The Importance of Uni-Lateral Strength Training – Bulgarian Split Squats

A couple weeks ago I shared a video of me teaching my daughter how to perform a front squat. The front squat is my all-time favorite bi-lateral (both legs) lower body exercise. However most sports do not take place only on one leg. Most of the time there is only one leg in contact with the ground.

YT- Bulgarian Split SquatThat is why I also incorporate single leg exercises (uni-lateral) in training. For a single leg movement I love Bulgarian Split Squats, or Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats (RFESS). 

BENEFITS:

  • Works one leg at a time (uni-lateral) and helps to maintain a balance between the muscles.
  • Challenges your core.
  • Challenges your balance and proprioception. 
  • Helps with hip flexibility, which is very important for runners who can develop chronically tight hip flexors.

TIPS TO CONSIDER:

  • As the Bulgarian Split Squat or RFESS name suggests one foot needs to be elevated. So use bench. If you are on the shorter you might want to use a lower box, like a cardio step, especially if you find your balance is struggling, or the stretch in the quads and hip flexors it too intense or painful.
  • It is important to engage your core. Imagine someone is about to hit you in the stomach. You would not suck in your stomach, but brace and tighten it. That is what you should be doing here to engage and brace your core throughout the movement.
  • You also need to keep your chest up. Stay tall. If possible find a point of reference on the wall in front of you and keep your eyes on it the whole time.
  • Also if you feel any pain or pressure under the kneecap of the front leg, try moving the front leg out just a bit further and this in my experience with clients helps straighten that out.
  • One last tip. If you have never done these before I would suggest starting off with bodyweight to get a feel for the exercise. Be sure to go low enough, get a stretch in the elevated leg, and use it also as a chance to develop balance.

Bulgarian Split Squats can be used as an ancillary movement after your main lower body exercise or eventually with weight it can be used as your main movement. It is not really a replacement for lunges, which should still be a part of a balanced training program.

Whether you call them Bulgarian Split Squats or Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats, give them shot in your training and see how they work for you!