Why Bulgarian Split Squats Are Fantastic For Leg Growth


Considered the king of leg exercises, the Bulgarian split squat should absolutely be in your leg day cycle in order to enhance leg strength and a host of other benefits.

While leg day may not be your favorite lifting day, we all know how important it is to have in the workout regimen for a variety of reasons. Most of us hit the gym, rush to the power rack, stack up plates on the barbell, and get to squatting. While the squat, both front and back, are phenomenal exercises for leg growth, there is one exercise to at least consider to maximize your true lower body potential. So much time is wasted hitting various machines like the leg extension, leg curls, and hip abductors, and while those isolation exercises are good, the Bulgarian split squat will cover all of those with one mean lower body exercise.

Bulgarians may be difficult to do, and they may not be the most fun, for much of it requires strength, balance, coordination, and sheer will to even get started. But the nice part is, by adding these to your routine, all of the above listed concerns will get better with time. You’re not only focusing on one group of muscles, or one added benefit, but there are a host of very solid reasons why split squats should be in your workout.

The Bulgarian split squat is easy to learn and provides a good alternative to the traditional squat, which can help relieve your body of the stress put on by that exercise. There is no need to scratch your favorite leg workouts, but just be aware that the Bulgarian split squat brings a different approach, and is an exercise with many benefits that could save you time and is an effective single leg squat.

How to do Bulgarian Split Squats

The Bulgarian split squat can be done with multiple variations, but for this we will focus on a bodyweight Bulgarian split squat. Your starting position will begin with one foot of your back leg elevated on a bench while keeping a forward position with your front foot. Hold your hands in front of you or wherever is most comfortable.

With a tight core and your torso upright, gently lower yourself into a lunge position with your foot still elevated. Make sure to keep your front knee in line with your front foot while your other foot on the bench stays put. Once at the bottom of the squat, drive your heel into the ground and push with that front leg through your front foot until it is extended again. Feel free to repeat for any desired number of reps and change legs so your opposite leg is now your front foot.

For added weight, you can use a set of dumbbells, kettlebells, or even a barbell, and this can be done with trial and error. All will provide great benefit to your leg growth and squat position and the amount of weight can be easily modified.

Pro Tip: When doing Bulgarian split squats with dumbbells, use wrist straps to control the weight so you do not have to focus on grip strength.

A resistance band is also a good alternative to add tension to this exercise without dealing with weights. For a more unstable surface and increased focus on balance and strength (5), make sure you can try a Bulgarian split squat on an exercise ball and make that additional challenge for yourself.

Now that you have we have established the how to, let’s dive into what makes the Bulgarian split squat so special, the benefits around this exercise, and how to properly perform it to alleviate any pain or injury. When done right, this exercise has the ability to seriously enhance all of your goals and gains whether it be strength, weight loss, muscle mass, or a little bit of everything. You can perform this exercise with equipment, like a barbell, or keep it solely just your bodyweight.

Bulgarian split squat

Lower Body Growth In Strength, Balance, & Power

While performing any leg exercise repeatedly is bound to improve growth, we all want those results as quickly and efficiently as possible. The squat can remain the staple exercise in your leg day training session, but the benefit of splitting your squat into a unilateral movement offers diversity in your workouts, as well as offering relief to certain areas to avoid overworking and injury.

The Bulgarian split squat allows for a deeper range of motion (1) and works to strengthen the stabilizer muscles to support that deeper squat. The deeper you can fall into that squat, the more time under tension you endure. More tension results in increased growth and your gains will truly start to show.

Bulgarians target much of the lower body, including your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, abductors, and adductors. Much of this is a result of the demanding balance it requires to do this exercise. You can start with just your bodyweight, but as your balance, movement, and confidence improve, you will be able to add more weight to the exercise.

Pairing the Bulgarian split squat and the traditional squat together in your workout cycle is advantageous for your overall growth (2). The benefit this will have on your traditional squat will start to show as well and the leg growth from this often-overlooked exercise will shock you from a body workout.

Explosiveness and power are two amazing benefits attached to leg growth and depending on your respective sport, this may be something to really aid in your training and overall performance, even with the variations. The ability to really buckle down on form and enhance your explosive power and help with any type of movement like jumping, pivoting, sprinting, and a host of others is incredibly important to propelling you to the next level.

Even if your sport doesn’t necessarily require blatant explosive power, having that enhanced muscle and ability to perform however you need to will prove to be very beneficial come the long run.

Something that this exercise can really help you with is to enhance those big lifts that are often stunted by one leg being stronger than the other. Something like a barbell squat, which is often times easy to plateau on, can be crushed by adding this exercise into your training regimen.

Since these work each leg differently, you can target your weaker leg with more reps or more weight to isolate one over the other in order to break any plateaus, muscle imbalances, and muscular differences to make those two leg workouts reach huge growth and improved form and your best work.

Other Benefits Of Bulgarian Split Squats

Bulgarian split squat

Improved Balance & Posture

The Bulgarian split squat will be a great boost to increasing your balance. Those stabilizer muscles that can be hard to reach but all get action with this exercise and provide for better stabilization and balance. Your core will also feel this and that strong core provides a solid foundation for good balance. Good balance is also a solid way to enhance posture and fix any postural issues that may arise, especially those with a weak core.

The imbalances occur with the unfamiliarity of doing a bilateral movement. This exercise will make you focus more on keeping good form, thus increasing flexibility (3) and mind-muscle connection. Once you nail down balance, your weight load will increase and those gains will grow even more. Agility is also attached to the increased level of balance which can be beneficial for your overall growth and gains when it comes to this exercise.

Reduced Lower Back Pain

A traditional squat tends to put quite a lot of load on your lower back, which can lead to unfortunate injury and keep you out of the gym. One benefit to the Bulgarian split squat is that it limits the amount of strain on the low back.

By putting more emphasis on strengthening your legs, this exercise will largely remove the lower back from the picture and allow recovery time to avoid serious injury (4). Keep the traditional squat in mind, but the Bulgarian split squat is an additional exercise to offer some relief for your low back while not sacrificing the gains of your lower body no matter the rep or amount of sets.

Burn Calories & Shed Fat

This exercise, like every exercise, really works to get your heart rate elevated so you start to see that calorie count decrease and that unwanted fat melt off. When paired with a healthy diet and strategically placed in a training session, this exercise can seriously enhance any gains you have when it comes to weight loss and seeing that shredded physique come to life.

Convenient To Do Wherever, Whenever

This is exercise is incredibly convenient and can be done anywhere with no equipment needed. The nice part is that you can add a kettlebell or a dumbbell if you would like to add extra weight, but for most of the time, you can increase your reps and really work to target those missed areas with just your bodyweight.

No spotter is needed making this a safe and efficient workout to perform no matter wherever or whenever you need it to. As a great way to reduce your risk of injury, this exercise just what you need to stay healthy and fit overall with the convenience of doing these anywhere, very similar to a lunge.

Bulgarian split squats

Wrap Up

It can be difficult to will ourselves to do leg day. By boring ourselves with the same exercises, the monotony can be enough to call it a day and head to the bench press. But don’t sacrifice valuable gains by not efficiently maximizing your true leg day potential.

Adding the Bulgarian split squat to your workout routine will provide solid results and you will reach those big gains in your leg growth as a result of increased range of movement and more time under tension. By improving balance and taking added strain off your lower back and core, you increase your chances to succeed with other workouts and substantially limit your risk of injury with even more reps. Try the bodyweight Bulgarian split squat or use any other single leg exercises associated with it to really get the most out of your leg gains and athletic performance.

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*Images courtesy of Envato


  1. Drinkwater, Eric J.; Moore, Norman R.; Bird, Stephen P. (2012). “Effects of Changing from Full Range of Motion to Partial Range of Motion on Squat Kinetics”. (source)
  2. Andersen, Vidar; Fimland, Marius Steiro; Brennset, O.; Haslestad, Lars Rune (2014). “Muscle Activation and Strength in Squat and Bulgarian Squat on Stable and Unstable Surface”. (source)
  3. Daneshjoo, Abdolhamid; Rahnama, Nader; Mokhtar, Abdul Halim; Yusof, Ashril (2013). “Bilateral and Unilateral Asymmetries of Isokinetic Strength and Flexibility in Male Young Professional Soccer Players”. (source)
  4. Kong, Pui Wah. “Strengthen Leg Muscles to Relieve Low Back Pain”. (source)
  5. Aguilera-Castells, Joan; Busca, Bernat; Morales, Jose; Solana-Tramunt, Monica; Fort-Vanmeerhaeghe, Azahara; Rey-Abella, Fernando; Bantula, Jaume; Pena, Javier (2019). “Muscle activity of Bulgarian squat. Effects of additional vibration, suspension and unstable surface”. (source)
Austin Letorney
Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.