Bulgarian Split Squat – Complete Form Guide and Video Tutorial

Learning a variety of different exercises is important to keep challenging your body and work different muscle groups. The Bulgarian split squat is a great exercise to learn for just this purpose.

In fact, you can take a look at the Old School Muscle program to find an array of great exercises that will help you build muscle and burn fat.

But, as with any exercise, you must learn the proper technique. If you don’t you will not be getting the benefits you hope for; you may even increase your risk of injury.

Benefits of the Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat requires a bench or a box. You’ll also need a pair of dumbbells or a barbell; that’s it!

It is designed to work the muscles of your leg but to do so individually, which is generally referred to as ‘unilaterally.’

You’ll find it of great benefit whether you love running, cycling, swimming or even just hitting the gym. This is on exercise that every athlete should do.

You may have heard of this exercise as the ‘single leg squat’ or the ‘rear foot elevated split squat’.

Learning to do the Bulgarian split squat properly will give you these benefits:

  • muscular legs bulgarian split squatEnhanced lower body muscle & strength.
  • Lower weights produce the same result as heavier weighted standard squats. Heavier weights will multiply the effects.
  • Boosts flexibility in your hips
  • Improves your core strength, balance, agility and lower body mobility.
  • Lighter weight means reducing risk of injury.
  • Can help to push you through weight lifting plateaus as a weaker leg is forced to strengthen.

How To Perform The Bulgarian Split Squat

This exercise can be completed properly in just 5 steps:

Step 1 – Starting Position

Bulgarian split squatStand with your feet shoulder width apart. Your back should be straight and the box or bench should be behind you. It’s a good idea to place a pad on the floor in front of the bench; this will absorb shock prevent an impact injury.

Step 2 – Lift Foot

Lift one foot and move it behind you until it is resting on the bench or box. The top of your foot needs to be comfortable on the box.

Step 3 – Hold The Pose

Hold your weight and slowly lower our body towards the ground. You back knee should touch the pad on the floor but it shouldn’t take your weight.  It is important to keep your back straight and our torso tight while you do this. Your front thigh should be parallel to the floor.

Step 4 – Return

Hold the pose for a second then slowly push yourself back into the starting position.

Step 5 – Repeat

Repeat! The aim is to do 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps. But be warned, these will burn. You may need to start smaller and work your way up.

Top Tips When Performing Bulgarian Split Squat

The main difficulty with this is getting the bench positioned correctly. This is a personal matter. If you are too close to it then you will work your quads harder but you may also feel pain in your knees.

male powerlifter hand in talc and sports wristbands preparing for Bulgarian split squatStand too far away and you may feel pain in your groin or hip. A stretching feeling is fine, but pain means you need to move closer to the bench or lower it.

You should hold the dumbbell in a goblet hold. This means turning the dumbbell on its side and the holding each side of the top disc, in the same way, you would hold a goblet. This is great when you start to help ensure you are in the right pose.

Use chalk to increase your grip strength and prevent accidental slippage.

Other Exercises Which Offer Similar Benefits

The Bulgarian split squat is a great option if you have previously had back pain or are simply looking for a way to get big results without using massive weights.

But, it’s not the only way to build your leg muscles; as our OSM can show you.

Here are a few other exercises which will also help to boost your lower body and core strength:

  • deadlift bulgarian split squatThe standard Barbell Squat This is done with a barbell in your hands or even two dumbbells. Simply stand straight then lower your body; keeping your back straight and your thighs should become parallel to the floor.
  • The Step Up This simple exercise, with a dumbbell in each hand is incredibly effective. It is also a unilateral exercise and you will feel the burn! You can even adjust the height or number of steps to increase the difficulty.
  • Pistol Squat Stand straight with your arms straight in front of you and feet at shoulder width. Then lower into a squat while lifting one leg into the air. You’ll fall over but if you keep trying you’ll master this highly effective exercise. Alternate the legs to ensure you get a unilateral workout.
  • Walking Lunge You probably already know how to do the lunge; one leg in front with thigh parallel to the floor and one behind with calf parallel. But add some weights and alternate your feet to make yourself walk across the room in a series of lunges. You’ll feel the burn.
  • Romanian Deadlift Stand with feet shoulder width apart and back straight. Hold your barbell so that it is just in front of your thighs. Bend your knees slightly and then lean forward from the hips. Keep your arms and back straight and your core tight as you lean forward as far as you can go. Then return to the starting position and repeat.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that there is no gain without pain. But the Bulgarian split squat should feel like you’re stretching your joints while your muscles start to burn.

Doing this will help to boost your lower body strength. But, if you add this to some of the other exercises that you’ll find in the Old School Muscle Program you’ll find that you can boost your muscle size and strength across the whole of your body. This will create a habit that will help you to achieve your goals.

If you need help and advice getting started with any of these then you can always speak to the Fit Father Project; we’re here to help!

Your new friend & health coach,

stuart-headshotStuart Carter
Head Training Staff, The Fit Father Project

Brotherhood Nickname: “The Fit Brit”
Bragging Rights: 16 Years in the fitness industry, Author of ‘The Easy Fitness Guide', Father of 4 boys and Husband to a Venezuelan beauty.

If you’re interested in a completely laid out “done-for-you” muscle building program – designed especially for you as a busy man over 50…

Then I’d recommend you read the program overview letter for our Old School Muscle Program (OSM).

Inside OSM, you'll receive:

  • The simple & delicious Muscle Building Meal Plan
  • The awesome Old School Muscle workout plans
  • Full Muscle Gain supplement guide
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Read the Old School Muscle Program overview letter here to see how our plan can help you gain lean, solid muscle and keep you training safely and effectively… whatever your age!