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The Benefits of Bulgarian Split Squats (Variation is Key)

Dec 07, 2017

What are the benefits of Bulgarian split squats?

If you are currently reading this, you have probably come to learn about a new form of squatting. Specifically, one you may not be too familiar with: Bulgarian split squats

It just so happens that Bulgarian split squats are exactly what you are looking for.

For some, Bulgarian split squats are definitely a departure from the traditional squats we normally perform in the gym.

However, that is why there can be so many benefits of Bulgarian split squats, and it’s a movement you should implement in your routine as soon as you can (which will be right after this article).

Before we delve into the awesome benefits of the bulgarian split squat, and as far as optimization to your workouts and muscle growth, first we should talk a little bit about safety. One thing I would always recommend using during any heavy lifting movement, particularly squats, is a solid weightlifting belt.

Best Weightlifting Belt for Bulgarian Split Squats

I would recommend our Dark Iron Fitness double prong leather belt, which will never let you down.

Dark Iron Fitness Genuine Leather Weightlifting Belt

Those of you who are already doing heavy squats, unsupported, I would suggest looking into a leather belt. If you’re into squatting hardcore and are going to add in these Bulgarian split squats, then make sure your belt is of the highest quality.

Now that we’ve got that safety announcement out of the way, let’s get straight to the good stuff: squats, squats and more squats.

Bulgarian split squats are actually quite common in the gym, but you have most likely seen the movement performed as a “Bulgarian split lunge”, which is essentially the same thing.

You usually perform a lunge with little to no weight, in a forward moving motion, which is where the differences begin to show.

A Bulgarian split squat can be done in several different variations, with heavy weight, and will unilaterally target your muscle. Let’s discuss some general benefits of Bulgarian split squats and form recommendations before we talk about the variances in the movement.

Why Are Bulgarian Split Squats a Good Choice?

Departure from Bilateral Training

Splitting your squat into a unilateral movement is comparable to going from barbell bench press to dumbbell bench press. You can benefit from both, but only if you perform both. Unilaterally, you can add extreme focus on your leg training. Bulgarian split squats

Propping one leg up on a bench and squatting deeply will target your stabilizer muscles and allow for further depth in the squat.

Due to the angle of the lifted leg and the position of the squatting leg, attainable depths fall on a large spectrum.

The further your front leg is extended out, the deeper you can sit into the squat, which is important for proper depth and time under tension.

Make sure to keep your back leg stabilized, as to not fall forward or have your foot accidentally slip off the bench pad.

Though some people may look at unilateral training as something not effective on its own, there is no doubt that in combination with regular bilateral squats, the benefits will be evident. If anything, the benefits of Bulgarian split squats will compliment your regularly scheduled squat day by being what you could call one of the most targeted accessory movements ever.

Related: Benefits of Squats and Lunges

A Focus on Balance

Let’s face it, you rarely focus on your balance during a standard back squat (and hardly during a front squat). A Bulgarian split squat is going to strengthen your stabilizer muscles and boost your core strength at the same time.

You won’t ever fall into the monotony of squatting to where it becomes second hand nature. You will constantly be focused on your form and balance with this type of squatting.

Also, due to the recruitment of stabilizing muscles, the workload on your quads and glutes will naturally feel doubled, even when less weight is used.

Range of Motion and Prevention of Imbalances

The main reason some prefer dumbbells to barbell is because of the isolation that occurs unilaterally. Also because you aren’t struggling with half of your body doing most of the work, as during a bilateral movement, which can often lead to muscle imbalances.

Weighted Dip Belt Bulgarian Split Squats

One leg at a time during a squat will guarantee no hinderance in your range of motion. With the exercises done separately between legs, muscle imbalances shouldn’t arise from training, as long as form is practiced correctly.

Related: How Many Squats Should I Do a Day?

With the various ways of performing the Bulgarian split squat, muscle growth and stability will continue to increase. The body will never become overly familiar with all the different approaches to the workout.

Let’s examine the benefits behind having so many variations to the BSS…

No Matter How You Split It

You can do them with heavy weights, light weights, no weights and every format of weights.

  • Heavy barbell Bulgarian split squats – A great way to perform high volume and attempt progressive overload. Make sure to perform these with a belt to maintain posture and safety.
  • Dumbbell/Kettlebell Bulgarian split squats – The perfect way to take the stress off your neck and back, while working to stabilize the weights on the negative.
    • You can also perform these goblet style with a single weight between both hands.
  • Dip Belt Bulgarian split squats – Utilizes the weight plate in conjunction with your center of gravity in a unique way. Also, this technique allows the freedom of your hands.
  • Weight plate Bulgarian split squats – Choosing a loose weight plate and holding it at your center mass or slightly in front of you to keep a strong grip as you squat deep.
  • Hex Bar Bulgarian split squats – Shortens the range of motion, but allows for heavy weight and a lower orientation of angle and hand placement.
  • Smith Machine Bulgarian split squats – As with regular squats, this will increase the safety of the movement and stability of the barbell.

These are only a few of the variations available to be done with Bulgarian split squats.

Don’t let that fool you though, the benefits of Bulgarian splits squats can be tweaked even further to enhance performance or allow for more comfort and safety.

Related: Benefits of Wall Squats

Your workout program can become truly unique due to the effortlessness in altering and expanding upon such a simple technique. However, the types of weights aren’t the only things that can transform this movement.

We also have to examine the benefits of platform when it comes to the overall benefits of Bulgarian splits squats the platform plays a huge role

Why Do Platforms Play Such a Huge Role?

An Argument for Good And Bad Platforms

First thing is first — the Bulgarian split squat can practically be done anywhere that lends a stable platform that your foot can rest on.

Outdoor Bench Bulgarian Split Squats

Yet, this does not mean all platforms are created equally, nor do they contribute in all the same beneficial ways as one another.

Some platforms can be lower than others, resulting in less range of motion. Others may involve a higher angle, which allows maximum depth.

The softer the surface of the platform, the more likely it forces stabilization in the foot. If harder, the foot tends to sit flatter and more securely on the surface.

Your best bet is to use a hard, flat foam bench pad. This creates a strong foundation for heavy weighted Bulgarian split squats.

As a lifter, your goal should be to choose a platform that fits your comfort level in comparison to the amount of weight. Also, you should never attempt heavy Bulgarian split squats at such an extreme angle that you aren’t able to return to your starting position.

Reliability Within The Platforms

Without further ado, here are some other great platforms to experiment with. These are all great in one way or another if used properly to achieve the common goal of: Performing the Ultimate Bulgarian Split Squat.

  • Flat bench pad – The “standard” in my opinion. A classic that is safe, effective and works well with all types of weights.
  • Wooden/Nylon box – Often used for plyometrics, these boxes come in different sizes and can be flipped to different angles/heights.
  • Step stool – These metal step stools in commercial gyms work well, have various sizes and utilize grip tape on top.
  • Exercise ball – A perfect way to practice stabilization as you can roll your back leg in and out to alter ROM. You should choose your weights wisely (and safely) for this platform.Exercise ball Bulgarian Split Squats
  • TRX rope – Another great option as long as you monitor the weight. Don’t let the TRX rope handle tangle you up while it cradles your foot.
  • Stackable steps – Commonly found in most commercial gyms. Stackable steps allow a solid base that can stack higher and higher — a true benefit to Bulgarian split squats.
  • Chair, table, couch or bench – Whether in your home or outdoors, the platforms come in all shapes and sizes; give one a try, today!

The Benefits of Bulgarian Split Squats In Summation

Reiterating the Comprehensive Types of Benefits

To conclude, it is safe to say that squatting, overall, is one of the most important exercises you can do.

Whether you opt for bilateral or unilateral squats, such as the Bulgarian split, you will always benefit.

It is crucial to remember that Bulgarian split squats can burn your stabilizers out. You must be wary of where and how you decide to perform them.

If your core is weak, or you intend on using heavy weights, never forget to wear a weightlifting belt. It could be your saving grace.

The Dark Iron Fitness Genuine Leather Weightlifting Belt can help assure your safety in performing these exercises.

As we recap, take into consideration that Bulgarian split squats will:

  1. Give you a better range of motion
  2. Overload the quads and glutes
  3. Recruit your stabilizer muscles
  4. Build up strength in core muscles
  5. Utilize balance and knee strength
  6. Reduce muscle imbalance
  7. Allow for variety in weights and locations
  8. Keep your squat days fun and effective

Heavy weighted barbell Bulgarian split squats

Related: 19 Benefits to Doing Squats

Something To Strive For

In the end, I would surmise that Bulgarian split squats are reminiscent of the saying, “most bang for your buck.”

Standard back and front squats at a squat rack often will limit you. The benefits of Bulgarian split squats will push you more than ever before, but pay off immensely in comparison to the effort put in.

Feel free to spice up your routine by adding in the various approaches that can be done with the BSS.

With the Bulgarian, your body, mind and muscles only grow stronger, work harder and dig deeper.

Always keep it safe, know your limits, protect your health and don’t be afraid to try something new.

In general the overall benefits of Bulgarian split squats are vast and many so we hope you start trying them out.