The Bulgarian Split Squat Solution

The Bulgarian split squat is an excellent exercise. Ain’t no denying that! They highly activate the quadriceps, they create glute damage due to the eccentric stretch loading, and they build single leg stability.

BSS

However, I believe that there’s a better way to perform them. The standard way never felt right for me, so I figured out how to do them in a way that more closely matched the contour of my anatomy.

Watch in the video below how the crux of the foot/ankle interacts with the bar as I rise up and down during the movement. It’s so smooth and comfortable. Give this method a try and see if you prefer it over the standard version.

I’ve been doing them this way for over 6 years or so and it’s served me quite well. Many years ago at a commercial gym I used to train at, we’d even use the rounded pad on the lying leg curl machine (but we’d have to use dumbbells with this route). I suppose the Smith machine could be used in this fashion too – with a bar pad, and bands wouldn’t be needed to stabilize the bar.

30 Comments

  • Kelly says:

    I love it, it’s a great method, thanks for sharing.

    Except that I’m gonna have to go to the gym at 4am to get to use one of the only two squat racks to not do squats and “are you using that” guys will be all over me. Next I’ll be doing bicep curls there too. 😉

    • Bret says:

      Haha! If you use dumbbells, you can use the rounded pad on the lying leg curl machine – we used to do that too back in the day. I forgot to mention this in the original post – will edit now.

    • Sandy says:

      Yeah I’ll have to be the only person in my gym for that. Will try the leg curl method, but it’s times like these I wish I had a nice home gym.

      Bret, one day can you make a post on how to go about setting up a good home gym (i.e. most necessary, cost effective equipment to have)?

      Thanks.

  • Guy says:

    Hey Bret,

    Haven’t you been doing them like this for years? I remember seeing your BSS video a really long time ago and have always taught clients to do them this way.

    If I recall correctly, you did have your front foot elevated too on the other video. Might be mistaken, though.

  • Grace says:

    Awesome! I can’t wait to try that . . it looks like it provides a LOT more stability for the ankle! Thanks!

  • Jim says:

    Great tip, I’ve been doing the same thing except I’m on the side of the power rack and the crux of the foot/ankle interacts with the safety pin. It saves a little time and doesn’t require bands.

  • Tyler Satnick says:

    This is phenomenal! Shame on you for not sharing earlier! My power rack has triangular divots so I don’t even need the bands to keep it steady. Way more comfortable and more adjustable then other methods. Thanks again Bret!!

  • Chris says:

    You could use the Smith machine for this as well which would probably eliminate the need for the bands.

  • Amy says:

    Thanks! Great video. Where do you get the bands? My gym has nothing like these; only the handled type.

  • Isadora says:

    Possible to do it on a Smith’s machine instead? Just having to play with elastic bands seems too much effort to be honest!

  • Josh says:

    Bret, would you recommend a front rack position if using a barbell?

  • Felix says:

    This is a really great idea. I’ve been spoiled because I work in an MBSC Thrive facility and we use Perform Better’s single leg squat stand, but this is awesome for when my clients or I go on vacation, though I’d tell them to just use the smith machine haha

  • Boudi says:

    Bert,
    Could you please make a video on pistol squat,and if there is any variations for it ?
    Thank you,

    Boudi

  • Ove says:

    I normally do them with the TRX and do a similar motion. Excellent exercise

  • arin says:

    This does look a lot more comfortable. I think I’ll try it next time I do split squats! Thanks for the idea.

  • Chuck says:

    Great idea! I will definitely be using these. A great way to keep using the squat rack after I’m done squatting and keeping the guys trying to do curls out of it!

  • Igor says:

    Interesting idea, should try it next time.

  • I do the same thing but just put the pad on the pins and face sideways to the rack. Good stuff.

  • Dave says:

    Hi team:

    I’ve also been using a similar setup with a twist: if you don’t have access to the long exercise bands, you can also use a short bungee cord. Simply wrap the bar and the closest vertical strut and it keeps the bar from rolling and wiggling. Bungees are only a buck a piece at a hardware store.

    Good luck to all.

    Dave

  • Rhodri says:

    Brett love reading your work , find it of particular interest also being tall at 6ft 6. Just a quick question are you on twitter ?. Thanks and keep up the great work .

  • Roy Reichle says:

    Thanks, Bret! I’ve been doing BSS’s this way for some time now as well. I never have liked the feel of the foot on top of a bench. Sometimes my toes cramp, especially in my zemgear, minimalist shoes, and it seemed that it added instability to a movement that is already unstable. For me, the smith machine is the best place to do this style of BSS. I also use the squat rack, but I don’t bother immobilizing the bar. With clients, I hold the bar for them, for me, it doesn’t seem to matter is the bar rolls a bit. Ever since I saw Sorinex’s version, I’ve been meaning to create a station especially for BSS’s. I have the plans drawn up. My version’s adjustment is much more fine tuned to accommodate different heights/leg segment lengths. Anyway, great post as always. I picked up your 2X4 program and will be trying it out on myself starting next week. It looks great, and I’m sure I will achieve some gains as a result!

  • Tyler says:

    Love it! Can’t believe I didn’t think of it earlier! Thanks Bret!

  • Steven Sequoia says:

    I sling my foot over the edge of foot platform on the hack squat machine, it’s a good height, you can place a towel or the bar pad over it for comfort, and it keeps the squat rack free for others. Also, the metal framed Plyo boxes, turned on its side works well too.

  • Teresa Merrick says:

    The video doesn’t play (there’s an “!” in the middle of the frame).

  • I have been doing them that way for years now except my bar pad was made from a piece of pipe insulation.
    Great minds think alike I guess! LOL!

  • Cathy says:

    Tried it and I like it so much better than using a bench. Using the Smith machine eliminates the need for the bands. It also works for elevated leg push-ups. Thanks, Bret!

  • Sara says:

    I also use the pad of the lying leg press to do these, but hug a 10k barbell weight to my chest rather than using dumbbells. Saves stress on my wrists 😉

  • Guy Butterworth says:

    Bret,

    Sorry if it’s poor form to dig up an old thread, but I wanted to ask a question.

    For the past couple of months I’ve been doing the Bulgarian SS as a substitute for bilateral squats, because I have severe ankle arthritis on the left side. Doing bilateral squats causes me to over-use and injure my good leg (quad, hip flexor, hamstring, you name it), more or less every time I do them. However, I’ve found that I’m now getting pain from doing the BSS, straining the non-squatting (right) leg, because I lack strength and stability in my left leg.

    Do you think that I might benefit from ditching the standing squat in all its forms, and work on single leg hip thrusts instead?

    Thanks,

    Guy

  • bec says:

    Awesome idea!!! up until now I’ve resorted to putting a cushion atop the step/bench to make it more comfortable (home gym!!) >>> but will definitely give this a go next time! 🙂

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