Those of you who have been following us recently have been informed about our collaboration with Matthew Camilleri from MCPhysiotherapy. Kicking off with this post, Matthew will be sharing with us an insight into a number of underrated exercises in the gym through the lens of a competent physiotherapist and an national team rugby player.
Today we start off with the Bulgarian Split Squat which coincidentally happens to be one of our latest additions during our leg workouts – and we found it effective indeed. So here’s what Matthew has to tell us on this leg exercise.
What is the Bulgarian split squat?
Although eccentrically named, this cross between a squat and lunge is simple to perform and one of our absolute favourite lower body exercises. Over and above, this movement requires little to no equipment and can be performed successfully both at home and in the gym.
How to perform it correctly:
Find yourself a platform that is roughly at hip level when in standing. Place your foot from your non-working leg flat on the platform and place your opposite foot, that of your working leg flat in front of you. Your working leg should be around a metre away from the platform as seen below.
Squat down using your front leg, bending your knee. Bend down as low as you can and gently move back up.
Focus should be on maintaining a straight back and tight core throughout the movement, do not allow your ribs to flare our during any portion of the movement. Furthermore, attempt to keep your knee in line with your toes throughout the motion, with no tracking to the left or right.
Tempo ratio (amount of time spent moving down, holding at the bottom and moving back up) is the following:
Eccentric: Isometric: Concentric – 3:0:1.
That basically means you should be spending 3 seconds moving down, with no pause at the end of the movement. Rising back to the starting position should take 1 second. Please note that this may need to be altered depending on what you are specifically aiming at achieving from the movement. I’ll go into further detail on tempo alteration below.
Why we love it:
Apart from the ability to perform this exercise more or less anywhere, it can be tweaked to have very different effects on the individual performing it.
First of all the split squat can be performed using bodyweight resistance only. One can choose to raise the tempo and complete the movement as quickly as possible, extremely effective as part of a cardiovascular training circuit or “fitness class”. Secondly one can choose to bilaterally load (use of resistance equally on both sides of the body) whilst completing the movement; this can be done carrying a barbell, as one would during a back squat, or by holding a pair of dumbbells (one in each hand). This variant of the split squat has a massive effect on lower limb hypertrophy (growth of muscle) and is a seriously challenging exercise.
A final variant is a unilaterally loaded split squat (use of resistance on only one side of the body). In order to complete this movement one should hold a dumbbell on the “non-working” side. This particular variant would be selected if one wanted to work more on single-leg stability and mobility. This should obviously be repeated on both sides for maximal effect. This one requires lots of balance and works your lower body stabilisers (particularly your glutes) extremely well! Over and above, the core is heavily involved in maintaining your stability whilst performing this variant.
As a word of advice, I would recommend starting light before progressing; focus on perfect form for maximal effect.
Injury prevention and rehabilitation implications:
As one can imagine, this months featured exercise can be a serious tool in anyones “exercise toolbox”. Different variations will have different implications and specifically target different muscle groups, therefore I would recommend speaking to your physiotherapist should you need further detail on which variant would be best for you.
In summary this movement targets, to some degree or other, all of the lower body musculature. The quadriceps and glutes are seriously hammered though and you can expect quite a bit of delayed onset muscle soreness (‘DOMS’) following your first couple of attempts. Correctly selecting your tempo, planes of loading and an obsession on form are essential!
If you enjoyed this article feel free to follow Matthew on Facebook, Twitter or his blog for more great content in the world of rehabilitation and injury prevention.
Thank you Matthew!
To fitness with love,
Love this move (and hate it at the same time)! It’s very challenging with weight added and I totally feel it. I haven’t done this one in a while so thanks for this post. It reminds me to do it again so I’ll add that to my next leg session this week to switch it up. I was looking for a shake up so thanks!
Hey Tanya 🙂 Thanks for the feedback. I had myself forgotten this exercise for a couple of months and then at one point I brought it back to leg day when I wanted to shake things up. You can even feel the burn without weights, let alone when you add resistance to it.
Jean Galea says
I’m going to try this one, thanks!