Bulgarian Split Squats: The King of Single Leg Exercises

Jason Maxwell

Coach

Nutrition, Personal Training

Fitness, balance ability, strength and conditioning, back squats, split squats, training plan

Source: Shawn Gerber's TriStrong

 

Bulgarian split squats are the king of leg exercises. Before you click off of this page in disgust, I want to ask, have you ever tried Bulgarian split squats as your main leg exercise, and then used squats as an assistance exercise?

 

 

It seems like bodybuilding blasphemy, but I think we’ve developed this mantra because squats have always been considered the best leg exercise of all time. No one has challenged this mantra, until now.

 

Bulgarian Split Squats Build Very Strong Legs

I feel that people dismiss Bulgarian split squats because they’re hard to do. You try them and you can only use light weight due to balance issues, so you dismiss them. This is the equivalent of drinking one beer and saying you hate beer and will never drink it again. It’s an acquired taste.

 

In fact, I’ve found that it only takes 2–4 weeks to develop your balance in Bulgarian split squats. Once you have this, you can successfully add weight. I’ve seen people use 200 pounds external load on Bulgarian split squats, but not be able to squat 400 pounds. Sure, the back leg helps handle a bit of the load, but you’re still squatting down on the front leg, giving it 80–95% of the load.

 

I know 200 pounds external load sounds like a lot, but with Bulgarian split squats, this can be accomplished with a bit of hard work. It’s like any exercise. Practice it, rep after rep, adding weight over time, and you’ll get there. In fact, you’ll probably be able to build a 200 pound Bulgarian split squat faster than building a 315 pound squat.

 

Most people don’t put in the time to build Bulgarian split squats to this level, yet dismiss them as a bad exercise. How many hours have you put into building your squat? Imagine if you put this time into building your Bulgarian split squats. Magic would happen.

 

Another strange benefit I’ve noticed is that increasing strength via Bulgarian splt squats seems to carry over to your squats. Meaning that increasing your one rep max for Bulgarian split squats will maintain or increase your squatting strength, even when you’re not squatting. This doesn’t seem to work the other way around.

 

Bulgarian Split Squats Build Very Big Legs

Now, we know that Bulgarian split squats will build your legs stronger and this allows you to put more tension on the leg muscles. More tension means more muscle growth. Due to the demands of balancing on one leg, Bulgarian split squats hit your quads, glutes, hamstrings, adductors, abductors, and calves.

 

Video Courtesy of Shawn Gerber's TriStrong

 

I can’t think of another leg exercise that hits every single one of these muscles. Because of this, your thighs grow large, quickly. Want to add inches to your legs as fast as possible? Then you need to do Bulgarian split squats and go heavy. You can close the thigh gap in record time.

 

A Case for Squats

Now, I’m not saying to stop doing squats. All I’m saying is that you should scrap squats in favor of Bulgarian split squats for your main leg exercise, and then use squats for your accessory leg movement. Basically, do the opposite of what you’re probably currently doing.

 

Here’s how that might look:

 

  • Main Lift: Bulgarian split squats - 5 sets of 5 reps each leg
  • Accessory: Squats - 3 sets of 8–12 reps

 

Finisher:

 

  • Bulgarian split squats - 1 set of 20 reps on each leg using half the weight you used in your main lift

 

Work your way up with the Bulgarian split squats. With patience, your balance will come and you’ll be able to add the weight you want. Give them a fair chance and you’ll build bigger and stronger legs in record time.

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