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How to Do the Bulgarian Split Squat Correctly to Really Work Your Legs and Butt

How to Do the Bulgarian Split Squat Correctly to Really Work Your Legs and Butt

If your goal is to strengthen glutes and quads, then adding the Bulgarian split squat to the leg-day routine is an excellent idea.

The Bulgarian split squat borrows from the classic squat but has one leg high. Like in the classic motion, you push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower until your thigh is parallel to the ground, except that during the Bulgarian split squat, your back foot is elevated.

As such, it compares to exercises like the lunge, which work one leg at a time. This is relevant because most movements we do throughout everyday life are done with one leg.

We don't have a single gait on either foot. We don't sleep or sit, or do things like that on both sides of our bodies, Morit Summers, a NSCA-certified personal trainer, owner of Form Fitness Brooklyn, and author of Big & Bold Strength Training for the Plus-Size Woman, tells SELF. Our weight shifts and distributes throughout many activities and things that we live, so it is important to perform single-leg exercises to help ensure constant health.

Training your single-leg strength can improve balance and reduce the risk of injuries, like rapidly stepping onto a curb. For example, employing single-leg strength to do it can help you maintain your balance and not tip or roll an ankle, which can safeguard against injury.

There are a number of benefits of Bulgarian split squat (which we'll analyze later), but it is not exactly the ideal exercise for beginners. The Bulgarian split squat is a complex move, both because of the balance necessary and since you pretty much have to do it the whole time. Moreover, splitting squats are great for advanced exercisers. Here, the article will help you understand Bulgarian split squats, such as their advantages, how to perform the exercise, and how to avoid any straining while training.

What are Bulgarian split squats good for?

Bulgarian split squats are good for working on your static strength in your lower half. Although the quadriceps and glutes of your straightening leg are the main Bulgarian split squat muscles being worked, the hamstrings (back of your thighs), adductors (inner thighs), and calves (backside of lower leg) also participate in, says Summers.

Our glutes in the bottom position of a split squat go through a complete range of motion stretch at the bottom of the exercise, or in hip flexion, according to Summers. In order for us to emerge from the bottom position, we must push through the floor and use our hip extension muscles the glutes to climb. Similarly, our quads contract as we go down to the bottom of the Bulgarian split squat. They are helping us not merely fall to the ground on the way down.

The strengthening of your glutes is extremely important for undertaking routine activities such as walking, sitting, standing, and picking up things from the ground, as well as athletic activities. Your glutes are strong muscles required for running, jumping, and other explosive movements, and they are also important in exercises like the deadlift.

However, it's not just about your lower body. One among the greatest overlooked Bulgarian split squat rewards is that it also improves your core. Because Bulgarian split squats enhance your equilibrium, you also train your core to keep you steady and stand upright.

Sal Nakhlawi, a certified functional strength coach and founder of StrongHER Girls, advises using the braced position to build up core strength. Furthermore, to hold dumbbells or a kettlebell, he advises using a rack position.

If you choose to hold your dumbbell or kettlebell next to your body, however, you bring on another advantage. This helps you develop your grip strength, and that's important for everything from cranking out chin-ups to opening a jar of salsa.

Why is the Bulgarian split squat so hard?

To begin with, your rear foot is raised, and doing any kind of exercise on one leg versus two will always be more difficult.

First, maintaining balance is difficult for most people. And, second, you don't ever get a moment for your muscles to relax in the midst of a set of Bulgarian split squats because your muscles are always under tension in that position.

Even when your back foot is elevated merely a bit, your center muscles are working to assist you remain balanced. And when you're actually squatting, you're working multiple lower-body muscles at the same time, including your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, adductors, and core, which adds to the challenge.

What’s better: lunges or Bulgarian split squats?

However, one exercise is not necessarily better than another, but one can be the better choice than others for you, depending on your goals or your level of expertise. As an example, if you're new to exercise and are thinking about whether to do a split squat or a lunge, you may want to hold on for a time to Bulgarian split squats until you can do lunge variations with proper form.

We'll take an athletic step back (front lunge) or a corrective step backward (reverse lunge), and lower ourselves until it forms an 90-degree angle with our body on each side. The Bulgarian split squat is a continuation of a lunge, so Summers recommends performing either exercise based on strength and abilities.

You shouldn't be attempting to perform a Bulgarian split squat before you’ve mastered a regular split squat, a back or front lunge, a step-up, and even walking lunges, says Summers. We need to learn how to squat with both feet on the ground and lunge with both feet on the ground before incorporating another element of stability and range of motion.

On the other hand, if you're an advanced exerciser who has already mastered those moves and your goal is to build single-leg strength and improve your balance while lifting more weight, the split squat might prove to be a worthwhile addition to your lower-body exercises.

How often should I do Bulgarian split squats?

There s no perfect schedule for performing Bulgarian split squats; however, it s going to vary based on your goals. For the overall exerciser, though, Zeiss recommends doing Bulgarian split squats at least once a week, so long as you are familiar with the move and have mastered the aforementioned movements. In general, Nakhlawi highly recommends performing Bulgarian split squats whenever you're doing lower-body or leg workout.

But a more seasoned exerciser may be able to handle more volume on this exercise and incorporate it more frequently into their current activities than a novice who is still working on their technique.

When working out, the number of sets and reps will vary based on your goals as well as what you want to get out of your strength training session. For general fitness, the ACSM recommends doing 1 to 2 sets of 8 to 15 reps with light weight. Regarding more specific strength training goals? The service suggests doing 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 16 reps of an exercise with light weight to build muscular endurance. There are 2 to 6 sets of 4 to 8 reps with heavy weight to build muscle strength, and 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 12 reps with heavy weight (so heavier than what you would use for endurance but not as heavy as strength) for building muscle.

Should I do Bulgarian split squats first in my workout?

Generally, you will want to do your heaviest lifts at the beginning of your workout. Consider Summers's situation, if you are handling Bulgarian splits as your heaviest or hardest lift, for instance, the rest of your workout will involve band work or isolation moves like clamshells or glute kickbacks. Then, it makes sense to start by doing split squats.

If you want to do other activities on your legs that are heavier or more challenging (such as back squats, deadlifts, or bilateral squat variations with heavy weight), are you should do your Bulgarian split squats afterward. Bulgarian split squats are an excellent accessory move, so you can generally do them in the middle or end of your workout. Nakhlawi cites this.

How do you do a Bulgarian split squat?

Bulgarian split squat form is key to reaping the most benefits from this remarkable movement, and there are a few Bulgarian split squat techniques that can help you master it. First, you need to get into a split squat position by having one leg forward and the other raised on a box, bench, or chair.

From here, you will raise the front knee and dive down a bit, leaning slightly forward, Nakhlawi says. Then, you will need to press the forward foot firmly into the ground to stand back up. You must make sure that your front knee is lined up directly under your ankle throughout the movement in order to make sure your glutes and not your knees carry the load.

Here’s exactly how to to do a Bulgarian split squat:

  • Stand with your foot firmly planted behind you on the bench. In front of that bench, put your left foot on the ground, and make sure you keep your toes on the floor.
  • Place your hands behind your head and engage your core. You can also clasp your hands on your chest or leave them at your sides if that's more comfortable.
  • Bend your knees to lower down into a split squat. Your left knee should ideally form an 90-degree angle so that your thigh is parallel to the floor, and your right knee is hovering above the floor. Your left foot ought to be moved out to the side so much that you can do this without letting your left knee go beyond the left toes on the stool. Don't be afraid to hop your left foot out a bit further from the bench so that you can do this without allowing your left knee go beyond the left toes.
  • Return to the starting position by taking your left heel and turning your back to the starting point. Repeat the exercises until the two sides of your body are finished.

How can you progress the Bulgarian split squat?

Starting with the Bulgarian split squat with only your body weight will help you learn the ability of balancing it requires.

Once you've determined your body weight for performing this squat, you can try out Bulgarian split squat variations. For example, Summers suggests experimenting with the height of your elevated rear foot and how far you stand away from the box or bench before adding weights or changing the position of the weights. There's no set rule for how far one must go to feel it more in your glutes. Your height and proportions affect your range. Try various standing positions to find which one feels best to you.

Sometimes, individuals simply concentrate on their quads in a Bulgarian split squat versus myself included, says Summers. It took me a long time to find a location that works to better work the glute and less of my quads. One of the things you can do to better understand this movement is to play with positioning; there is more than one specific technique to do this.

When you are ready to add additional weight, consider challenging yourself by issuing yourself a kettlebell Bulgarian split squat or a dumbbell split squat (suitcase or front rack), an eccentric Bulgarian split squat (slowing down the descent), or a landmine Bulgarian split squat.

Whenever the location where you hold a weight differs, it disrupts your equilibrium and the usage of different core muscles, according to Summers.

Try to vary different later versions of the Bulgarian split squat to add different muscle groups (such as, holding weights in the front-rack position engages your shoulders) and eventually gain additional glute shape-postures.

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