Mastering The Bulgarian Split Squat

Mastering The Bulgarian Split Squat

Leg day is the best day! At least, that's what I think.

I know for most people, this isn't the case. Most people dread leg day when it comes to their resistance training. However, leg day is arguably the most important.

Heck, your legs are home to some of the biggest muscle groups in your body! But, when it comes to leg days, it can feel like you're doing the same exercises over and over again.

Squats, deadlifts, leg extensions, lunges ... You've probably done them all. That doesn't mean there aren't other great exercises for your legs!

One of my personal favorite leg exercises is the Bulgarian split squat. If you haven't heard of it, you're missing out!

You may be wondering what this exercise is and why I think it's so great. So let's talk about Bulgarian split squats! I'll cover the benefits, how to do them, and everything you need to know to master them.

What Is The Bulgarian Split Squat

Bulgarian split squats are a single-leg version of the squat. With these, you will have your back leg elevated on a bench, box, or chair. You might also know of these as rear foot elevated split squats (RFESS). 

To keep it simple, this variation of the squat will help target your quads more. 

Beyond that, there are many other reasons why Bulgarian split squats are a great exercise.

Benefits of Bulgarian Split Squats

The Bulgarian split squat is good for a number of different things. A lot of this has to do with the fact that Bulgarian split squats are a single-leg exercise.

Single-leg exercises can be great for improving muscle imbalances between your legs. Adding exercises like these can be helpful for greater stabilization and strength in other leg exercises too!

So, let's break down all the different benefits Bulgarian split squats have to offer.

Strength & Power

Strength and power can somewhat go hand in hand. This exercise is a great way to help target your legs for building strength too. Being that it's a single-leg exercise, it can also engage stabilization muscles more.

You can build stronger quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves all in one!

Balance & Stabilization

Again, single-leg exercises can be great for stabilization strength. A benefit of this can also be improving balance. Keeping yourself upright on one leg is certainly a challenge if you've never tried it.

Plus, Bulgarian split squats can challenge your core. I would argue that your core is the most important muscle in your body for balance and stabilization.


One last benefit of Bulgarian split squats is flexibility. This is because of the stretch you'll get in your hips and knees during the exercise. This can also help you build more strength by increasing your range of motion over time.

How To Do The Bulgarian Split Squat

Now, how exactly do you do a Bulgarian split squat? I'll show you the ropes! All you'll need is a bench and a pair of dumbbells. To start, you may not even want the dumbbells yet depending on your strength and fitness level.

1. Set up the bench that you'll be elevating your back foot on.

2. Stand on one side of the bench, facing away from it with a dumbbell in each hand. Space yourself 1-2 feet away from the bench.

3. From here, bring your leg behind you to rest the top of your foot flat on the bench. Your left knee should be pointed toward the floor and your right knee should be bent slightly.

4. Next, brace your core as you breathe in and begin sinking into your right hip.

5. As you descend into a single-leg squat, keep your chest high and back straight. Track your right knee over your right foot and keep going until your right knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. You should feel a stretch in your hips and quad on your elevated leg.

6. Exhale as you push through your right leg to bring your body out of the squat.

7. Repeat this for reps before switching to your other leg.

Variations of The Bulgarian Split Squat

Again, if you're trying this out for the first time, you can do it as a bodyweight exercise. This can help you get comfortable with the movement and build explosiveness on the way up.

As you progress, you can add dumbbells and increase the weight over time. There are also several other variations of Bulgarian split squats you may want to try.

I'll briefly cover a few of those variations below.

Barbell/Safety Bar Bulgarian Split Squats

For a slight variation, you can try Bulgarian split squats with a barbell or safety bar. You can even perform these inside a weight rack for a little extra layer of safety too. All you'd have to do differently is load the weight on and place the bar on your traps or upper back.

These variations can be a great way to challenge your body a little differently. Just make sure to keep your core nice and tight and your chest up!

Front Rack Bulgarian Split Squats

Another great option you have is by holding the weight in front of your body. This can be with a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell. With a dumbbell, for example, you'll hold it at one end up at your chest. Placing the weight here can be a great way to put a little more emphasis on your quads in the Bulgarian split squat.

Split Squats

If you still need to work toward a Bulgarian split squat, don't worry. A great way to progress yourself to that point can be with split squats. The movement is very similar, however, you won't be resting your back foot on a bench. Instead, you'll keep your back leg on the floor behind you.

This can help you develop some more balance and stabilization strength before moving on to Bulgarian split squats.

Common Mistakes With Bulgarian Split Squats

Before you get started, it's also important to know the common mistakes with Bulgarian split squats. Make sure you avoid these at all costs to reduce your chance of injury and get the most out of the exercise!

Foot Placement

Many people will place their front foot too close or too far in relation to the bench. On top of this, some people try to keep their feet perfectly in line with each other.

It's important to know that there is meant to be some distance between your left foot and right foot. You should aim to keep them about shoulder width apart at all times. An easy way to reference this is to make sure that each leg is in line with your hips.

Both of these tips will help to give your body a better base of support. It can also help you get more out of the movement.

Back Leg Involvement

With your back leg, it’s important to keep your shoelaces flat on the bench. That's because you really want your focus to be on your front leg.

The back leg is meant to be there as a way to support your balance. At any time, you should be able to "shake" your back leg to know it's not engaged.

Knee Alignment

Many people will allow their front knee to shift inward or outward. This is something you want to avoid because it puts a lot of stress on your knee. Keep your knees aligned with your toes throughout the movement.

One Last Tip With Bulgarian Split Squats 

Bulgarian split squats are a fantastic exercise to get more out of your leg day. Adding them in can be a challenge, but also an effective way to build stronger legs.

Now, is one new leg exercise going to make or break your results? That's highly unlikely. No matter what your fitness goals are, your workout program as a whole is going to matter a lot.

On top of that, I'd argue your nutrition is even more important! Even though Bulgarian split squats are great, they certainly won't make up for a bad diet or exercise program.

For a lot of people, this can be the real challenge. If you're not sure exactly what you need to do to earn the best results possible ... Just know we're here to help!

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