The Bulgarian Squat, or Rear Leg Elevated Split Squat (RLESS), is one of the hardest hitting lower body exercises you can do. While many people champion the classic barbell back squat as their leg exercise of choice, science shows the Bulgarian Squat is superior. We take a look at this squat variation and the reasons why it is so good.
The Rear Leg Elevated Split Squat is similar to a lunge, but the rear foot is elevated and the majority of your bodymass is on the front foot.
The RLESS requires an additional balance factor when compared to a back squat. This increases muscle activation both proximally (close to) and distally (away from) the target muscles. This means that you are training your core muscles more, building more muscle and burning more fat. It also means, obviously, that you will improve your balance.
Training balance builds more muscle.
Why? Because muscles are inherently lazy. Your body wants to perform any given task with as few muscle fibres as possible. If your body is trying to balance itself it will be firing various muscle fibres to do so, increasing muscle activation. It’s like the machine vs free-weight argument. You maybe able to lift more weight on a machine, but you activate more fibres with free-weights.
Increased Hamstring and Glute activation
EMG measures muscular activation. Studies consistently show that RLESS shows significantly increased Hamstring and Glute activation compared to Back squat. We all have weak Glutes and Hamstrings, so RLESS is a superior way to train them. One of the reasons for increased Hamstring activation is to help stabilise the knee. A joint is more stable when both the agonist and antagonist muscles are engaged. This inherently helps strengthen the joint too, leading to less risk of future injury.
A lower weight is required to activate the same amount of muscle
Performing the RLESS requires half the amount of weight compared to Back squat to activate the same amount of muscle fibres. It makes sense that training on one leg you only need half the weight right? This also means you lower your chance of injury, reduce your risk of spinal compression or any other lifting associated injuries. A safer exercise is a better exercise if you reap the same rewards.
In summary, you can use less weight, get more hamstring and glute activation and improve your balance with the Bulgarian Squat compared to the regular Back Squat. So loop your back foot in our Power Straps and get split squatting.