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What is a Bulgarian Split Squat?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

One of the more difficult squats to do — and certainly one that should be done with a spotter nearby — is the Bulgarian split squat. To do this type of squat, an athlete will need a bench or raised platform, just above knee or mid-thigh level, and a barbell with the appropriate amount of weight on it. The Bulgarian split squat can be done without weights, but it is most commonly performed with a barbell to maximize the impact of the workout. With a spotter nearby, the athlete should start the exercise with the bench or platform behind him or her.

The barbell must be lifted into the proper position first when performing a Bulgarian split squat. The barbell should rest on the shoulders behind the neck, with the arms supporting the ends of the barbell. Once the barbell is in position, the athlete will raise one leg backward so the foot rests on the platform or bench. During the execution of a Bulgarian split squat, the back leg will bear the brunt of little to no weight from the body and the barbell; instead, the front leg should take most of the stress.

Woman doing yoga
Woman doing yoga

Once in position, the "squat" portion of the Bulgarian split squat may be executed. The athlete will lower his or her body into a squatting position, maintaining a straight back and, as the body lowers, a ninety degree angle at the knee. The quad on the front leg should bear most of the weight from the squat and the barbell. Once the squat has been performed, the athlete will rise back up to the standing position, his or her back leg still resting on the bench. When doing the squat, it is important for the athlete to stop when the knee is bent at ninety degrees; going beyond this could prevent the athlete from rising to a standing position again, or it may cause injury.

Several variations of the Bulgarian split squat exist. A beginner may opt to do the split squat without the barbell, or he or she may choose to use dumbbells, one in each hand, at a lower weight to start. A Bulgarian split squat jump can work the same muscles without weights as well. To do this exercise, the athlete will stand in the same position as the normal Bulgarian split squat, minus the weights. He or she will then execute the squat, and upon returning to the standing position, will thrust upward into a jump, then land back down on the front leg and execute the next squat.

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