Whether you’re a bodybuilder, competitive athlete, or even just an everyday gym goer, some sort of unilateral movement should be done in your lower body workouts. One of the best options for this is the single leg split squat. Below you’ll find a brief overview on how to perform the exercise, as well as where it should be placed in your overall program.
How to Do the Single Leg Split Squat
To do the single leg split squat, start by placing a free bench behind you. After grabbing a pair of dumbbells, letting them hang at your sides, place one foot back on the bench. There should be enough room between you and the bench that when your rear foot is on it, your forward lower leg is vertical.
Keeping your head up and torso upright, squat down as far as you can until such point that you feel a significant stretch. If you’re new to this exercise, expect it to be pretty severe in the quadriceps, hamstring, and glutes. Don’t push the stretched position too far in the beginning, as you might end up straining something. Instead, take your time and build your flexibility slowly.
Be sure to concentrate on keeping your shoulders back throughout the movement. This will help ensure that you keep your torso upright and prevent you from leaning forward, which can strain your lower back or even cause you to fall over. Also ensure that your forward knee doesn’t travel too far forward as you squat down. It’s okay if your knee ends up out over your toes, but going any further than that could result in you straining something.
After you’ve completed all your reps for that leg, bring your rear foot off the bench and place it on the ground next to your forward foot. Switch legs, now putting the opposite foot back on the bench, and repeat for the same number of reps. It should also be noted that you could do a single leg split squat with a barbell if you wanted to place a bench inside a squat rack.
When and How Should You Use the Single Leg Split Squat
There are numerous single leg split squat benefits you should be aware of. One is that it can target the VMO (the “teardrop” shaped muscles just above the knee), which is desirable for improved aesthetics. Athletes often prefer the single leg split squat as it teaches you to drive hard with each leg independently, which is what you’ll often have to do on the field or court. You can also get a great stretch throughout the entire leg at the bottom of the movement.
As such, there are a few ways you could implement the Bulgarian split squat into your program. If you’re new to the exercise, do it rather early in your workout for sets of 10-12 reps with moderate weight, focusing hard on the stretched position and learning proper form.
If you’re a bodybuilder, you could stick with sets of 8-10 to focus more on hypertrophy, but leave it until later in your workout after you’ve done heavy barbell squats and/or leg presses. And if you’re an athlete, it depends on what the rest of your program looks like.
The single leg split squat could be used as an assistance exercise after maximal effort squats/deadlifts, or after dynamic effort exercises such as speed squats or jumps. In this case, you’d do them for sets of 8-10 like a bodybuilder.
Conversely, you could treat it as one of your main leg exercises, doing it early on in your workout. This would only be advisable if you know you have your form on point, as you’d want to increase the weight as heavy as you can and drop the reps to sets of 6-8.
Once you get used to it, you may find the single leg split squat to be one of the most beneficial exercises you do. You can get an excellent contraction, an even better stretch, improve athletic qualities, and directly target aesthetics that other movements can’t achieve. Just be sure to take your time to ensure you have perfect form and you’ll be improving your leg muscle quality in no time.