The Best Exercises You're Not Doing: Bulgarian Split Squat
“Ever since I started doing them I feel like the ball explodes out of my hand.”
Seeing a close friend go from throwing around 88 mph off the mound to hitting 97 and being drafted in less than a year reaffirmed my belief in my favorite exercise on the planet.
Meet the Bulgarian Split Squat.
I can’t think of many more “functional” exercises for an athlete. In just about every athletic movement, you need to create power while on one leg.
Exploding off the mound as a pitcher
Sprinting toward a base, a goal line in football, or the finish line of a 100m dash
Jumping up for a layup or dunk in basketball
The Bulgarian Split Squat teaches you how to create strength and power in the unstable nature of being in a unilateral stance. After all, you're rarely on two legs in explosive athletic movements.
The other awesome benefit of squatting on one leg? You maintain a similar stress on each leg while reducing the load on the spine by half (when compared to a bilateral back squat).
The most common knock on single-leg exercises? "You can’t load them up very well."
To that, I say here’s 225 pounds for reps (apologies for the cell phone quality video).
The benefits of the Bulgarian Split Squat
Activates entire lower body – glutes, quads, hamstrings, etc
Incorporates pelvic and knee stabilizing muscles to a much greater degree than bilateral squats - great for injury prevention
Introduces frontal (lateral) plane stability demand
Similar stress on each leg as bilateral squats but half the load on the spine
One important note: they will make you extremely sore if you use your maximum possible weight your first few times with them. My advice:
Start with 50% of what you think your max would be the first time out
Jump to 60% your second time, 70% your third, and so on
Most athletic movements are completed with only one foot on the ground
We need to train with one foot on the ground for our work in the weight room to transfer over to the field
The Bulgarian Split Squat is the single-leg exercise you’ll be able to load up the most
Single-leg squats allow you to train each leg just as hard as bilateral squats but with half of the load on the spine
They will make you sore – use light weight your first few times executing them
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