Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

Exercise Name:
Name: Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat
Also Called: Rear Leg Elevated Split Squat
Muscles Worked:
Primary: Quadriceps
Secondary: Calves, Glutes, Hamstrings, Hip Adductors
Function: Strength
Mechanics: Compound
Force: Push
Main: Dumbbells
Ancillary: Weight Bench
Optional: Chalk, Weight Lifting Straps
Experience: Intermediate
Rep Range: 5-12
Training Tempo: 2 – 0 – 1 – 0
Related Exercises:
Variations: Split Squat
Alternatives: Lunge, Pistol, Single-Leg Leg Press, Step up

Instructions with Pictures

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • Hold dumbbells at sides; stand with back facing side of bench.
  • Position feet hip width apart.
  • Elevate rear foot onto bench; place foot top side down, halfway over edge of bench.
  • Stand upright with chest up and eyes looking forward.
  • Maintain a neutral spine during the movement.

2. Eccentric Repetition

  • Flex leading knee and hip to squat down until rear knee is just above floor.

3. Midpoint

  • Don’t pause at the bottom of repetition. Smoothly transition from the eccentric to the concentric motion.

4. Concentric Repetition

  • Extend leading knee and hip to squat up until leg is straight.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the motion for the designated number of repetitions.
  • The bulgarian split squat is best performed within a 5-12 rep range.

Common Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat Errors to Avoid

Mistake: Solution:
Leaning foward Keep your torso upright, but don’t overarch your lower back to do so. Put your chest up, look straight and tighten your core.
Swinging dumbbells Allowing the dumbbells to move to the front can cause your torso torso to tip forward. So, keep the dumbbells at your sides. Pulling your shoulders back and down helps achieve this.
Knee ahead of toes The knee of your leading leg should not go over the toes of the leading foot. Prevent this by ensuring that your leading leg is far enough away from the bench. Also, don’t allow your torso to lean forward.
Anterior pelvic tilt If you have tight hip flexors, as many people do, your hips will have a strong tendency to tilt anteriorly (i.e. down and forward) as you squat down. Prevent this by activating your glutes and tightening your abs. This ensures that your hips remain neutral throughout the lift.

Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat Tips

  1. Warm up with hip flexor stretches. This will ensure you’ll have the flexibility and mobility to complete the full range of motion with proper hip alignment.
  2. Find the proper stance distance (i.e. distance between front and rear leg). This depends on the height of the bench you’re using. Do a test rep: When at the midpoint of the rep, if your leading knee is directly above the toes your leading foot, then you have found the right distance. If not, adjust your stance distance accordingly.
  3. Put some padding down on the floor (e.g. towel, rubber mat) as a safety measure in case your knee accidentally goes too far and hits the floor.
  4. Use moderate weight. I don’t advise going so heavy that you can’t do at least 5 reps. Too much weight makes the movement increasingly impractical in terms of the balance and stability required.
  5. Drive through your heel at a diagonally down and forward angle maximize force output and activation of the target muscle.
  6. Use a box, chair or platform of sorts to get the right height if the bench you have is too tall or short. For most people, the optimal height is 18-24 inches.
  7. Try bulgarian split squats with a barbell. I personally prefer dumbbells because they’re more practical because you can just pick them up and they’re easier to balance with. While a barbell is more cumbersome because you have the weight on your back, it is better for training your core and improving your balance. Also, you can potentially lift heavier loads with a barbell than with dumbbells.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

The Bulgarian split squat is best suited for intermediate and advanced weight trainees who want stronger, larger and more symmetrical legs; as well as those seeking to fix squat plateaus and achieve better balance.

Even if you’re an experienced lifter, I advise starting with the traditional split squat or lunges first…

…This way, you’ll have noticeably better balance, stabilization, core strength and familiarity performing a similar movement, before you add this more challenging movement to your workout routine.

I don’t recommend this exercise for beginners. As a beginner, you don’t need to do unilateral (single-leg) leg exercises. But if you want to, lunges or the regular split squat are the better choice.

You may need to avoid the bulgarian split squat if you have highly inflexible hip flexors or knee issues.

About the Author Alex

Hey! My name is Alex, and I'm the owner and author of King of the Gym. I started this website back in late 2009 during college, and it has been my pet project ever since. My goal is to help you learn proper weight training and nutrition principles so that you can get strong and build the physique of your dreams!

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