Bulgarian Split Squat: How to Perform, Benefits & Expert Tips 

a vector image of a man doing Squat Workouts.

The Bulgarian split squat has a reputation for being one of the most effective exercises in the world, and knowing how to perform it properly will help you maximise your lower body development.  

In this article, we will take a look at how to perform a Bulgarian split squat, the most notable benefits that come from performing this exercise, as well as some expert tips and tricks that will accelerate your progress.  

What is the Bulgarian Split Squat?   

The Bulgarian split squat, also known as the rear-foot elevated split squat, is a highly effective unilateral lower body exercise that targets your quads, glutes, and core muscles.

It’s named after the Bulgarian Olympic weightlifting team, who popularized this challenging movement as part of their training routine. 

Unlike traditional squats that primarily work both legs simultaneously, the Bulgarian split squat emphasizes one leg at a time, making it a fantastic exercise for building strength, balance, and stability. 

How to Do a Bulgarian Split Squat 

Step 1 — Set Yourself Up 

To begin, find a sturdy bench, step, or elevated platform that is about knee height. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, facing away from the platform.  

Take a big step forward with one foot, positioning it a comfortable distance in front of you. The other foot will remain stationary, resting on the platform behind you. 

Step 2 — Sink Into the Squat 

Keeping your upper body upright and your core engaged, slowly lower your body towards the ground by bending your front knee.  

Aim to create a 90-degree angle at the knee joint, with your thigh parallel to the ground or slightly lower.  

As you descend, ensure your front knee stays aligned with your ankle and doesn’t extend past your toes. Maintain an active stance with your chest lifted and shoulders back. 

Step 3 — Push Hard 

Once you reach the bottom position of the squat, use the strength of your front leg to push yourself back up to the starting position.  

Drive through your front heel, extending your knee and activating your quads and glutes.  

Keep your core tight for stability and maintain control throughout the movement. 

Bulgarian Split Squat form 

The Bulgarian split squat is a powerful lower body exercise that targets multiple muscle groups while improving balance and stability.

To ensure you get the most out of this exercise and minimize the risk of injury, let’s walk through proper Bulgarian split squat form and technique: 

Starting Position: Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart, facing away from a bench or elevated platform. Take a step forward with one foot, positioning it far enough in front that when you lower down, your knee will be directly above your ankle. 

Elevated Rear Leg: Rest the top of your rear foot on the bench or platform behind you, toes pointing down. The length of your stride will depend on your comfort and mobility, but a longer stride will increase the challenge and emphasize the glutes and hamstrings. 

Body Alignment: Maintain an upright posture throughout the exercise, engaging your core muscles to stabilize your torso. Keep your chest lifted, shoulders back and down, and gaze forward. This alignment ensures proper engagement of the targeted muscles and reduces strain on your joints. 

Descending: Initiate the movement by bending your front knee and lowering your body towards the ground. As you descend, aim to maintain a straight line from your knee to your ankle, ensuring that your knee does not extend beyond your toes. Keep your weight centered and evenly distributed between your front and rear legs. 

Depth: Lower yourself until your front thigh is parallel to the ground or slightly below, creating a 90-degree angle at the knee joint. Focus on maintaining proper form and control throughout the entire range of motion. 

Ascending: Drive through your front heel to push yourself back up to the starting position, extending your front knee and returning to a standing position. Maintain control throughout the upward movement, avoiding any sudden jerking or shifting of weight. 

Repetition: Complete the desired number of repetitions on one leg before switching to the other leg. Aim for balanced development by performing an equal number of reps on each side. 

Benefits of Bulgarian Split Squats 

Trains Hip Stability and Control 

One of the key benefits of Bulgarian split squats is their ability to improve hip stability and control.  

By performing the exercise with one leg elevated behind you, you challenge your hip muscles, including the gluteus medius and minimus, to stabilize your pelvis and maintain proper alignment.  

This helps enhance your overall balance and stability, which is crucial for daily activities and athletic performance. 

Targeted Muscle Growth 

Bulgarian split squats are excellent for targeting specific muscle groups and promoting muscle growth.  

The primary muscles worked during this exercise are the glutes and quads, making it an effective way to build strength and size in these areas.  

The gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in your buttocks, is particularly engaged during the movement, helping you develop a firm and well-defined backside. 

Additionally, the quadriceps muscles in the front of your thighs are heavily recruited, contributing to stronger and more defined legs. 

Develops Multiple Athletic Qualities at Once 

Bulgarian split squats offer a multi-dimensional training effect by simultaneously developing various athletic qualities.  

The exercise improves lower body strength, power, stability, and mobility. It mimics single-leg movements often required in sports and daily activities, such as running, jumping, and changing directions.  

By incorporating Bulgarian split squats into your training, you can enhance your athletic performance and reduce the risk of injuries associated with imbalances and weak stabilizing muscles. 

Bulgarian Split Squat Muscles worked   

Glutes 

One of the main Bulgarian split squat muscles worked is the glutes. The gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus are all heavily activated during Bulgarian split squats. 

These muscles contribute to hip extension, abduction, and rotation.  

By strengthening your glutes, you not only improve the appearance of your buttocks but also enhance your overall lower body power, stability, and functional movement patterns. 

Quads 

The quadriceps muscles, including the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris, are the primary movers during Bulgarian split squats.  

They are responsible for knee extension and play a significant role in lower body strength and power.  

Strengthening your quads can enhance athletic performance, support knee stability, and improve overall lower body aesthetics. 

Core 

While the Bulgarian split squat primarily targets the lower body, it also engages your core muscles to stabilize your torso throughout the movement.  

Your abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques, work to maintain proper posture and spinal alignment during the exercise. 

This helps develop core strength and stability, contributing to better overall body control and reduced risk of lower back injuries. 

Other Variations of Bulgarian Split Squats 

If you’re a fan of the Bulgarian split squat and want to spice up your lower body workouts, you’ll be thrilled to discover a variety of exciting variations that can take your training to the next level.  

These variations provide unique challenges, target different muscles, and add a fresh twist to the classic Bulgarian split squat.  

Let’s delve into the world of Bulgarian split squat variations and find out how they can amp up your workout routine: 

Split Squat 

The split squat is the foundation of the Bulgarian split squat and a great starting point for beginners.  

It involves standing with one foot forward and the other foot positioned behind you on a bench or elevated surface.  

Lower your body by bending the front knee, keeping the back knee close to the ground.  

The split squat targets the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves while improving stability and balance. 

Weighted Bulgarian Split Squat 

Ready to add some extra resistance to your Bulgarian split squat? Try the weighted variation.  

Hold a dumbbell, kettlebell, or barbell in each hand, or place a weight plate across your upper back to increase the challenge.  

The added weight increases the demand on your muscles, helping to build strength and muscle mass. 

Two Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat  

For an even greater challenge and increased stability requirements, try performing the Bulgarian split squat with dumbbell.  

This variation forces your core to work harder to maintain balance and control throughout the movement.  

It’s a fantastic option if you’re looking to enhance stability, coordination, and overall strength. 

Front loaded Bulgarian Split Squat  

Take your Bulgarian split squat to the next level by incorporating front-loaded resistance.  

Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in a goblet position close to your chest as you perform the exercise.  

This variation shifts the center of gravity forward, engaging your core and upper body muscles in addition to your lower body.  

It’s a great way to improve overall strength and stability. 

Back loaded Bulgarian Split Squat  

Flip the script and challenge your lower body in a different way by placing a barbell across your upper back for the back-loaded Bulgarian split squat.  

This variation emphasizes your posterior chain muscles, including the glutes and hamstrings.  

It requires proper spinal alignment and engages your core for stability, making it a fantastic exercise for building overall lower body strength. 

Overhead Bulgarian Split Squat 

Ready to take things up a notch? Try the overhead Bulgarian split squat. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell overhead while performing the split squat movement.  

This variation not only targets your lower body muscles but also engages your shoulders, core, and stabilizer muscles.  

It requires increased shoulder mobility and stability, adding a whole new dimension to your training. 

Barbell Bulgarian Split Squat  

For those who are comfortable with barbell training, the barbell Bulgarian split squat is a challenging option.  

Place a barbell across your upper back, similar to a back squat, and perform the split squat movement.  

This variation increases the overall demand on your lower body muscles and helps improve strength and stability. 

Resistance Band Bulgarian Split Squat 

If you prefer to train at home or with minimal equipment, the resistance band Bulgarian split squat is an excellent option.  

Secure a resistance band under your front foot and hold the other end in your hands or across your shoulders.  

The band adds variable resistance throughout the movement, challenging your muscles in both the concentric and eccentric phases. 

Bulgarian Split Squat Alternatives  

If you’re looking to switch up your lower body workouts or if Bulgarian split squats aren’t suitable for you due to specific circumstances or preferences, there are several alternative exercises you can try.  

These exercises target similar muscle groups and offer variations that can challenge your lower body strength and stability.  

Let’s explore some Bulgarian split squat alternatives that you can incorporate into your workout routine: 

Single-Leg Leg Press  

The single-leg leg press is a great alternative to Bulgarian split squats as it isolates each leg individually, helping to address any strength imbalances.  

Similar to the split squat, the single-leg leg press targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.  

By using one leg at a time, you can focus on maintaining proper form and maximizing the engagement of the targeted muscles.  

Adjust the weight and foot placement on the leg press machine to suit your comfort and goals. 

Walking Lunge  

Walking lunges are a dynamic exercise that engages multiple lower body muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.  

This exercise mimics the lunging motion of the Bulgarian split squat but with a fluid movement pattern.  

To perform walking lunges, take a step forward with one leg, lowering your body until both knees are at a 90-degree angle, and then push off the front foot to bring the back leg forward into the next lunge.  

Repeat the movement, alternating legs as you walk forward. This exercise not only targets your lower body but also challenges your balance and coordination. 

Barbell Step-Up  

The barbell step-up is another effective alternative to the Bulgarian split squat.  

It primarily targets the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings, while also engaging your core for stability.  

To perform this exercise, place a barbell across your upper back and stand facing a bench or elevated platform.  

Step up onto the bench with one leg, driving through the heel to lift your body up, and then lower yourself back down with control.  

Repeat on the same leg for the desired number of repetitions before switching to the other leg.  

Adjust the height of the bench or platform to increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise. 

Common Mistakes 

Placing the Back Leg Directly Behind the Front 

One of the most common errors is positioning the back leg directly in line with the front leg.  

Bulgarian split squat foot placement is incredibly important, and if you get it wrong, you could end up injuring yourself.  

Instead, the back foot should be positioned on an elevated surface like a bench or step.  

This position helps to engage the muscles of the front leg more effectively and allows for proper depth and stability during the movement. 

Leaning Too Far Forward From the Hips 

Avoid the tendency to lean too far forward from the hips during Bulgarian split squats.  

Maintaining an upright posture is crucial for targeting the intended muscle groups and reducing strain on your lower back.  

Focus on keeping your torso upright throughout the movement, engaging your core for stability. 

Rising Onto the Toes 

Keep your weight distributed evenly through your entire foot, including your heel, during Bulgarian split squats.  

Rising onto your toes can create imbalance and diminish the effectiveness of the exercise.  

Ground yourself firmly and maintain contact with the floor throughout the entire movement. 

Supporting the Movement With the Back Leg 

The primary focus of Bulgarian split squats should be on the front leg.  

Avoid relying too heavily on the back leg for support or pushing off with it.  

Instead, engage the muscles of the front leg, especially the quadriceps and glutes, to perform the movement. 

Allowing the Front Knee to Lose Alignment 

It’s important to maintain proper alignment of your front knee during Bulgarian split squats.  

Your knee should track in line with your toes and not collapse inward or push too far forward.  

Be mindful of your form and ensure that your knee stays stable throughout the exercise. 

Losing Your Balance 

Bulgarian split squats require balance and stability.  

Losing your balance can compromise your form and increase the risk of injury.  

To improve balance, engage your core muscles, focus on a fixed point in front of you, and take your time with each repetition. 

Using Too Much External Support 

While it’s common to use external support like holding onto a wall or a fixed object for balance during Bulgarian split squats, relying on it too much can hinder your progress.  

Gradually reduce the amount of external support you need as you gain strength and stability, aiming to perform the exercise without relying on external aids. 

Trying to Stay Too Upright 

While maintaining an upright posture is essential, trying to stay completely upright during Bulgarian split squats can shift the emphasis away from the targeted muscles. 

Allow a slight forward lean from the hips, keeping your chest lifted and maintaining proper alignment to engage the muscles of your legs and hips effectively. 

Safety and Precautions 

While Bulgarian split squats can be a highly effective exercise for strengthening your lower body, it’s essential to prioritize safety and take necessary precautions to prevent injury. Here are some key tips to keep in mind when performing Bulgarian split squats: 

Warm Up Properly: Before diving into any exercise, including Bulgarian split squats, it’s crucial to warm up your body. Engage in a dynamic warm-up routine that includes movements like leg swings, hip circles, and lunges to activate your muscles, increase blood flow, and prepare your body for the workout. 

Maintain Proper Form: Correct form is vital to ensure safety and maximize the benefits of Bulgarian split squats. Pay attention to the following: 

  • Start by standing with one foot positioned forward and the other foot resting on a stable elevated surface like a bench or step. 
  • Keep your torso upright and engage your core muscles throughout the movement. 
  • As you lower yourself down, ensure that your front knee remains in line with your toes and doesn’t extend too far beyond them. 
  • Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground or slightly below, while maintaining an upright posture. 
  • Push through your front heel and squeeze your glutes to return to the starting position. 
  • Avoid leaning forward excessively or allowing your front knee to collapse inward. 

Choose the Right Equipment: Depending on your preference and fitness level, you can perform Bulgarian split squats using various equipment options. These may include dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell, or simply using your bodyweight. Select the equipment that allows you to maintain proper form and feels comfortable for your strength level. 

Start with Bodyweight or Lighter Weights: If you’re new to Bulgarian split squats or returning from an injury, it’s advisable to start with bodyweight or lighter weights. This will help you master the movement pattern and gradually build strength and stability before progressing to heavier loads. 

Progress Gradually: As your strength and proficiency increase, you can gradually increase the weight and intensity of your Bulgarian split squats. However, always ensure that you maintain control and proper form throughout the exercise. 

Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to any discomfort, pain, or limitations during Bulgarian split squats. If you experience sharp pain, dizziness, or any unusual symptoms, stop the exercise and consult with a healthcare professional. 

Modify as Needed: If you have existing knee, hip, or ankle issues, you may need to modify the Bulgarian split squat exercise. This can involve reducing the range of motion, using a support or stability aid, or opting for alternative exercises that are better suited to your body’s needs. 

Recovery and Rest: Allow your body enough time to recover and rest between Bulgarian split squat sessions. Adequate rest is crucial for muscle repair and growth, helping to minimize the risk of overuse injuries. 

Remember, everyone’s body is unique, so it’s important to listen to your own limitations and capabilities. If you’re unsure about performing Bulgarian split squats safely, consider working with a qualified fitness professional who can provide guidance and ensure proper form. 

Bulgarian Split Squat workouts 

Bulgarian split squats are a challenging and effective exercise that can take your lower body strength to new heights. Incorporating specific workouts into your training routine can help you maximize the benefits of this exercise.  

Let’s explore three different Bulgarian split squat workouts to add variety and intensity to your workouts: 

Workout 1 

  • Start with a warm-up to prepare your body for the upcoming workout. Dynamic movements like leg swings and hip circles can help loosen up your muscles. 
  • Perform 3 sets of Bulgarian split squats on each leg. Aim for 8-10 reps per set. 
  • Use a challenging weight that allows you to maintain proper form throughout the exercise. You can hold dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand or use a barbell placed across your upper back. 
  • Take a short rest period of 60-90 seconds between sets to recover. 
  • Finish the workout with some core exercises, such as planks or Russian twists, to further strengthen your stability and balance. 

Workout 2 

  • Begin with a dynamic warm-up, including exercises like high knees, jumping jacks, or skipping. 
  • Perform 4 sets of Bulgarian split squats on each leg. Aim for higher reps in the range of 12-15 per set. 
  • Use bodyweight or lighter weights to focus on endurance and muscular conditioning. You can hold a single dumbbell or kettlebell at your chest for added resistance. 
  • Keep the rest periods shorter, around 45-60 seconds, to maintain an elevated heart rate and challenge your endurance. 
  • Incorporate cardio intervals between sets, such as jump rope or mountain climbers, to further increase the intensity and cardiovascular benefits. 

Workout 3 

  • Begin with a thorough warm-up, including dynamic stretches and mobility exercises to prepare your muscles for the upcoming workout. 
  • Perform 5 sets of Bulgarian split squats on each leg. Aim for 6-8 reps per set. 
  • Increase the weight to a challenging load that allows you to reach muscle failure within the desired rep range. You can use heavier dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell. 
  • Take longer rest periods of 2-3 minutes between sets to allow for adequate recovery and maximum effort. 
  • Consider incorporating other lower body exercises like Romanian deadlifts or hip thrusts to further target the glutes and hamstrings for a well-rounded lower body workout. 

Bulgarian Split Squat Sets and Reps 

When it comes to sets and reps for Bulgarian split squats, it’s important to consider your fitness level, goals, and the specific workout you’re following. As a general guideline: 

For strength and hypertrophy-focused workouts, aim for 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps with heavier weights. 

If you’re targeting endurance and muscular conditioning, aim for 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps with lighter weights. 

Adjust the weight and rep range based on your individual capabilities and progression. 

Who Should Do Bulgarian Split Squats 

Bodybuilders 

If you’re looking to build muscle and sculpt your physique, Bulgarian split squats can be a valuable addition to your routine.  

They target the lower body muscles, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.  

By focusing on one leg at a time, Bulgarian split squats provide a unique stimulus that can enhance muscle symmetry and balance. 

Strength Athletes 

Bulgarian split squats are a great choice for strength athletes who want to improve lower body strength and stability.  

By isolating each leg, you can identify and address any muscle imbalances or weaknesses.  

This exercise helps develop single-leg strength, which is crucial for sports that require explosive movements or change of direction. 

Traditional Athletes 

Whether you’re a soccer player, basketball player, or any athlete engaging in multidirectional movements, Bulgarian split squats can be beneficial.  

They help improve stability, balance, and single-leg strength, which are crucial for athletic performance.  

By incorporating Bulgarian split squats into your training, you can enhance your agility, power, and overall athletic ability. 

Beginners 

Bulgarian split squats are accessible to beginners who are new to strength training. 

They provide a stable and controlled movement pattern compared to other complex lower body exercises like barbell squats.  

With proper guidance and technique, beginners can develop lower body strength, improve balance, and gain confidence in their training. 

If You’re Injured 

Bulgarian split squats can be a valuable exercise option for individuals recovering from certain injuries, particularly those affecting one leg or the lower back.  

Since the exercise allows you to focus on one leg at a time, it can help identify and address any muscular imbalances or weaknesses that may have contributed to the injury. 

Try It Out 

So, are you ready to get Bulgarian split squat glutes? If so, then you might want to incorporate the Bulgarian split squat into your routine.  

You could even use a Bulgarian split squat smith machine or Bulgarian split squat machine if you happen to belong to a gym if you want some additional support – there is no harm in using machines if you have access to them. 

However, if not, then you can do Bulgarian split squats from the comfort of your own home.  

This exercise is one of the best at building overall lower body strength and mass, and no matter who you are or what your situation may be, you will be able to start doing Bulgarian split squats as soon as you desire.  

Bulgarian Split Squat – FAQs 


What Are Bulgarian Split Squats Good For? 

Bulgarian split squats are good for overall lower-body development as well as improving unilateral strength.  

This makes them a fantastic exercise for fixing muscle imbalances in the legs.   

Are Bulgarian Split Squats As Effective As Squats? 

Yes, Bulgarian split squats are as effective as squats when done correctly.  

With proper progressive overload and enough intensity, Bulgarian split squats can be as good as if not better than squats when it comes to developing a strong lower body. 

Are Bulgarian Split Squats the Same As Lunges? 

Both Bulgarian split squats and lunges both target the same muscle groups and are beneficial for the same reasons.  

The main difference is that Bulgarian split squats are stationary while lunges are not. 

The Bulgarian split squat vs lunge debate is quite controversial, but both can be great exercises when done efficiently.  

How Difficult Is Bulgarian Split Squat? 

The Bulgarian split squat is not difficult to perform correctly, but many people find it to be more tiring than other squat variations. 

This is because the Bulgarian split squat works one leg at a time, requiring more balance and stability than regular squats. 

Can beginners do Bulgarian Split Squats?  

Yes, beginners can do Bulgarian split squats. 

Although, not every beginner will be able to do Bulgarian split squats as they require a certain level of strength to perform.  

What Muscles Does the Bulgarian Split Squat Work?  

The Bulgarian split squat primary works the glutes, quads, and abductors. 

It also works the hamstrings, calves, and abs to a lesser extent.  

How High Should My Back Leg Be on Bulgarian Split Squats? 

Your back leg should go all the way to the way to the floor when doing Bulgarian split squats.  

 
 
We hope we have been able to give you a better insight into the wonderful world of Bulgarian split squats. 

The Bulgarian split squat is a tough exercise, but once you master it, it will become an essential tool that will help you throughout your entire fitness journey. 

If you are interested in getting your hands on more fitness content, feel free to check out MovingForwards to check out the rest of our articles. 

Good luck!