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Fitness 101: How To Do a Split Squat

Quadriceps, Glutes

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Whether you’re a certified personal trainer or you’re just hitting the gym – if you want to build your quads and glutes as well as improve your balance and joint strength, then split squats are a great exercise for you.

If you’re not sure how to properly do a split squat, don’t worry. I’m going to show you how to do it correctly.

In this blog, I’ll answer the following:

  • What is a split squat?
  • What muscles does a split squat work?
  • What are the benefits of split squats?
  • What is the proper technique for split squats?
  • What variations can you do?

So let’s get started!

how to do a split squat

What is a Split Squat? 

A split squat is a unilateral movement performed similarly to a lunge. However, the major difference is in a split squat is your feet are locked to the floor throughout the entire movement, whereas a lunge typically has you stepping forward or backward each rep. 

Split squats can be performed with no weight or equipment, and can be progressed by holding a single weight like a kettlebell, or a pair of dumbbells to increase the difficulty.

You can also rest your back foot on a bench, to perform a Bulgarian Split Squat, to increase the intensity. 

What muscles do Split Squats work?

Split squats primarily target the quads, with the glutes working as a strong synergist. 

Additionally, as with many upright unilateral exercises, your core is serving as a strong stabilizer to help maintain balance and stability throughout the movement.

Split squats also target the hamstrings secondarily. 

What are the benefits of a Split Squat?

Split squats are an effective lower body movement great for building hypertrophy and strength in the quads and posterior chain muscles.

Split squats are a great movement for promoting symmetry in the lower body, and can serve as a viable alternative to a squat for clients who may have muscular imbalances in their lower body.

Split squats also improve balance, as well as ankle and knee joint strength, as it targets one leg at a time and requires you to remain balanced throughout the exercise.

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How To Do A Split Squat

  1. Stand with your feet roughly hip width apart.
  2. Take one step backward, long enough so your knee forms a 90-degree angle.
  3. Maintaining control, and a neutral spine and forward-facing chest, lower straight down until your knee taps the ground. 
  4. Without coming to a complete rest at the bottom, drive through the heel of your forward foot to raise yourself back up to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for desired number of sets and reps, holding weight if desired.
Tips and Tricks Here are a few things to keep in mind for proper form:
  • Control your body throughout the movement. Don’t allow gravity to take over on the way down. 
  • Avoid lifting the heel of your front foot off the ground.
  • Ensure your knee does not cave inward or outward excessively, maintain a sturdy and forward-facing posture throughout. 
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Variations

  • Bulgarian Split Squat: This variation brings your back leg up on a bench, putting even more weight on your front leg and targeting the hamstrings more than a traditional split squat. This is often a progression to a standard split squat. This variation also comes with a host of different variations, including introducing different weight, weight position, and foot height.

  • Weighted Split Squat: This progression of the standard split squat has you holding a weight, typically a single kettlebell or a pair dumbbells, to increase the difficulty of the movement.
  • Split Squat Jumps: This variation involves an explosive jump in replace of simply raising yourself back up from the bottom of the movement. This variation is great for training explosive power and plyometrics. Weights typically are not recommended. To progress this movement even further, you can switch which leg is in front while you’re in the air.

Final Notes from a Certified Personal Trainer

Split squats are a great movement to consider adding to your or your clients’ routines. They build strength and hypertrophy in the lower body, activate a good amount of core stability, and promote symmetry and balance.

Stationary split squats are often the best starting place for most. If these become too easy, you can progress the movement by adding weight or 

Finally, ensure you stay in control throughout the movement – there’s no rush. And listen to your body

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