Bulgarian Split Squat: 6 Easy Steps and 5 Common Mistakes

If you are looking for an exercise that focuses on strengthening your core, builds up multiple muscles, and is the one that can be done anywhere, anytime, then this one’s for you! Most of us are familiar with the generic squat. Let’s notch it up.

1. About Bulgarian Split Squat

Bulgarian Split Squat
Photo by Matthew Sichkaruk on Unsplash Copyrights 2021

Bulgarian Split Squat is deemed to be efficient in engaging your core and maintaining proper balance. The exercise is also known as a Rear Foot Elevated split squat or simply a Split Squat.

Generally, squats are the go-to exercise to build core strength and target your glutes, hamstrings1, and quads. The Single-Leg Squat or the split squat to notch the exercise up, a type from which the Bulgarian Split Squat hails. Single leg exercises focus more on abdominal muscles, the gluteus maximus, while still enhancing the leg muscles.

Single leg strength is required to have an overall balance running through your body and helps carry out other heavy exercises, or makes something as simple as running more efficient – which can be achieved by the split squat.

2. Bulgarian Split Squat Benefits

Bulgarian Split Squat
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash Copyrights 2015

2.1. Beneficial for Multiple Muscles

The simple yet efficient movement of downward and upward in this split squat has proved to be a great method to train various muscles 2all at once -what else do we need on a leg day?!

Along with the obvious core benefits and leg training, it also trains your hip flexors and spinal erectors.

2.2. Easy to Start

If the lack of equipment to start exercising is your excuse – you’ve been busted here!

The Bulgarian split, or any split squat for that matter, requires no extra equipment – only a bench or anything stable reaching your knee length. With the versatility of this exercise, you can do it during a break on a long trip, between busy schedules, at your home, or at the gym.

2.3. Improves Mobility

Bulgarian split has proved to provide improvement to hip mobility, as well as that of ankles. If performed regularly with proper instructions in mind, the Bulgarian split can efficiently improve the body’s overall stability.

This exercise, the split squat or the Bulgarian split, is not only easy to do but has also been known as an easier version of the fierce Back Squat. That’s not all. The Bulgarian split is an easier version but also provides similar results that match the back squat!

3. Let’s Dig Right into the Instructions!

Here is how you can include this single-leg squat variation – The Bulgarian Split in your training plan. Follow the below instructions to perform Bulgarian split squats.

HOW TO do a BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT | proper form + common mistakes

3.1. Step 1

Find yourself a bench that is situated roughly at your knee height. It does not necessarily need a bench, but anything situated around your front knee’s height. Your feet should be at a distance equal to your hips, and your shoulders should not be in a poor position. Make sure that you maintain a neutral spine3.

3.2. Step 2

This step will require you to understand which posture comforts you with some trial and error. One way to do this is to follow a leg posture similar to that of a generic lunge – stretch your ankle and find the right balance with your front leg. The front leg essentially refers to the front foot, which must be right below the knee during the movement. Place one of your feet (preferably the right one) onto the bench, and we will call this the rear foot.

Another way to do this in the split squat is to place the top of the rear foot directly onto the bench.

Choosing the method depends entirely on personal preference.

3.3. Step 3

Maintain your torso upright and your hips to be squared. At this position, your back leg should be elevated onto the bench, while your front leg should be about two feet away. The distance between your front foot and the lower elevated surface depends a lot upon what comforts you.

3.4. Step 4

Maintaining a slightly forward lean, slowly lower down your body till your front thigh is in a horizontal position. Make sure that your front knee and front foot are in the same line. During this movement, focus on your breathing and inhale when you lower down your body when you lean forward. Meanwhile, provide appropriate balance with the help of the rear foot.

3.5. Step 5

Focussing more on your front heel, get back up to the starting position slowly. As you rise, gently exhale. Make sure to keep maintaining a straight torso and core.

3.6. Step 6

Get your rear foot off the bench after completing the mentioned instructions. Get back to the standing position. To balance the exercise, repeat the same instructions mentioned above, the only difference being switching your legs.

This is essentially how you can include the rear leg elevated split squat in your routine of lower body exercises.

While the exercise is fairly easy to carry out, minute carelessness in the posture or distancing can cause painful results. So, there are a few mistakes you must avoid to stay away from physical damage.

4. Things to Be Careful About

4.1. Improperly Leaning Forward

While it is advisable to lean slightly forward when you lower down, improper or exaggerated leaning will cause adverse effects on the body when performing a split squat. The main focus of this exercise lies in the core muscles, but when you end up leaning too far in the front, you lose out on the benefits provided to the core and put too much stress on the left knee.

4.2. Poor Alignment

When performing a split squat or any exercise that engages the majority of one leg, it is very important to align the knee with the foot right below it. One of the most common mistakes is to let your knee shift way ahead of the foot. This will again cause more stress on your solo knee4.

4.3. Letting the Back Leg Be a Part of the Movement

A lunge requires both your legs to simultaneously help with the overall movement. However, that is not the case with the Bulgarian Split or the split squat. The back leg’s importance is to provide muscular balance.

4.4. Incorrect Distance between the Legs

It is highly recommended to find your distance between the right and left foot, depending on body size and comfort. If you put the back foot way too close to the front, it will become difficult to balance a good and ideal Bulgarian split squat form.

4.5. Rising Onto the Toes

This happens when either of the above two problems occur – improper form or distancing. If you catch yourself putting more weight onto the toes when you rise, immediately stop the exercise, stretch a little, and get back to the starting position with correct distancing.

The split squat has more variations to it. If you have mastered the Bulgarian split and are curious to find out more variations, read on!

5. Variations

5.1. Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

Bulgarian Split Squat
Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash Copyrights 2019

Adding balanced weight in either hand to this exercise efficiently enhances the benefits of this exercise. Follow the same instructions as the traditional Bulgarian Split, with the added weight – the two dumbbells on either hand. Make sure to maintain equal weight and balance on both sides. The external load will help with strength training, along with keeping your core engaged.

5.2. Notch It Up by Introducing a Gym Ball

The most important aspect of the Bulgarian split or any split squat is to maintain balance. If you are one of those who dig challenges, this variation is for you!

To do this, keep your back leg on the gym ball instead of the bench. Then proceed with the mentioned lowering instructions – the tricky part is maintaining balance and proper posture on the ball.

5.3. Engaging the Torso

When you are lowering your body to the split squat position, keep your arms outstretched and simultaneously twist the portion of your torso to the side. This will enhance flexibility and strengthen your torso (the upper body), while the split squat will strengthen the lower body.

5.4. Adding More Load

Bulgarian Split Squat
Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash  Copyrights 2018

This variation requires extreme carefulness because it involves a barbell to be properly placed on your shoulders. Perform the general movement of the rear foot elevated split squat or the Bulgarian split but make sure to keep your torso straight and prevent your chest from bulging inwards.

Similarly, you can opt for a version of the split squat, which requires you to use the barbell in a front rack position. In this variation, you must take care not to let your back lose its proper posture when lowering down or coming up.

6. A Beginner’s Tip

If you are a beginner starting with the exercises, you can also opt to include split squats. A suggestion to keep in mind is to start with a lower-height bench. For starters, you can begin with the split squat so that you build sufficiently good balance and strength to take it up a notch or two.

7. The Final Note

While the front leg engages in receiving the body’s weight, the back leg makes sure to provide sufficient balance. Depending on which one is the rear knee, you are also supposed to divide the weight throughout your torso, leg, hip, right knee, and left knee. While you have your muscles worked, you must also have your core braced.

Bulgarian split squat is considered to be one of the ultimate exercises under the category of single-leg exercises. Although a little underrated, once people find out about the Bulgarian split squat, it isn’t easy to keep oneself from including it in their leg day.

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and include this energetic exercise, the Bulgarian split squat, in your leg routine now!

6 More Squat Types For Your Lower Body Fitness
Icy Health
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  2. Wang, Jiangxin, Dace Gao, and Pooi See Lee. “Recent progress in artificial muscles for interactive soft robotics.” Advanced Materials 33.19 (2021): 2003088. ↩︎
  3. Barrett, Jeff Matthew, Colin McKinnon, and Jack P. Callaghan. “Cervical spine joint loading with neck flexion.” Ergonomics 63.1 (2020): 101-108. ↩︎
  4. Gangadharan, Shanmuga Boopathy, et al. “Platelet-rich plasma treatment for knee osteoarthritis: A systematic investigation.” Gangadharan, SB, Satapathy, S., Dixit, T., Sukumaran, C., Ravindran, S., & Parida, PK (2024). Platelet-rich plasma treatment for knee osteoarthritis: A systematic investigation. Multidisciplinary Reviews 6 (2024). ↩︎

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