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Updated: August 24, 2017

The Proper Way to Do the Bulgarian Split Squat for the Greatest Health Benefits

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Do you want to build strong legs or develop your booty? Get a flat tummy and even acquire a sixpack? Increase your muscle activation and therefore maximize your strength? What if I told you that all of those goals can be achieved by doing one single exercise: The Bulgarian Split Squat.

Incorporate this exercise if you want to save time, increase your confidence and get to your goals faster. But let me tell you that the exercise is not a wonder pill.

How Your Body Will Change By Doing The Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian Split Squat is a unilateral, compound exercise. It only trains one side of your body at a time and uses multiple joints for the movement. This makes the exercise special: a lot of muscle groups and nerve connections are involved. Leading to the following benefits:

Your Muscles Get Stronger

You’re doing the exercise with one leg. This increases the load on the specific muscles in your leg that help you build that booty or those quads. These physiological changes can lead to more confidence and general well-being.

On unilateral exercises, there’s also the Crossover Effect. If you train one side of your body, the other side will be trained to some extent too. This may be because your central nervous system is sending signals down to a common path way, that may still result in muscle activation. Again a great aspect in getting closer to your fitness results.

Because the leg muscles are one of the biggest muscles in your body, the exercise will also increase your free testosterone level. This is a good thing. The circulating testosterone will not only benefit your legs, but will impact every muscle in your body. Doing the Bulgarian Split Squat will help you build muscles in your whole body. Not only that but free testosterone levels are also linked to a longer lifespan.

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And women: don’t worry. Your body is of course emitting less testosterone than the body of males. You will not get huge arms, you will get the curves you’re craving for!

You Get a Toned Midsection

The legs are being worked out hard in this exercise. This not only leads to muscle growth, but will also help tone your midsection. Your body needs a lot of calories to power a big muscle group such as the legs. Doing the Bulgarian Split Squat on a continuous basis will help you lose weight.

The Bulgarian Split Squat also tones your midsection by training your core muscles. It’s a difficult exercise. Your core plays a huge part in balancing your body, which becomes especially hard when added weight is involved. Which means that this leg exercise is also a great exercise for your core. You’ve heard right!

You Prevent Aging

Because you’re doing the Bulgarian Split Squat on one leg only, it’s a challenging exercise for your central nervous system. It forces your brain to balance your body weight plus extra weight maybe when doing the exercise. This is stressful but also quite important.

Most activities that we do on a daily basis are unilateral and require a lot of balancing work. Use it or lose it. By incorporating exercises such as the Bulgarian Split Squat in your training, you’re making sure that you’re activating your central nervous system properly.

To Do or Not to Do the Bulgarian Split Squat

The one million dollar question with an easy answer: it depends.

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Like so many things in life, it simply depends on your current circumstances. Is the Bulgarian Split Squat the best exercise for a beginner? No, I seriously don’t think so. I think the Lunge or the Squat is a far easier exercise and should be the one you begin with. The Bulgarian Split Squat is challenging for a central nervous system and for your joints. This is a huge stress situation for a beginner and may lead to injuries and fatigue.

If you gathered some experience and are training regularly, then yes, the Bulgarian Split Squat may be something to try out for you. I’m talking at least 1 year of regular weightlifting or sooner if you’re training with a certified Coach.

The Bulgarian Split Squat is a challenging exercise. And this is definitely a good thing.

Let me tell you how you can build your way slowly to start training with the Bulgarian Split Squat.

Getting Started with the Bulgarian Split Squat

1. Learn to Do a Proper Bodyweight Squat

The Squat is the fundament of the Bulgarian Split Squat. If you don’t know how to do the squat properly, your Bulgarian Split Squat will not have the best form. You might lack ankle or hip mobility and strength. It’s better to discover this on an easier exercise.

Tip: if you’re pushing your knees too far in front of your toes, you know that you lack proper form. The squat should be a ‘sit-back motion’. This article may help you with your form: Complete Beginner’s Guide To Doing Perfect Squats

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Once you’re able to do a proper bodyweight squat, increase the weight with a dumbbell until you hit a plateau and think you can’t progress any further. Then, if you feel like making a change, start progressing to the lunge.

2. Learn to Do a Proper Lunge

The Lunge is a slightly more difficult exercise as the Back Squat for your central nervous system. Reason being because the lunge needs more balancing work and only trains a single leg at a time. Start progressing the weight with dumbbells until you hit a plateau and think you can’t progress any further.

If you get great results: stay with this exercise. If not: progress further.

3. After Mastering the Previous Exercises, Learn the Bulgarian Split Squat.

The Bulgarian Split Squat is the most difficult exercise of those three in my opinion, and therefore should be the last one that you will train on a regular basis. The Bulgarian Split Squat can force your muscles to work even harder and puts more pressure on your midsection and your torso.

A Word Of Caution

This unilateral exercise is a great way to challenge your central nervous system, help you build muscle and tone your midsection, but it’s not a wonder drug. It will not get you immediate results. Let me tell you a story:

There was this huge hype going on about High Intensity Intervall Training (HIIT). This exercise regime promised huge fat loss with only a small time investment. Countless newspapers and articles have written about that topic. But the truth is, the exercise was developed for elite athletes, not for the general public. And no, this is not a good thing.

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Elite athletes have way different needs and wants than the general public. You cannot start the training of Arnold Schwarzenegger today and hope that you will look like him in a month. There are countless of other variables playing a part. Chances are higher that you will injure yourself.

I’ve fallen prey to this thinking and I don’t want you to get to where I’ve been. It’s frustrating. I’ve started doing HIIT every morning for a couple of weeks and I haven’t seen the desired results. Instead I’ve felt more stressed out and wasn’t losing weight. The reason was not that the HIIT doesn’t work. But that I’ve seen HIIT as a wonder drug and neglected the other more important aspects, such as diet and basic exercises.

If you look at the Biomechanics of the squat compared to the Lunge and Bulgarian Split Squat, you will realize that you’re basically training the same muscles. Some people may feel the Squat more, others truly believe in doing Lunges or the Bulgarian Split Squat.

If you’re an experienced athlete, you can try to implement the Bulgarian Split Squat in your exercise regimen. If you truly feel a difference, keep it. If you think you get the same results doing the squat, then do the squat. There’s no quick fix.

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Featured photo credit: Tnationvia t-nation.com

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