4 Split Squat Variations That Build Strong Legs

Try these variations of the Bulgarian Split Squat to build lower-body strength.

The Bulgarian Split Squat, also known as the Rear-Foot-Elevated Squat, is arguably one of the best Squat variations for athletes. They are performed with the back foot placed on an elevated surface, which translates very well to sports. Another great advantage of the unilateral aspect is that it allows less weight to be used, potentially protecting the athlete from injury. Remember that many competitive situations call for strength and stability in a unilateral (one leg) position. Unilateral movements used in conjunction with bilateral movements are optimal for developing successful athletes. Give these a shot!

RELATED: Dumbbell Split-Squat 101: A How-To Guide

Basic Set-Up:

  • Start on the ground in a modified lunge position with your back toe curled around the edge of a bench.
  • Keeping your chest up, shin vertical, and toe/knee pointed straight ahead, stand up completely, pushing off the bench through your foot.
  • From the top, push your hips back slightly as you drop down toward the ground until your front thigh is parallel with the ground.
  • Return to the top, reversing the motion.

1. 2-Kettlebell Front Rack

2 KB Front Rack

  • Hold two kettlebells in a "front rack" position, creating a shelf for the bells by placing your thumbs on your sternum with your elbows up and pointed to the sides.
  • This will challenge your upper body and core like no other.

RELATED: Try This Bulgarian Split Squat Variation for Powerful Legs

2. 1-Kettlebell Front Rack

1 KB Front Rack

  • Use the same setup as above but only use a kettlebell on one side.
  • Place the bell on either side to create a different stressor on different parts of your core and upper body.
  • This is an advanced variation that requires great strength and stability. Master the 2-Kettlebell Front Rack variation first.

3. 2-Dumbbell At Sides

2 KB at Sides

  • One of the simplest variations, perform the Rear-Foot-Elevated Squat holding two dumbbells or kettlebells at your sides.
  • Keep your chest up; sometimes the bells can drift backwards and pull the chest down slightly.

RELATED: Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat 101: A How-To Guide

4. Front Rack Barbell

Front Rack Barbell

  • This variation should be used with caution and is only for advanced trainees. Master all the above variations before moving on to this one.
  • Get into a front rack position with a barbell as if you were setting up for a Front Squat.
  • Walk the bar out of the rack with a bench waiting behind you.
  • Carefully place the your back foot on the edge of the bench and perform the Squat, keeping your elbows up the entire time.
  • This takes the movement to a new level and challenges the core more than any of the above variations.
  • This variation is great for advanced athletes who have taken their strength levels past the weight of the kettlebells available to them.

Try out these variations to build lower-body strength in a unilateral fashion. Follow me on Instagram and YouTube, @johnpappfitness for technique and tip videos uploaded daily.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SQUAT | BUILD MUSCLE | KETTLEBELL EXERCISES | BARBELL EXERCISES | BENCH | DUMBBELLS | SQUAT RACK