The Bulgarian Split-Squat is the Jason Bourne of leg exercises: precise, highly effective, inflicting extreme discomfort at will, and hiding behind a dozen different names, depending on whose gym you walk into.
You may hear it referred to as the Spassov, Gorsha or Rear-Foot-Elevated Split-Squat (RFESS). But don't let these various names confuse you. In essence, it's a lunge with your rear foot elevated. And man, it's tough!
Sounds simple, right? Well, it can be also be an agent of destruction if you do it wrong. Here are three tips to use if for good, not evil.
Choose Your Bench Wisely
The guidelines for back foot height depend on whom you ask. Make the decision based on what works for you and your training goals.
If your back arches, one of your hips tilts higher than the other, or your torso leans forward, the box is too high. Start with a smaller box and increase the height as your hip flexibility improves. If flexibility is available, use a box or bench that's at least 12 inches high.
Front-End Load It
The Bulgarian Split-Squat emphasizes the front leg, but athletes new to the movement tend to push off their back leg without realizing it—until they turn around and see a massive divot in the bench.
To fix this, perform the exercise with only your body weight. Slowly descend, keeping your torso vertical. Pause a few inches from the ground and imagine crushing the ground with the entire surface area of your front foot. Consciously attempt to lighten the pressure exerted by your back foot against the box or bench. Drive up from this position, keeping your hip, knee and ankle aligned.
No Core, No Service
When your technique is proficient, add weight, but make sure your core comes along for the ride. If it's impossible to brace your abs at the bottom of the movement, the weight may be too heavy for your spine to stabilize. If your leg can handle it but your core can't, strengthen your core with stabilization work to avoid a possible injury.
Goss, Kim. "The Truth About the Bulgarian Split Lunge." Poliquin Group. 25 October 2013. Web. 17 May. 2014.
Jones, M., et. al. "Effects of unilateral and bilateral lower-body heavyresistance exercise on muscle activity and testosterone responses." Division of Health and Human Performance, George Mason University,Fairfax, Virginia, USA. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (Impact Factor: 1.8). 01/2012; 26(4):1094-100.DOI:10.1519/JSC.0b013e318248ab3b
Thaw, Rich "RFESS MRE Rear Foot Elevated Squats Made For Everyone." Tony Gentilcore. Jan 9 2013. Web. 17 May. 2014.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock