Squats are to leg day as sheet masks are to #selfcaresunday: essential. As many face mask options as there are in the world, there might be even more variations of the classic booty-building move. There are goblet squats, sumo squats, barbell back squats, jump squats, and loads more. Trust us, squats aren't going anywhere soon—but there’s one variation your routine may be missing.
Enter: The Bulgarian split squat—also referred to as the rear foot elevated split squat or just simply a split squat. “Bulgarian split squats are one of the best movements for developing glute, quad, hamstring, and core strength because it’s a unilateral exercise—meaning that it works and strengthens one leg at a time,” certified personal trainer Quianna Camper, a trainer with RSP Nutrition, tells Health.
Why is unilateral leg training such a big deal? According to physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist Grayson Wickham, founder of Movement Vault, it comes down to compensation. “Most people are not perfectly symmetrical. So their right leg or glute might be stronger than the left, which means when you do a normal squat, the stronger side will compensate," he says. "Single-leg exercises like the split squat can help fix those muscle imbalances by developing that lower-body and core strength symmetrically.” Some research even suggests that unilateral exercises are more effective for building strength than bilateral movements like the standard squat. (Talk about upgrading your leg day).
RELATED: 6 Ways to Upgrade a Basic Squat
Because you need to activate your core during Bulgarian split squats in order to keep your chest upright, Camper says, “they also help you build core strength, and the benefit of that is that it improves your overall balance and stability.” Translation: Add Bulgarian split squats to your routine and you’ll sculpt a peach, strengthen your quads and core, and decrease risk of falling (and therefore injury) as you age.
Ready to feel the booty burn? Below, Wickham and Camper walk you through how to do a Bulgarian split squat, plus a few variations of the super-effective single-leg move.
How to do a Bulgarian split squat
Start standing with your feet hip-width apart, facing away from a box, bench, or chair that is no higher than your knees. Extend your left leg back and put the top of your foot (aka laces down) on the box. If this is uncomfortable on your left ankle, you may want to pad your left ankle with a yoga mat or towel. Then, readjust your right leg so that you're standing 12–24 inches in front of the box, hips squared forward. This is your starting position.
When you’re ready to begin, tuck your tailbone, engage your core, and draw your shoulders back. Keeping your chest up, lower your hips into a front lunge position by bending your right knee and dropping your left knee straight to the ground…