Ask the Experts: How Can I Improve My Bulgarian Split Squat?

Discover a 4-step progression to improve your Bulgarian Split-Squat by increasing your hip mobility.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Q: I know the Bulgarian Split Squat is a good exercise, but I have trouble performing it. What should I do?

A: At STACK, we love the Bulgarian Split Squat, commonly referred to as Rear-Foot-Elevated Split-Squat. It's the best exercise to build single-leg strength, and many elite coaches advocate that it should replace Squats in training programs.

However, the Bulgarian Split Squat can be difficult to perform if you don't have sufficient mobility. Your hip flexors might scream when you lower, causing you to wonder whether  it's worth the pain.

This problem is not uncommon, but it can be easily fixed. You just need to improve your hip mobility and learn the movement. Here are the steps:

  1. Begin with standard Bulgarian Split Squats with your rear foot on the ground. When this is comfortable, elevate your rear foot onto a short box. Continue working your way up until your rear foot is on a bench. Don't rush this. It may take several weeks.
  2. When you're able to perform the movement with your foot on a bench, it's time to learn the movement pattern. Place your hands on the back of your head and lower your knee onto a foam pad. Hold the bottom position for two counts and drive straight up. 
  3. After you've mastered the exercise, start using weight by holding a dumbbell (or kettlebell) in the goblet position. You can then progress to holding dumbbells at your sides, a barbell in the front-squat position or a barbell in the back-squat position.
  4. The movement can be challenging even for those who have experience with the exercise, so warm up your hips beforehand. Get started by trying three hip mobility exercises recommended by strength coach Mike Boyle in this video.

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