The split squat is a classic lower body exercise that is an oldie but a goodie. I can guarantee you will feel this one in your glutes, making it well worthy to be featured in our series of Best Butt ExercisesRead on to learn how to do this move correctly and you’ll be on your way to a sexier butt.

Best butt exercises the split squat
photo credit: Flyfishtogrophy via photopin cc


Exercise: Split Squat
Muscles worked: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads, and balance muscles (core)
Jolie Recommends: Try 3 sets of 12 reps per side. Add weight once you get the hang of this to amp up your results.
Difficulty rating: 3
Effectiveness rating: 6

The split squat most closely resembles a lunge rather than a squat, but the main difference is that your feet stay planted in the split stance position as you complete the move.

Personally, I find these work the glutes better than regular lunges, perhaps because the fixed stance makes it easier to maintain balance and you’re less likely to use momentum to inadvertently ‘cheat’ during the exercise.

In any case, it’s fast becoming one of my favorite moves. Since it’s low-impact because your feet stay planted, I find it to be much easier on the knees than both conventional squats and regular lunges.

Best Butt Exercise #12: Split Squats

The video below demonstrates how to perform this exercise in version which just uses bodyweight, but you can also use weights to make it more challenging.

If you haven’t done this move before, as always, please start with the bodyweight version until you can perform this exercise with perfect form before you add any form of additional resistance.  This will help protect you from injury.

How to Do the Move

This describes how to do a bodyweight split squat. Once you have the correct positioning and movement down pat, you can move on to a weighted split squat if you choose.

  1. Start with feet positioned shoulder width apart, and maintaining this width, step one leg backwards into a split stance.
    split squat bicep curl
    The split stance (with dumbbells and an added bicep curl).  photo credit: Scott & White Healthcare via photopin cc
  2. You can place your hands on your hips, or clasp them together in front of you with elbows bent – whatever is comfortable.
  3. Position your feet the correct distance apart so that when you drop down into a lunge, your front knee is at 90 degrees, and your back knee a bit more than 90 degrees. Your front knee should not extend over your toes on your forward foot. Adjust your stance width if necessary.
    Best butt exercises split squat
    photo credit: Flyfishtogrophy via photopin cc
  4. Keeping your torso upright and over the hips, drop down into a lunge position. At the bottom of the split squat your back knee should be just hovering above the ground, and your front lower leg should be directly over your ankle.
  5. Pushing through the heel of the front foot and contracting the glutes push up and straighten both knees to return to the starting split stance. This is one rep.
  6. Repeat on the other side, once you have completed a number of reps on the starting side.

Perfecting Your Form

  • Keep the back straight, shoulders back and chest up, with your torso upright and not leaning forward or backwards excessively.
  • Play around with your stance width until you get it right. A good idea is to check in a mirror that the angles formed by your knees is correct.
  • Really focus on pushing up through the heel of the front foot while focusing on contracting your butt muscles – this will engage the glutes.
  • Pause briefly at the top of the movement and give your glutes an extra squeeze before dropping down into the next rep.

Reppin’ It

I like to do 12 of these each side for 3 sets, with around 30 seconds break between sets (or more if doing weighted split squats).

This is a great exercise to advance, simply by adding resistance in the form of weights (dumbbells, kettlebells, barbell/weighted bar, or even a resistance band if you want to get creative).

For dumbbells, simply perform the same move holding a dumbbell in each hand either side of your body. If you want to get some arm-work in as well, you can transition to a bicep curl when you return to the split stance position, as shown in the image under step 1 of How to Do the Move.

split squat dumbbells
Dumbbell split squat. photo credit: watchmojo via photopin cc

Kettlebells can be held in the same fashion as dumbbells if you have two equal kettlebell weights, or if you just have the one, try holding it  with one hand behind your shoulder or with two hands in front of your chest. Be sure to train both sides evenly if you opt for the one-handed version.

best butt exercises split squat kb
One-handed kettlebell split squat. photo credit: via photopin cc

If using a barbell, split squats can be done with the barbell on your back or overhead. I recommend holding the barbell on your back, as this allows you to focus more on the split squat movement rather than concentrating on supporting a barbell overhead while also trying to split squat.

best butt exercises split squat barbell
Overhead barbell split squat. photo credit: KoreyStanley via photopin cc


If you don’t have weights but have a resistance band with handles, you can step on the middle of the band with your front foot, and holding the handles up at your shoulders to create tension in the band, perform the split squat. Lock your elbows bent with your hands up near your shoulders, so that the resistance is transferred into your working legs.

That’s it! Hope you enjoy this one as much as I have been lately – let me know what you think!

Best Butt Exercises: The Split Squat
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2 thoughts on “Best Butt Exercises: The Split Squat

  • January 6, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    You’re absolutely correct, split squats are literally the same as a lunge. This is my favourite type of exercise to perform in order to “feel the burn”. I like to up things a notch with some dumbbells, such a fun challenge.

    • January 7, 2015 at 11:07 am

      Hey Charlene, they are pretty similar just with feet planted! I personally find that the split squats tend to fatigue my muscles more than regular walking or stepping lunges though!


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