How to Do The Bulgarian Split Squat With Dumbbells Properly

The Bulgarian split squat with dumbbells is a single-leg variation of the dumbbell lunge that targets your glutes, quads and hamstrings.

Unlike the lunge, however, it doesn’t require the same level of neuromuscular coordination since your feet are planted on a stable surface.

Required equipment: Dumbbells

How to do it:

  • Hold a light dumbbell in each hand.
  • Stand two feet in front of a knee-level step or bench.
  • Push your right leg behind you and place the top of it on the bench/step. Make sure your right foot is placed in such a way that you can lunge comfortably.
  • Tighten your core then push your shoulder blades back as you lean forward at your waist.
  • Slowly bend your knee and lower down on your left leg.
  • Stop lowering your body down just before your knee reaches your toes.
  • Using the power from your quads and hamstrings, push your body up with the help of your left foot.
  • Repeat for as many reps as you desire then switch legs.

If you are a beginner, you can start with 2 or 3 sets of about 6-8 reps on each leg until you gain more strength and master the correct form.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT WITH DUMBBELLS WORK?

This exercise primarily works the upper leg muscles and the glutes.

The specific target muscles are the quads and gluteus maximus, which are assisted by the adductor magnus and the soleus.

The hamstrings, gluteus minimus and gluteus medius act as stabilizers during this movement.

BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT WITH DUMBBELLS BENEFITS

FIXES MUSCLE ASSYMETRYAND IMBALANCE

Since it is a single-limb exercise, this movement prevents you from overworking your dominant limbs, which helps reduce the risk of muscle asymmetry and imbalance.

ENHANCES CORE STRENGTH

When you extend your rear foot while performing this exercise, you rely on the muscles in your core to keep your body stable.

This position engages the stabilizers around your waistline and hips, hence increasing your core strength.

STRONGER LEGS

If strong legs are on your wish list, the Bulgarian split squat with dumbbells could be your new favourite exercise.

With one of your legs elevated and extended behind you, this exercise targets most of the muscles the traditional squat works, but with more emphasis on your quads.

IS A COMPOUND MOVEMENT

The Bulgarian split squat with dumbbells trains multiple muscle groups, among them being the glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, shin muscles and core.

IMPROVES BODY BALANCE

Since this exercise is a single-leg movement, it forces your core to work extra hard to provide balance to your body so that you don’t topple over to your side.

This way, it improves your general body balance and stability.

PROTECTS YOUR LOWER BACK AND SPINE

The traditional squat puts a lot of strain on your lower back, which puts you at risk of back and spinal injury.

Injuring your back or spine will be the least of your worries if you choose to perform the Bulgarian split squat instead, because it shifts the load from your lower back to your legs.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT WITH DUMBBELLS

BENCH STEP UP

Looking to fire up your quads? Try the bench step up.

This strength-training exercise primarily targets your legs but it will also work your hamstrings and glutes.

How to do it:

  • Set up a flat surface such as a bench and make sure it is sturdy.
  • Stand about six inches away facing the bench.
  • Plant one of your feet firmly on top of the bench. Your entire foot should be on the bench and your heel should not be hanging off.
  • Shift all your body weight to the elevated leg and stand up until you have fully extended your hips. Do not use your other leg to propel yourself up.
  • Slowly lower your body down until your other leg taps the floor. This is a complete rep.
  • Start another rep following the above steps

ELEVATED SINGLE-LEG HIP THRUST

The standard hip thrust strengthens your hamstrings and glutes. However, if you are looking to develop more strength and stability in your body, you can increase the challenge by making this exercise elevated.

The strength and stability you gain from the elevated single-leg hip thrust can help you develop better form for other lower body workouts such as deadlifts and squats.

How to do it:

  • Sit on the floor with your back against a bench. Your knees should be bent and your feet firmly planted on the floor hip-width apart.
  • Hoist yourself up a bit using your arms.
  • Press your back into the bench and support your body slightly with your arms. Keep your body hovering above the ground using your legs.
  • Move your hands behind your head to provide support to your neck.
  • Lift one of your legs off the ground as you shift your bodyweight to your supporting leg.
  • Extend your other leg in front of you to prevent your foot from dragging the ground. This is your starting position.
  • Driving through the heel of your supporting leg, squeeze your glutes and pull your hips up.
  • Keep your hips aligned and try to extend them fully.
  • Slowly and with control, lower the hips back down. You’ve completed a single rep.
  • Repeat the last three steps until you are done with your set, then switch to the other leg.

BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT WITH DUMBBELLS MISTAKES TO AVOID

LEANING TOO FAR FORWARD

If you find yourself constantly pushing your upper body too far forward as you do this exercise, it may be time to reassess your form.

Aside from putting unnecessary strain on your lower back and front knee, this position limits your core engagement.

IMPROPER POSITIONING OF YOUR FOOT

It is important to position your foot properly if you want to get the most out of the Bulgarian split squat with dumbbells.

Your foot should not be so close to the step/bench that your knee extends over your toes, but at the same time it should not go too far.

If you manage to find the perfect position for your leg, mark that point with a small plate or a dumbbell so that you don’t have to hop around trying to find it in future sets.

WRAPPING UP

The Bulgarian split squat with dumbbells is a highly effective exercise that yields impressive results if you use the correct form and stay consistent.

Aside from working multiple muscles in your body, this movement also gives you stability and protects your back and spine from injury.

If you are still new to the Bulgarian split squat, you should first try to master the correct form then use dumbbells later after you have gained enough strength and mobility to perform more challenging variations.