This week in the Best Butt Exercises series, we’ll be learning a different variation of the split squat – the Bulgarian split squat.
This version is similar to the regular split squat, but a slight change in positioning of the feet allows you to deepen the depth of the squat (and also cater it towards placing the emphasis of the move onto either the glutes or the quads). I know which one I’ll be choosing!
Exercise: Bulgarian Split Squats
Muscles worked: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, core, balance
Jolie Recommends: 3 sets of 10 reps per side
Difficulty rating: 7
Effectiveness rating: 7
For this exercise you’ll be elevating your rear foot up on a flat bench or any other platform about 20″ high. A sturdy chair, low table, set of stairs or park bench are all suitable substitutes if you’re working out at home or in the park.
If you’re a beginner, you might want to start with a lower elevation until you get the hang of the move, or start out next to a wall or railing that you can hold on to for balance.
Best Butt Exercise #30: Bulgarian Split Squats
I love split squats, but the Bulgarian version? Yes please.
These are like a supercharged split squat for your butt, and if you get your foot positioning right, your butt will definitely be feeling it in the following days!
They work to hit the glutes that much more because the elevation of your rear foot positions the rear knee higher off the ground, allowing you to squat deeper into the move.
This can work into your quads a lot more, but if you place your front foot forward (widening the split stance), you can really get the glutes working as you push up and out of the squat. This is mainly because the wider stance forces your weight backwards, meaning you can’t help but keep your torso upright and back and push through your heel.
How to Do the Move
Two things that most people struggle with on this move are balance and flexibility. This exercise will challenge your balance, but also might be difficult for those who aren’t as flexible in the quad and hip flexor area.
If you find your mobility limited, I recommend switching back to the regular split squat and performing some stretches to help increase your flexibility until you can do Bulgarians (it really is worth it).
The video below is a great how-to video which explains how to do a Bulgarian split squat as well as how to change your foot placement to cater towards working the quads versus working the glutes:
- Begin in a split stance position, with your right leg forward (the ‘working leg’) and your left foot elevated up on a bench behind you.
- Tighten your core, taking special care to maintain an upright position throughout the whole exercise.
- Lower down into a deep lunge by bending your front knee, taking care not to allow the knee to extend over the toes.
- To come up out of the split squat, push through the heel of your front leg, using your rear leg to help maintain your balance. This is one rep.
- Switch legs and complete a matching set with the left leg forward.
Perfecting Your Form
The positioning of your feet can really affect which muscles are doing the work in the Bulgarian split squat.
In general, elevating your rear foot higher will place more stress on the working leg and allow you to work those muscles more intensely. However, if you have trouble maintaining your balance like this, then lowering the elevation of your rear foot will make balancing easier. Be aware that the lower position will also work the rear leg more, so you will lose some of the great isolation of the front leg that this exercise affords.
- Keep the torso back and upright throughout the exercise – a common mistake is to tilt or lean forward.
- Ensure the front foot is forward enough so that the front knee doesn’t extend over the toes when you squat. Widen your stance if the knee tends to creep out in front.
- Keep both hips pointing straight ahead, and square as possible.
- If balance is an issue, practice regular split squats first before progressing to the Bulgarian version.
I recommend 3 sets on each side for this one – 10 reps per set.
As usual, you’ll want to practice this one first with bodyweight only to get the hang of it and ensure you’re doing the move with the proper form.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, feel free to make it more challenging by holding a pair of dumbells down by your sides, or even with a weighted bar on your back – if you’re well balanced!