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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

Quick Recap

  • 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

If you want my FREE eBook, “10 Secrets Learned from Training 100+ Pro Athletes at Cressey Sports Performance,” be sure to sign up for the free newsletter below and I'll get you hooked up!

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