Move of the month – Bulgarian split squat

Emma White - Certified Personal Trainer | 30 Apr, 2023

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Each month, I'll highlight an exercise move that is great to include as part of your workout routine! Next up...

Bulgarian split squat

Bulgarian split squat

How to do it

  1. To set up, start perched on the edge of a bench or low box. Curl one foot under your bum, so you're sitting on your foot with a bent knee, then extend the other leg right out in front of you.
  2. Stand up, keeping your legs in place, so that you're standing on the outstretched leg and the top of the foot of your other leg is resting on the bench behind you.
  3. Now you're in position, you can start your reps!
  4. Either without weights and your hands on your hips, or holding dumbbells in either hand, bend your front leg and dip your back knee down towards the floor.
  5. Stop when your knee is an inch or two from the floor and your front leg is bent at a 90-degree angle.
  6. Repeat 10-15 times, then switch legs.

What it's good for

This move is a real lower body burner, targeting all the major muscles of the legs. In particular, it's great for targeting your quads (thighs) and glutes (bum). The single leg element means you can work the muscles of each leg that bit harder than with a traditional two-legged squat. The raised leg element also allows you to get into a deeper squat on the front leg, more so than doing a regular squat.

This move also tests balance, thanks to the single leg element, which means your core has to be engaged more too. So it's a real corker of a move!


  • If you're just starting out, this move will be enough with just your body weight. Start by perfecting your form and getting your balance right.
  • Once you are ready, you can add weight in the form of dumbbells or even a kettlebell or two. Hold in each hand or in front with two hands.
  • Another way to make it harder would be to hold a barbell across your shoulders. This requires more balance than holding dumbbells down by your sides which can actually aid your balance.


  1. Getting the set up right is important with this move, otherwise you can end up wobbling all over the place. Practise getting into position and getting your foot alignment right so you feel as stable as possible when you perform the split squat.
  2. Before lifting your foot into position, ensure your feet are hip width apart – if you start with your feet too close together, it will be harder to balance.
  3. Take your time squatting down and rising back up to keep your muscles under tension longer – this will ensure the move is a real burner and most effective.

How NOT to do it

It's important to ensure your front foot isn't too close to the bench, so that when you bend it, your knee rolls way over your front toes – or worst case, your heel even rises from the floor. This will put undue pressure on your knee joint and won't be as effective. Conversely, you also don't want your foot too far away so that you lose stability.

Emma White (Certified Personal Trainer) has always loved fitness. She's passionate about the many benefits of regular exercise, particularly the positive impact on mental health and overall quality of life, as well as how it provides the key to successful weight management.

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