Split Squat is King

Once a week I’m going to try to highlight an exercise and attempt to explain to you guys why it is important to your training. In these posts I’ll be talking about how and why I implement it in my training and why you should too. To start this series off I’m talking about the Bulgarian Split Squat. I was introduced to this movement many years ago by my cousin Bryon. He has been a student of Charles Poloquin for years and Charles utilized this single leg exercise in many of his basic strength programs. For years I then forgot about the movement. In college my strength coaches didn’t implement the split squat in our training and subsequent years of CrossFit didn’t have me doing it either. However, last year when I attended the OPT CCP assessment and program design modules I was reminded of the power of this exercise.

Single Leg Strength – a basic definition of this for my audience is the athletes ability to produce balance, coordination, power, and strength while balancing on one leg.

You single leg strength doesn’t get tested in a double leg movement like the squat. In fact many athletes with imbalances in strength from left to right can go for years without realizing it if they do not implement single leg protocols in their training. Having balance between your legs and hips is essential to preventing injury. If you have imbalances and you are struggling to see improvement in your double leg strength it is possible that the imbalance is holding you back. Single leg strength is also very important for running since every stride you take is a single leg effort.

In a recent video I made for a remote coaching client I explained how to perform the Bulgarian Split Squat.


Mastering the split squat can take some time. This movement is extremely demanding on the hips and glutes. Start off slow and then build up. Recently I did a workout with split squats and pull ups. This combination I have found to build great overall strength for athletes and create a very intense metabolic effect on the client.

A1. Bulgarian Split Squat; 30X1 for 6-8 reps; rest 45sec; 4 sets

A2. AMRAP Strict Chin Ups; rest 90sec; 4 sets

Often on the strict chin up sets I will spot the athlete past failure and keep them working for 1-3 reps beyond complete failure. Go heavy and hard on this workout and tell me how you feel. First 3 times I did this I threw up ….. who ever said weight training isn’t hard.

When doing my Strength Assessments on clients I test an 8 repetition max in the bulgarian split squat at a tempo of 30X0. What is important when administering this test is that you must ensure that the athlete does not pause between reps. We are looking for the heaviest set of dumbbells that they can hold on to while performing 8 perfect reps. Here is a video of my attempt at reaching a benchmark of 8 reps with 70lbs in either hand.


One final note. Strength coach Mike Boyle has recommended the split squat as a great therapeutic tool to help prevent and rehabilitate back injuries. If you have ever suffered from low back injuries like myself, then perhaps a dose of split squatting is for you.

Happy Squatting