The Bulgarian split squat is a unilateral exercise that targets multiple muscles in the lower body. This single-leg squat variation has numerous benefits when performed with proper form.
This article will explain how to perfect the Bulgarian split squat form, provide some helpful technique cues, and avoid common form mistakes when performing this challenging lower-body exercise.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Perform Bulgarian Split Squats with Proper Form
- 2 Bulgarian Split Squat FAQs
- 3 Other Exercise Posts
- 3.1 How to Bench Press with Perfect Form
- 3.2 Bear Crawls: Benefits, Proper Form, and Muscles Worked
- 3.3 The Top 5 Leg Press Muscles Worked
- 3.4 Arnold Split Workout + Example Spreadsheet
- 3.5 Decline Bench Press Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 3.6 Barbell Row Benefits, Muscles Worked, and Form
- 3.7 T-Bar Row Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 3.8 Leg Extension Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 3.9 Side Plank Benefits, Form, and Muscles Worked
- 3.10 Romanian Deadlift Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 3.11 Front Squat Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 3.12 The Top 10 Pull-up Muscles Worked
- 3.13 Hammer Curl Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 3.14 The 5 Best Benefits of Planks
- 3.15 The Top 10 Muscles Worked by Planks
- 3.16 Lat Pulldown Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 3.17 The 8 Main Muscle Groups Worked by Squats
- 3.18 How to Front Squat with Proper Form
How to Perform Bulgarian Split Squats with Proper Form
- Stand facing away from bench or platform with one foot placed on top, laces down and the other about 2-3 feet in front in a lunge position.
- Engage core and hold up chest while slowly lowering down, ensuring front knee stays directly over ankle and doesn’t pass toes.
- While lowering, let the back knee drop toward the ground until it almost touches, keeping the torso upright without leaning forward.
- Push back up through front foot’s heel, squeeze glutes and drive hips forward to stand upright.
- Repeat for desired number of reps on one leg before switching sides and repeating with other leg.
- Add weight if desired by holding a single or pair of dumbbells or kettlebells or placing a barbell across upper back.
Check out this Scott Herman Fitness video for a Bulgarian split squat demonstration.
Bulgarian Split Squat Tips
- Engage core muscles to maintain balance
- Move slowly and with control
- Warm up with bodyweight reps
- Keep weight centered over front foot
- Keep feet hip-width apart
Engage core muscles
Bulgarian split squats primarily target the lower body, but the abdominal muscles are essential in keeping the spine straight and the torso upright. Brace the core and glutes to prevent arching, rounding the back, or leaning too far forward to enjoy maximal Bulgarian split squat benefits.
Move slowly and with control
Take time lowering into the bottom of the Bulgarian split squat. Rushing reps increases the risk of form breakdown, poor muscle activation, and injury. Lower slowly into a deep lunge position and stand up by engaging the muscles in the front standing leg. Avoid using momentum, which can place excess stress on the front knee.
Warm up with bodyweight reps
Perform a few bodyweight reps of the Bulgarian split squat to check stance and activate the correct muscle groups before adding weights. Holding weights during challenging single-leg exercises adds more challenge for balance and coordination, so only progress when ready.
Keep weight centered over front foot
The Bulgarian split squat should target the front leg muscles. The elevated foot is only to stabilize and assist balance. Sinking into the back leg indicates that the stance is too wide or narrow or the torso is not fully upright. In this instance, readjust footing, brace the core, and ensure the front leg carries the load.
Keep the feet hip-width apart
Maintain a hip-width distance between the feet during a Bulgarian split squat. Imagine the feet are on two train tracks rather than a tightrope. Having the front foot directly in front of the back foot makes it harder to balance and control the exercise.
Bulgarian Split Squat Common Mistakes
- Leaning forward excessively
- Rising onto toes
- Leaning back into rear foot
- Front knee collapsing in or splaying out
- Cutting range of motion short
Leaning forward excessively
Leaning too far forward increases the risk of straining the front knee and usually indicates poor core strength or activation of the spinal erectors. Leaning forward inhibits the core benefits of the Bulgarian split squat for lower body strength and muscle growth. Look straight ahead during the exercise, as looking down can encourage a forward lean and sink straight down into the lunge position without shifting the torso forward.
Rising onto toes
Coming up onto the toes of the front foot may indicate a need to shift the working leg further away from the bench or platform so that the front foot remains firmly planted throughout the exercise. Rising onto the heels could also indicate too much of a forward lean, requiring greater torso activation to keep the upper body upright.
Leaning back into rear foot
The back leg is vulnerable at the bottom of a Bulgarian split squat, so it should only be there as a balance support. Putting too much weight on the back leg turns the exercise into an unstable lunge variation and limits how effectively it builds single-leg strength. Keep the torso and any added weight directly over the front foot to avoid injuring or compromising the back leg.
Front knee collapsing or splaying out
Keep the front knee tracking directly over the toes to ensure proper alignment and avoid knee pain or injury. If the knee wanders inward or outward, it may signal that the glutes or adductors are weak or not fully engaged. Squeeze the glutes and quads of the working leg to support and stabilize the knee.
Cutting range of motion short
Sink low into each rep, stopping just before the knee touches the ground to engage all the muscles in your working leg. Going to full depth in a Bulgarian split squat engages the glutes, hamstrings, and quads more effectively, leading to greater strength and muscle growth. A full range of motion also helps to improve mobility and stability in the hips and knees.
Bulgarian Split Squat FAQs
The movement pattern is the same for a regular split squat and a Bulgarian split squat. The primary difference is that by elevating the rear foot, Bulgarian split squats allow a deeper range of motion, engaging more muscles in the front leg. Elevating the rear leg also increases the balance and stability required to perform a Bulgarian split squat.
Bulgarian split squat variations target the muscles of the working leg differently depending on the stance chosen. The quads engage more when the front leg is closer to the torso. A wider stance with the front leg further in front of the torso activates the glutes more.
The Bulgarian split squat is a challenging single-leg exercise that recruits several muscles even without adding weight. Once you master the bodyweight version, experiment with weighted variations like the dumbbell Bulgarian split squats for more intensity and hypertrophy stimulation.