How to do Proper Split Squats for Maximum Benefit
If you are looking for an exercise that will work your legs probably better than any other, you might want to consider squats. In particular, the focus in this article will be the split squat, which helps to focus on one leg at a time, hitting it harder than a traditional squat. It’s also known as the Bulgarian squat.
If you have been in physical therapy or go to the gym, you may have seen someone lunging forward while bending at the knees and one leg forward. If so, then you have most likely seen the split squat. Hopefully, you were witnessing the proper technique, which will be discussed later in the article.
For now, let’s take a look at what muscles will be worked during a proper split squat.
Targeted Muscle Groups
Squats are designed to target the lower body, primarily the glutes, hamstrings, quads, as well as the abs and lower back. If you use weights in a more advanced stage, your upper back will also benefit from this exercise.
People often choose to do squats to work on building muscle strength in the buttocks, thighs, and hamstrings. With a simple squat, both legs are worked simultaneously, while the split squat focuses more on one leg at a time. It’s a fairly easy exercise to do, in regard to technique. However, that often leads to some people not being as careful with it as they should…and can lead to injury.
Equipment for Squats
In the beginning, you should probably just use your own body weight for resistance. For most people starting out, this will be enough challenge.
However, once you are accustomed to the squat and are looking for a bigger challenge and more resistance, weights can be used, such as a barbell. Other than that, no other equipment is necessary, making this an exercise that can be done just about anywhere.
Instructions for the Split Squat
In order to do a healthy and proper split squat, following some basic guidelines will be ideal. Let’s first start with the starting position:
• Keeping your legs shoulder width apart, take a large step forward with one leg only, slightly bending both knees
• Lift the heel of the leg that is behind you, while keeping the toes steady on the floor behind you
• Keep both feet facing forward
• Make sure to keep the back upright and chest forward and up as if you are standing at attention with the upper body only
• If you are using a weight, place it on the shoulders
Keep in mind that the back leg is there for support only and you are working on the front leg, maintaining the majority of the weight on it. Now that you are in the starting position, let’s take a look at the proper movements during the exercise:
• Put your body weight onto the front leg and foot
• Breathe out and lower your body slowly in the direction of the floor
• Stop moving downward as the back knee almost touches the floor, but don’t allow it to touch
• Hold this position for a couple seconds
• Breathe out and push upward with the heel of the front leg to rise back up slowly and back into the starting position
• Repeat this movement as many times as you can safely tolerate, or as many reps as your physical therapist or trainer recommends
To make the most of this exercise and to avoid potential injury, make sure you remember the following:
• Keep your back and buttock muscles firmly contracted
• Make sure the front leg and your upper body remains perpendicular to the ground or floor
• Do not use a rocking motion during the movements or while standing still
• Keep looking forward during the entire process
• Both feet and knees should be pointing in the same direction
There are some mistakes that some people make who are starting out with split squats. It’s very common for someone doing squats, especially when using additional weight, to drop or round their chest and upper back. This could put unnecessary stress on muscles and lead to injury.
Another common error that people make during split squats is having their back leg out to the side too far or in too close. Both legs should be shoulder width apart. Anything else could cause you to lose balance, or injure a muscle or the knee from placing unnecessary stress on it.
However, if you follow the basic guidelines above, or seek professional advice from your physical therapist, you should be able to use the split squat exercise to add significant strength to your lower body, as well as the abs and back.