Bulgarian split squats with variations

Apr 16, 2023

 by Christopher windbigler

The Bulgarian split squat is a highly effective lower body exercise that targets the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, as well as challenges balance and stability. In this blog post, we'll dive into the Bulgarian split squat, exploring its benefits, target muscles, and variations, as well as providing alternative exercises for those who may struggle with this movement.

10 Key Points About Bulgarian Split Squats

  1. Bulgarian split squat for glutes: This exercise emphasizes the glutes, making it an excellent choice for those looking to develop a stronger, more toned posterior.

  2. Single-leg Bulgarian split squat: As a unilateral exercise, the Bulgarian split squat helps to address muscle imbalances and improve overall stability.

  3. Bulgarian split squat target muscles: This exercise effectively targets the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, as well as engaging the core for balance.

  4. Bulgarian split squats benefit: The Bulgarian split squat promotes functional strength, increases lower body flexibility, and improves balance and coordination.

  5. Bulgarian split squat target: By positioning the rear foot on an elevated surface, the Bulgarian split squat increases the range of motion and activates the glutes more effectively than traditional squats.

  6. Bulgarian split squats on leg press: For a machine-based alternative, the leg press can be adjusted to simulate a Bulgarian split squat, providing additional stability and support.

  7. Alternative to Bulgarian split squats: If balance is a concern, the traditional split squat or stationary lunges can be performed as an alternative while still targeting the glutes and lower body muscles.

  8. Alternative for Bulgarian split squat variations: Another option is the step-up exercise, which engages similar muscle groups and requires less balance and coordination.

  9. Bulgarian split squat for glute form: Proper form maximizes glute activation and minimizes injury risk. Key points include maintaining an upright torso, keeping the front knee aligned with the toes, and ensuring the rear knee is bent and hovering just above the ground.

  10. Split squat glute emphasis: To further emphasize the glutes, try slightly leaning forward at the hips while maintaining a neutral spine, or experiment with foot placement to find the optimal position for targeting your glutes.


    1. Barbell Back Bulgarian Split Squat: Place a barbell on your upper back and shoulders, as you would in a traditional back squat. Perform the Bulgarian split squat with the barbell resting on your shoulders. Ensure your chest stays upright and your core is engaged throughout the movement.

    2. Barbell Front Bulgarian Split Squat: Hold the barbell in a front rack position, resting on your shoulders and your fingers gently supporting the bar. Your elbows should be pointing straight ahead and slightly raised. Perform the Bulgarian split squat while maintaining an upright torso and keeping your core tight.

    3. Safety Bar Bulgarian Split Squat: Use a safety squat bar with a padded yoke and handles, allowing you to grip the bar comfortably in front of you. This variation can help reduce strain on your shoulders and upper back while still providing resistance for the Bulgarian split squat.

    4. Landmine Bulgarian Split Squat: Secure one end of a barbell in a landmine attachment or corner of a wall. Hold the other end of the barbell at chest height with both hands, keeping your elbows close to your body. Perform the Bulgarian split squat while maintaining an upright torso and engaging your core.


      1. Muscle activation: Bulgarian Split Squat: Greater activation of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles on the working leg due to the unilateral nature of the exercise. Increased core activation is also required to maintain balance and stability. Regular Squat: Activates the same muscle groups but in a more balanced way across both legs. The core is engaged for stability, but the bilateral nature of the squat usually results in less overall core activation compared to the Bulgarian split squat.

      2. Balance and stability: Bulgarian Split Squat: Requires more balance and stability due to the single-leg nature of the exercise. This can help improve proprioception, coordination, and stability in the lower body. Regular Squat: Provides more stability due to the involvement of both legs. However, less balance and stability work is required compared to the Bulgarian split squat.

      3. Addressing muscle imbalances: Bulgarian Split Squat: As a unilateral exercise, it can help identify and correct muscle imbalances between the legs. This can lead to better overall strength, balance, and injury prevention. Regular Squat: As a bilateral exercise, it may not effectively address muscle imbalances. Imbalances can be masked or exacerbated when both legs work together during the movement.

      4. Range of motion and mobility: Bulgarian Split Squat: Allows for a greater range of motion and hip flexor stretch due to the elevated rear foot. This can lead to improvements in hip mobility and flexibility. Regular Squat: The range of motion is generally limited by hip, ankle, and knee mobility. It does not provide the same degree of hip flexor stretch as the Bulgarian split squat.

      5. Equipment and space requirements: Bulgarian Split Squat: Requires minimal equipment (a bench or elevated surface) and less space, making it a more accessible option for home or crowded gym environments. Regular Squat: Often performed with a barbell, squat rack, or power rack, requiring more equipment and space. This can be a limitation for some people in terms of accessibility and convenience.



    1. Speirs, D. E., Bennett, M. A., Finn, C. V., & Turner, A. P. (2016). Unilateral vs. Bilateral Squat Training for Strength, Sprints, and Agility in Academy Rugby Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(2), 386-392. This study compared the effects of unilateral (Bulgarian split squats) and bilateral (traditional back squats) lower body training on strength, sprint, and agility performance in rugby players. The results showed that both groups improved similarly in strength, sprint, and agility, suggesting that Bulgarian split squats are an effective alternative to traditional back squats for developing lower body strength and power.

    2. McCurdy, K., O'Kelley, E., Kutz, M., Langford, G., Ernest, J., & Torres, M. (2010). Comparison of lower extremity EMG between the 2-leg squat and modified single-leg squat in female athletes. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 19(1), 57-70. This study compared the muscle activation patterns of the 2-leg squat and a modified single-leg squat, similar to the Bulgarian split squat, in female athletes. The results demonstrated that the modified single-leg squat had significantly greater muscle activation in the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus compared to the 2-leg squat. This suggests that the Bulgarian split squat may be more effective for targeting the gluteal muscles than traditional squats.

    3. Yavuz, H. U., & Erdag, D. (2017). Kinematic and EMG activities during front and back squat variations in maximum loads. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(16), 1639-1646. This study compared the kinematics and electromyographic (EMG) activity of different squat variations, including the Bulgarian split squat, under maximum loads. The findings revealed that the Bulgarian split squat had greater EMG activity in the rectus femoris and biceps femoris muscles compared to other squat variations. This indicates that the Bulgarian split squat may be particularly effective for targeting the quadriceps and hamstrings.


The Bulgarian split squat is a versatile and effective exercise for targeting the glutes and building lower body strength. By incorporating this movement into your workout routine, experimenting with variations, and ensuring proper form, you can unlock the full potential of this powerful exercise.