Bulgarian Split Squats

I'll refer to this exercise as the "Bulgarian Split Squat", as this is how it is commonly known. Both the name and how it should be performed are a bit like Chinese whispers and are debatable. Personally, I always like to take a movement pattern and use it or adapt it to best suit my needs and comfort. I therefore end up with a bit of a hybrid of the Bulgarian Split Squat which lies somewhere between its weightlifting roots, the ice dancers adaption, generally taught technique, a quadriceps stretch, and a little bit of my own thing. This is how I perform it...

1. Position the leg roller of a loaded weight stack machine to desired trailing leg height. I opt for around 10 inches to the top of the pad (note: an adjustable bench is typically 20"). Alternatively, using a barbell pad on a bar or smith bar can be equally effective in achieving the desired height. This eliminates any ankle discomfort. A sofa cushion is even an option at home.

2. Mark the position for your standing leg and set this. Then, set your trailing leg. Start-position. Note: Do not hop around trying to find a suitable position!

3. Bend the knees and lower yourself to a comfortable depth, achieving quadriceps contraction of the standing leg and a quadriceps stretch on the trailing leg. Mid-position.

4. Slowly return to the start-position and repeat for the given number of repetitions. Then, switch legs and repeat the movement.

The Bulgarian Split Squat is a great controlled way of stretching out hip flexors and quadriceps while activating the front and back of the opposing thigh (quadriceps and hamstrings) and glutes (bottom).

Many have over-dominant hip flexors and quads and comparatively week glutes and hamstrings, which creates a pull effect on the alignment of the pelvis. Pelvic tilt can often be the cause of back, hamstring and knee complaints. The Bulgarian Split Squat exercise is a good prehabilitative and rehabilitative exercise in sustaining or achieving a neutral pelvis. A neutral pelvis is not only good from an injury-prevention and greater mobility point-of-view, it will also improve appearance (posture) and performance. Note this well, my bodybuilding and rugby and football playing friends!

Incorporating it in to my training:

Switching legs continuously (no rest) for the given number of sets is a good way to make the most of your gym time and also provides a good way of stretching out the muscle/s just worked. I select to increase repetitions (say 20) and sets (4), rather than add weight. If you wish to use it within a superset, single-leg leg extensions is a good option to blast those quads. If set up in the manner that I show in the video, this allows for a swift transition from one exercise to the next > leg extensions, left leg > then right leg > bulgarian split squat, left leg > then right leg > repeat.

The following video tri-set of hyperextensions, reverse hyperextensions, and glute ham raises performed on an orthodox 45 degree hyper bench is a complimentary way of continuing work on the hip extensors. You should consider reading the article A Balancing Act: Avoiding Lower Back Pain to which this tri-set relates.

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