How To Do Bulgarian Squats

Bulgarian squats, also known as Bulgarian split squats because they’re a variation of the traditional split squat, are an exercise that tests your coordination and your balance while building your single leg strength and your hip flexors.

This type of squat differs from a regular squat in that you’re elevating your back leg on a bench, while normal squats are closer to a static lunge.

The following article will outline how to achieve perfect form, the benefits of Bulgarian split squats, common mistakes to avoid when attempting Bulgarian split squats, and variations of this kind of squat.

How To Do Bulgarian Squats

How To Do A Bulgarian Squat

The first thing you’ll need to attempt a Bulgarian split squat is a raised platform for you to elevate your leg on. This can be a bench, a step, or any other platform that’s roughly knee height (it can also be a gym ball, which we’ll touch on later- but this requires far more balance, so you might want to wait until you’re more experienced).

To begin your Bulgarian squat, position yourself in a forward lunge. Your torso should be upright, your core braced, and your hips square with your body. Elevate your back foot on the platform, keeping your front leg about half a meter in front of said platform. 

Lower yourself until the thigh of your front leg is nearly horizontal, keeping your foot in line with your knee. Then rise up through your front heel until you’ve returned to the starting position. Repeat the split squat five to 10 times before swapping to your other leg.

Bulgarian Squats: How To Achieve Perfect Form

There are two key things to remember when you’re trying to achieve perfect form. The first is getting your distance from the bench right. The closer you are to the platform, the more your quads will be working, but if you get too close it might lead to some pain in your knee.

The further you are from the platform, the more your hip flexors will be working, but being too far away can also cause pain and potentially a groin strain. Experiment with different distances to pin down what works for you.

You can also be experimenting with weight. The easiest way to hold weight during a Bulgarian squat is in the goblet position, which is holding the weight upright in front of you. You will eventually also be able to hold one dumbbell in each hand, but you should consider straps in this case. 

Benefits Of Bulgarian Squats

There are several benefits to including Bulgarian split squats in your routine. Most notably, they increase your lower body strength by working multiple muscle groups. What muscles do bulgarian split squats work? Performing this exercise correctly will allow you to train your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, calves, and adductors.

Increasing your leg strength will also help to reduce pressure on your lower back muscles. 

Being a unilateral leg workout, Bulgarian split squats are also one of the best exercises for targeting muscle asymmetries that you may have developed inadvertently by having one dominant leg during workouts. Finally, this type of squat enhances your core strength, which will improve your overall stability. 

Bulgarian Squats: Common Mistakes To Avoid 

Bulgarian split squats can take some practice to get right, so it’s best to be aware of the most common mistakes you should be trying to avoid. Here are some of the things you want not to do:

Rise Onto Your Toes

If you’ve risen onto the ball of your front foot as you lower your body, you might be too close to the platform, or too far. If you’re too far from the bench, this will shift the weight from your hips to your knee, which could result in a knee injury. 

Lean Too Far Forward

You should not be horizontal during the squat. This will not only limit the benefits to your core, but you’ll also be putting additional strain on your lower back and your front knee. You should be leaning slightly forward, but without rounding your back.

Remember, you should be driving yourself up and down, not forwards and backwards. It’s also important to be embracing your core and engaging your abdominal muscles. 

Push Through Your Back Leg 

Make sure your back leg isn’t supporting any weight. Its purpose should be balance only. Because the knee of your back leg is in a vulnerable position during a Bulgarian split squat, you should only be pushing with your grounded foot. 

Place Your Back Leg Behind Your Front Leg

If you’re finding it hard to stay upright, it might be because your back foot is positioned directly behind your front foot. This will result in a lack of balance. Your feet should be a shoulder’s width apart.

Letting Your Front Knee Wander

You might notice your front knee drifting inwards or outwards when you squat down, and this might indicate weak glutes or adductors. Make sure you’re focusing on this knee in order to maintain its stability. 

Variations Of The Bulgarian Squat

Bulgarians split squat is one of the highly effective deadlift alternatives and there are several variations to this exercise: 

Regular Split Squat

It might be possible that you’re going to need more practice with other squats before you can master the Bulgarian split squat, and a regular split squat is the best place to start.

For this split squat you’ll have both feet on the floor, meaning you don’t have to worry about balance to the extent of harder squats. From a standing position simply take a long step forwards before lowering yourself down so the knee of your back leg is almost touching the ground.

Then raise yourself back up into the split stance. Once you’ve done your allotted number of reps on one leg, you should switch to the other leg. 

Jump Lunge

The jump lunge is another great way to build the muscles required for the Bulgarian split squat. Start in your split squat stance and then lower yourself into a squat before driving back upwards with enough force that you jump in the air.

While you’re in the air, you’ll be changing your leg positions. Try to land softly, and then go right into another jump lunge. 

Gym Ball Bulgarian Squat

If you want to give yourself an extra challenge, you could try adding a gym ball to your split squat. Balancing your back foot on a gym ball will work your core more, as well as the muscles in your front leg. It’ll also help your balance generally.

Dumbbell Bulgarian Squat

If you’re eager to add weight to your Bulgarian split squats, dumbbells are the easiest place to start. Hold one in each hand, letting them hang by your sides as you execute the Bulgarian split squat. 

Bulgarian split squats are an ideal addition to a lot of leg workouts. One effective workout we recommend includes Bulgarian split squats, one leg dumbbell deadlifts, barbell overhead reverse lunges, single leg glute bridge static holds, TRX (suspension trainer equipment) single leg hamstring curls, TRX ski jumps, and simple leg burpees.

Conclusion: How To Do Bulgarian Squats

Bulgarian split squats are a great way to develop both your leg muscles and your core muscles. It can take some practice to get your form just right- more so than with ordinary split squats- but once you find your footing (literally) it’ll be a worthwhile addition to your training program.

Our final tip? It’s best not to rely on one particular squat. Try to vary your exercise regime with some of the other types of squats we’ve listed. This will allow you to build the most muscle groups, while also enhancing your stability.

Kevin Harris
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