Push through your front heel to return to the initial position. Maintain control throughout the exercise and avoid overextending your knee at its maximum.

  • Do Reps and Sets: Perform the desired number of reps on a single leg before switching to the other. Start with three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions per leg and modify accordingly based on your fitness level.

  • Recovery: Give your muscles time to recover between sessions, and consider incorporating dynamic stretches to improve flexibility and prevent injuries.

Maintain a standing position throughout the motion. It ensures appropriate spinal alignment and reduces stress on the lower back. Before adding resistance, you should focus on perfecting your form. Add dumbbells or kettlebells to your routine to increase the difficulty as your comfort level increases.

Bulgarian split squat 2

Equipment and Setup​

The Bulgarian split squat is a bodyweight exercise requiring no additional equipment. This variation requires no extra weights and is ideal for beginners. However, you can utilize a few items of equipment to increase the difficulty or target specific muscle groups:

  • Dumbbell: Holding a dumbbell in each hand provides additional resistance. It will increase the difficulty of the exercise and aid in building more strength.

  • Barbell: A barbell placed across the shoulders adds substantial resistance. This version, however, is appropriate for experienced lifters seeking to lift heftier weights.

  • Step or Balance Board: A step or balance board can be used to elevate the rear foot, thereby increasing the difficulty of the exercise. It is an excellent option for those who wish to target the quads specifically and introduces an element of instability.

  • Resistance Bands: Attaching resistance bands to a substantial object, such as a rack or a post, is possible. You can hold the resistance band in each hand to intensify the exercise. It is an excellent option for those new to the Bulgarian split squat or who wish to increase the exercise's difficulty without adding excessive weight.

Targeted Muscle Groups​

The Bulgarian split squat is a compound movement that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. It predominantly targets the quadriceps, buttocks, and hip flexors.

The quadriceps are responsible for knee extension and aiding the body's ascent from a squat. Glutes extend the hip and stabilize the body as you return to the beginning position after lowering your body using one leg. The hip flexors are responsible for bending the hip and bringing the thigh closer to the torso.

Aside from primary muscles, this squat variation also works on the hamstrings, calves, and core. These muscles are responsible for flexing, maintaining good form, and preventing injuries. The primary and secondary muscles work synergistically to execute the movement with precision and stability.

Benefits of the Bulgarian Split Squat​

The Bulgarian split squat is a dynamic and efficient exercise with various benefits, making it a valuable addition to your fitness regimen. This versatile exercise contributes to muscle activation, significant strength gains, and enhances balance.

Stability is one of the primary advantages of the Bulgarian split squat. As you lower your body, the stabilizing muscles encircling your knee and hip joints activate to control the movement and prevent unintended shifts in balance. This targeted activation improves your balance during the exercise and strengthens these stabilizers, thereby reducing the risk of injuries resulting from muscle imbalances or feeble supporting muscles.

By concentrating the majority of the weight on just one leg, this exercise places a substantial load on the targeted muscles. Consequently, it promotes muscle growth and increases muscular endurance.

The deep squat position required by this exercise also increases hip and ankle joint flexibility. Consistently working on your range of motion with correct form will improve your flexibility, making lunges, squats, and even simple daily activities more comfortable and effective.

Pitfalls and Common Mistakes​

A few common mistakes while performing this squat variation can impede your progress and compromise your results. Excessive forward leaning can strain the lower spine. To correct this, maintain a straight spine and an engaged core throughout the movement.

Additionally, hunching the upper body can strain the lower back. Maintain an upright torso and back shoulders throughout the exercise. Engage your core to maintain a proper posture, preventing lower back strain and enhancing stability.

Using one side over the other is expected, mainly if you are unfamiliar with unilateral exercises. It can cause imbalances in your strength, increasing your risk of injury. Perform the same number of reps on each leg while concentrating on maintaining symmetry. Consider using lighter weights or your body weight until you have the balance.

Variations and Progressions​

If you're a beginner struggling with balance, perform the split squat near a wall or other stable surface. Lightly touch the surface for support as needed, gradually reducing assistance as your balance improves. Once you feel comfortable with the movement, you can perform the exercise without the wall.

Increasing the depth of the squat by elevating the rear foot on a higher surface intensifies the stretch and muscle activation. Those who have mastered the basic split squat can perform this variation, as it requires increased flexibility and strength. As you get stronger, you can also add weight to the exercise.

For an advanced variation, adding a plyometric component involves explosively switching legs in mid-air during each repetition. This version improves strength, coordination, and agility, making it suitable for experienced fitness enthusiasts.

To continue making progress, you must consistently introduce new challenges. Your muscles adapt to progression by growing more substantial and more resilient. Adding bilateral exercise variations of the Bulgarian split squat also adds a new dimension to your routine. These variations simultaneously engage both legs, enhancing balance, symmetry, and functional strength.

Safety, Precautions, and Ankle Mobility​

Mobility in the ankles directly impacts your ability to sustain proper form during Bulgarian Split Squats. It facilitates essential movements in the split squat, such as dorsiflexion (lifting your toes toward your tibia) and plantarflexion (pointing your toes away from your shin). Limited ankle mobility can contribute to knee-straining compensations that impede progress.

Prioritize a complete warm-up to improve circulation and prepare your muscles for exercise. Include routines like regular calf stretches to loosen the muscles by encircling the ankles, enhancing their range of motion.

Before performing Bulgarian Split Squats, consult a fitness professional or healthcare provider if you are new to exercise or have any preexisting health conditions. Ensure to start with bodyweight squats to master the movement before adding weights.

Visual Demonstrations​

Testimonials and Real-world Examples​

Suppose you're considering including Bulgarian Split Squat but must figure out what to expect. In that case, there are a lot of bodybuilding forums that can help you give an insight into how beginners started or how advanced athletes and fitness professionals do variations.

An intermediate lifter shared in a forum that he started doing the exercise for weeks. However, he finds balancing hard since he trained his legs for bodybuilding. Despite burning his quads and glutes, he found the Bulgarian Split Squat a great addition to his routine.

A beginner also shared his experience with Bulgarian Split Squat. Doing it with body weight alone is still challenging, but it gives his quads and glutes an excellent workout.

According to another forum post by Matthew Schenker, the Bulgarian Split Squat is impressive for quads and glutes. At first, he found it hard to balance, but now, he completes his leg days and does the routine with two dumbbells.


The Bulgarian split squat is a dynamic exercise for the lower body that targets multiple muscle groups, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core. This exercise addresses muscle imbalances and enhances functional strength due to its unilateral nature.

Incorporating the Bulgarian split squat into your workout routine provides numerous benefits beyond conventional lower-body exercises. It provides a comprehensive approach to enhancing your overall fitness, from bolstering strength gains to improving balance, flexibility, stability, and muscle activation.

Frequently Asked Questions​

Are Bulgarian split squats suitable for those with knee issues?​

Before performing Bulgarian split squats, individuals with knee problems should consult a medical professional. They may require limiting the range of motion or using proper form to prevent knee pain.

Can Bulgarian split squats be performed as part of a full-body workout?​

You can incorporate Bulgarian Split Squats with upper- and lower-body exercises for a well-rounded workout.

Is it normal to feel muscle soreness after doing Bulgarian split squats?​

Yes, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a common consequence of trying new exercises or increasing intensity. Proper warm-up, cool-down, and progression can help reduce muscle discomfort.


Well-known member
Jul 7, 2023
Bulgarian split squats can be a great exercise to reduce weight. Thanks for sharing.
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