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Bulgarian split squat – How to perform the Bulgarian squat & Benefits

Bulgarian split squat

Do you need something different to awake some new growth in your thighs and legs? If your answer is yes, pay attention to this rather strange but very effective exercise. The Bulgarian split squat, as it is known worldwide, is a unique movement, which is surprisingly underestimated. Well, believe us, it is worth the effort, and the next day when the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) appears, you’ll find out what we are talking about.

The exercise looks too “womanish” at first glance, but that can be said only by someone who has never done it. The exercise you are about to see is popular worldwide as the Bulgarian split squat or simply Bulgarian squat. It is executed on one leg while the other is stretched back on a kind of support (bench is most widely used).

The movement is easy to be done using only your own body weight. By adding additional weights (barbell, dumbbells) the balance gets much more difficult, so this option is recommended to more advanced fitness enthusiasts and experienced fitness athletes.

Bulgarian split squat muscles worked

Dynamic muscles:

  • Four-headed muscles of the femur (Quadriceps femoris muscles);
  • Large gluteal muscles (Gluteus maximus muscles).

Synergic muscles

  • Adductor Magnus muscles;
  • Soleus muscles (Soleus muscles);

Dynamic stabilizers

  • Rear thigh muscles (Biceps femoris, Semitendinosus, and Semimembranosus muscles);
  • Calfs (Gastrocnemius muscles);

Statistic muscles

  • Long spinal muscles (Erector spinae muscles);
  • Intermediate and small gluteal muscles (Gluteus medius and Glutes minimus muscles).


Bulgarian split squat form

There are different types of the Single Leg Split Squat according to the technique of performance and the various fitness equipment used.

  • With your own body weight, without extra weights – an easy option, so start learning the movement;
  • With dumbbells – the easiest option you can use for strength and muscle growth;
  • On a smith machine – this option strengthens the role of the long spinal muscles as stabilizers. We do not recommend it to people with back problems;
  • With a short barbell bar – the heaviest option. Balance is necessary during the squat and it is not easy to be maintained at the extreme lower point of the movement. We do not recommend doing the Bulgarian split squat with an Olympic weightlifting bar. The balance gets almost impossible;
  • With resistance bands – the difficulty varies from low to high at the extreme top point;
  • On the cable crossover – the easiest option (assisted). The squatter holds the top pulley and when lowering down, the person should raise part of the weight of the crossover as a counterweight, which helps to ease the difficulty of the execution. This is recommended for people with overweight and/or problems with the knee joints;

Form depending on the type of support

  • Stable (bench, chair, 5-6 disks with weights or even a dumbbell) – start with this option.
  • Unstable (Swiss ball) – a great option for people aiming to improve their balance. It can only be combined with dumbbells; all other options are risky and have fewer benefits.

Performance of Bulgarian squat according to the amplitude

  • Standard amplitude – Lower your body down until the hip joint is at the knee level;
  • Shortened – lower your body only with a single span while holding to a Swedish wall/railing or something else. This is recommended to women with overweight as a transition to the standard squat;
  • Full amplitude – at the extreme lower point the rear knee almost touches the ground;

How to perform a standard Bulgarian split squat with dumbbells with a bench

  1. Place the bench in front of any of the mirrors in the gym and choose the dumbbells;
  2. Take a no-weight position and do two or three reps to make sure your position is good;
  3. Step with your two feet on the floor, take your dumbbells with a squat (not only by bending down), place the foot on the bench;
  4. Lower your body until your hip joint is at the level of the knee of the other foot.
  5. Slow down your speed, stop smoothly;
  6. Start rising smoothly until you get back to the starting point 3.


  • Avoid sudden movements, especially during drop-down/squat;
  • Do not hit your knee on the floor;
  • Do not shake the dumbbells;
  • Do not bend, hold the body upright;
  • During the execution of the exercise, your entire foot should be on the floor, i.e. your weight must be distributed evenly;


Bulgarian split squat benefits

The Bulgarian squat is an exercise that can be included in combination with lunges, Swiss ball wall squats and dumbbells and/or a ballet squat in order to replace the standard squats. In practice, this is sometimes necessary due to a temporary or chronic knee injury.

When performed with weights, the Bulgarian split squat can contribute significantly to the increase of the muscle mass in the upper thighs. Functionally, the performance of this type of squat can indirectly improve the sprints and the long and high jumps.


Tips & Tricks

It’s not that complicated, but you need to practice the Bulgarian split squat in order to master the movement. Here’s a trick on how to check if you’ve already picked up the technique. When you think everything is OK, close your eyes and make some “blind” repetitions. If you do not feel the movement and you are steady, you will need some “dry” workouts until you adjust your position and trajectory of motion.


Bulgarian split squat workout routine

Here’s how to incorporate the Bulgarian split squat in your training program and your legs workout. The answer seems easy at first glance – you can use it as an additional exercise to your basic ones. If you work out at home, however, or we do not currently have good conditions for a good leg workout, then 5 sets of 15-20 repetitions will get you to such a state that you will have a 2-day delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

For the finale, we’ll give you a leg workout program that will make your legs tremble if performed properly.

Squats – 6×15, 12, 10, 8, 10, 12
Bulgarian split squats – 4×15-20
Barbell stiff leg deadlift– 5×15, 12,10,12,15
Calf levers – 4×15-20

With the first three sets of the squats we increase the weight, as the fourth one is the heaviest, then we lose 10% of the weight for each subsequent set. With the Bulgarian split squat, the first set is a warm-up set, the next three are the real deal and they should be done with a constant weight. The barbell stiff leg deadlift is the same as the squats, we increase the weight to the third set, which is the heaviest, and the next two ones are done with 10% less weight. As for the calf levers, the first one is the warm-up set, the other three are the real workout, also performed with a constant weight.

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