5 Best Split Squat to Improve Mobility And Leg Strength

The split squat is a daring leg exercise that you can add to your leg routines to build strength and mobility.

The split squats target similar leg muscles as squats but work one leg at a time, making them more effective. Slowly, as you build strength, you can add weights to your split squats. 

These intense single-leg squats could be felt in your legs even one or two days after the workout. If you wish for stronger legs, you should not miss out on them. This article will discuss 5 different variations of split squats to enhance your flexibility and lower body strength. 

Split squats are a compound leg exercise that targets multiple muscles in the lower body. This includes your hip flexors and quadriceps. Split squats are a great way to deepen leg strength and flexibility if you do them correctly. 

Split squats are performed by placing one leg in front of another and slowly lowering your body. Split squats can be used to increase your ability to do more complicated variations of the traditional Squat, such as the single-leg squat and the back squat with a deadlift.

Split Squats with Perfect Form

Split squats should be performed in 2-3 sets with 8-12 repetitions per leg. Keep your technique good throughout each set and repetition.

  1. Your front foot should be about 2-4 feet in front. To evenly distribute weight along with your toes, raise your back heel. Your front foot should have equal weight. To create a stable foot position, grip the floor with your front foot.
  2. Square your hips. Your posture should be upright with your torso up and your feet shoulder-width apart. Your knees should be bent slightly. With a neutral head position and a slightly bent neck, your shoulders should rest just above your hips. Your chin should be tucked throughout the movement. 
  3. Hold dumbbells at your sides or place your hands on your hips if you don’t want to hold weights.
  4. Engage your core muscles. 
  5. Begin by moving your hips, knees, ankles down from your front leg. Then, bend your back knee toward the ground and begin the downward movement.
  6.  Keep the lower part of your front leg parallel to the floor. Your rear knee should be below your hips, about 1-2 inches above the ground.
  7. Pause at the bottom for 1-2 seconds.
  8. Push your front foot to the ground to begin standing.
  9. Stand straight up and keep your chest up. Your front knee should be straightened and your hips to move forward.
  10. Finish the movement by squeezing your quadriceps while keeping a neutral spine.
  11. Your shoulders should finish directly over your hips at the end of every repetition without breaking up the form. 

 Targeting Quads with Split Squats 

Although split squats help you target your quads, glutes, and calves muscles, the Bulgarian Split Squat will specifically target your glutes. 

When you do a single-leg split squat, your leg is in front of your body, not under stress. In a Bulgarian Split Squat, your stabilizing leg is behind you on an elevated surface. The video at the top of the article demonstrates how you would do a Bulgarian Split Squat that would target your glutes and quads. 

The Bulgarian Split Squat allows you to go deeper than a single-leg squat and requires more flexibility in your hips. 

To do a Bulgarian Split Squat targeting your quads, follow the following steps: 

  1. Begin by standing approximately 2 feet in front of a knee-level step or bench.
  2. Place your right leg behind you with the top of your foot on the bench. Your feet should remain about shoulder-width apart. Your right foot should be distant enough to allow you to lunge comfortably. You can try a closer foot position, but make sure your left knee doesn’t touch the line of your toes when you lower your feet.
  3. Engage your core and roll your shoulders back. Then, lean forward at your waist.
  4. When performing a quad-dominant Bulgarian Split Squat, make sure your knee doesn’t touch your toes. 
  5. To return to standing, push up with your left foot.

Continue to do this for as many reps as you need, and then switch sides, putting your left foot on the bench.

Start with 6-8 reps for each leg if you are new to Bulgarian Split Squats. This will help you to get used to the movement and build strength. 

If, over time, you can complete three sets of 12 reps comfortably on each leg, add a dumbbell in each hand to provide extra resistance.

Benefits of Split Squat

These are the benefits of doing split squats.

Help Address Muscular Movement Asymmetries 

A dominant leg is often a problem for athletes and lifters. This can lead to muscle imbalances and movement compensation patterns. Split Squat allows you to focus on only one leg at a time. This helps you strengthen your legs. This will reduce your risk of injury due to muscle compensations, which is a type of imbalance created by one leg compensating for the inefficiency of the other.

Unilateral Hypertrophy and Strength 

Unilateral exercises increase muscle strength and fix bilateral (two-legged) deficit issues. Split squats have the key benefit of increasing muscle activation by targeting one leg at a time. 

Unilateral exercises are beneficial because they allow the exerciser to use both sides of their bodies equally. This helps to avoid overtraining and overusing their dominant side. It also helps them to use both core muscles and balance properly.

Application to Sport and Human Movement 

One leg may work more than the other when you run, jump or cycle. Split squats will increase unilateral strength and enhance your ability to move. You don’t have to do a heavy split to climb stairs faster. 

However, your joints will benefit if you do it more often. Your joints will be more prepared to run, jump, and squat if you do knee flexion.

Five Best Split Squat Variations 

Split squats and variations of split squats are the best add-on exercises to increase your bilateral Squat. Leg drive is essential when pulling up from the ground or coming up from a squat. It involves driving your feet or heels into the ground. 

This creates tension in your body, providing a solid base from where to press. Although it sounds simple, it is not easy. Even lifters who are experienced in the importance of leg drive can often fail to perform it. This leg drive is strengthened by split squats that emphasize quads.

These five variations can spice up your split squats to increase quad gains. Thank us later for the benefits you will gain from these workouts. 

Hand Supported Split Squat

This version is the same except that you use one hand to hold the weight and the other for support. Your body will focus more on steadiness because you have greater stability.

What it Does: Increased stability drives more muscle recruitment to your quads and glutes. You can do more reps to increase gains.

When and How to Do It: Use the same weight as a farmer/suitcase carry. You will need the leg that is next to the squat bar. Use your thumbs and fingers to grip the rack gently with your fingers. Slowly drop until your knee touches, or the weight is equal to the floor. Maintain a slight forward lean.

Do not be afraid to go for the higher reps within the 12-15 rep range. For hip mobility and recovery, a half-kneeling exercise is a good choice.

Front Rack Kettlebell Elevated Split Squat

Trained lifters know that hip mobility, upper back strength, and leg drive play a key role in pulling and squatting heavily. This exercise is a brutal reminder of this fact. You can stress your quads by using the kettlebells in the front rack position. It will improve your posture, upper back strength, endurance, and overall health.

What it Does: Because the weight is front-loaded, it increases core strength and upper body strength. This elevation improves the range of motion and results in hypertrophy, quad and glute strength.

When and How to do it: Keep your chest high and your wrists neutral throughout the entire movement. It is a great way to increase your reps after your major strength move of the day. Pairing this with a single-arm row variation will hit your upper back muscles.

Front Rack Pin-Stop Split Squat

You start this exercise at the bottom position so you can focus on the concentric contraction that causes tension on your muscle as it shortens. It takes out the stretch reflex and improves leg drive. Depending on your shoulder mobility, you can place the barbell posteriorly (or in the front rack) depending on how much space you have.

What it Does: Removing stretch reflex improves quad engagement and leg drive by increasing muscle tension. It will also improve your upper back strength, endurance, and flexibility if you do the front-rack version. This exercise will put your single-leg balance to the test like nothing else.

When and How to do it: The key to this exercise is the setting. Keep your focus on getting into the accurate half-kneeling position. To avoid instability, you should start with the lighter side and work your way up to the correct technique. This exercise can be used with a hip mobility drill to improve flexibility and recovery.

Offset Grip Front Load – Opposite Side

You can use a dumbbell or kettlebell for this workout. Weight refers to the front racked position. One hand holds the weight up next to the shoulders, and the other holds the weight next to the leg at the outer side. This places more weight on one side of our body. If your left leg is out front, the weight should be under your right fist.

How it Helps: Here, too, the weight is front-loaded and works the core and upper body muscles. The elevation improves the range of motion and strengthens glutes and quads. 

When and How to do it: Keep your chest high and your wrists neutral throughout the entire movement. It is a great way to increase your reps after your major strength move of the day.

Rotational Split Squat

As we lunge down in a rotational split squat, the weight is placed outside the front leg while rotating our torso. Rotational Squat adds transverse plane stress to the hips and inner thigh muscles. 

Unlike the Lateral Squat, the feet now face each other at 90 degrees. The key is that the front foot must be straight ahead, while the back foot can be moved 90 degrees to a perpendicular location.

How it Helps: This position targets the sides of the quads and inner thighs, your adductors. It improves your ability to stay down and provides a hip extension to swing at the right time, like in a golf swing. 

When and How to do it: It challenges balance and core-hip stability and helps soothe any leg strength differences. It also gives the spine some relief from excessive axial loading.

This variation is distinguished by the addition of the rotation of the upper body. This delicate change offers a little bit of a different training stimulus. It takes us away from the traditional forward/back, up/down nature of exercise and adds rotation to the mix. This twisting workout leads to a little more internal rotation of your front hip, which is a wonderful sensation. 

Final Thoughts

Although split squats themselves provide a killer workout for your lower body, variations in this exercise will help to target different areas at different angles. You can use dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell. However, most people prefer dumbbells because they are easy to load, program, and learn.

Some people believe that the Bulgarian split squat works better than the Split Squat to gain strength and size. However, it is best used as an assistant exercise to build your legs. The Bulgarian split squat is similar to the single-leg barbell or dumbbell lunge. It allows for a greater range of motion and weight than the single-leg split squat.

Article edited and fact checked by our editorial team.


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