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The split squat is a popular lower body exercise and makes a great alternative to the regular squat. It works all the same leg muscles as the squat, such as glutes, quads and hamstrings, but also places a good amount of tension on the abdominal muscles. However, it’s not just about building strength. This compound exercise also improves your stability and balance. So if you’ve decided to master this powerful movement, here’s all you need to know on how to do split squats.
How To Do a Split Squat
There are a few variations that you can do of this exercise. You can do it with weights and use a barbell, kettlebell or dumbbells to apply extra weight. You can also do it without any equipment and just use your bodyweight for resistance.
- Start by standing straight, your feet hip-width apart.
- Take a long step forward with one of the legs, as if you’re making a lunge movement. The heel of your back foot should be raised and the front foot should be flat on the floor. Both toes should be pointing forward. The hands you can either place on your hips or if you’re using dumbbells, let them hang at the sides.
- Keeping the torso straight, slowly lower the body until your front knee is almost touching the floor. Be careful not to slam it into the floor. In this movement, the weight should be shifting down into the heel of the front leg.
- At the bottom of the movement, push yourself back to the starting position by driving through your front heel.
- Complete all the reps on one leg, and then do the same on the other.
Split Squat Form Tips
- People just starting out with split squats might have some difficulty keeping balance. To have a more stable base of support, try not to make your stance too narrow. Instead, keep your feet hip-width apart.
- Another important point to keep in mind is the stride length. If it’s too short, the heel of your front foot will lift off the ground, which will affect your balance. If the stride is too long, it will place your leg into a compromising position and can put stress on your back.
- You can start by practicing in front of a mirror, so you can check if you’ve got proper form and the correct stride length.
- In the bottom position, your front foot should be flat on the floor and it should be directly under the hips and shoulders. As for the back knee, it should be bent at about 90 degrees angle with the heel of the leg lifted off the ground.
- During the entire movement of the exercise, your back should be kept straight. In order to do that, keep the core contracted and the pelvis facing forward. Don’t lean back or forward but keep stable centered in between both feet. Engage your core muscles to keep your torso rigid and resist rotational forces.
- When you lower the body, make a short pause at the bottom. This will help you to descend under control and will encourage engaging the right muscles. However, pausing at the top of the movement will only have you resting. So make it brief.
Split Squat Variations
Once you learn to do split squats with proper form, you can increase the difficulty by adding weights to the exercise. For example, you could use a kettlebell and hold it against your chest or use dumbbells on either side of the body (goblet split squat). You can also do it with a barbell.
A few other variations involve elevating one of your legs, either the front or the back one (Bulgarian split squat). All of these will provide a bigger challenge for your muscles as you will be lowering with added resistance. Whichever of these variations you choose, it is sure to give your legs a boost.
How To Include Split Squats Into Your Workout Routine
The split is a complex exercise that requires coordinating multiple joints and muscles at the same time. So it’s better to include somewhere at the beginning of the workout when your energy level will be higher.
Also, when pairing it with other exercises, be aware of muscle group overlap. In order to get the most out of your routine, choose movements that won’t fatigue the lower body any further. For example, you can pair the split squat with an upper body pressing movements, such as a dumbbell bench press, or a core exercise, such as a plank or a dead bug.
Between each set rest for about 120-180 seconds and another 30 seconds when switching legs. Alternatively, if you’re pairing exercises, you can skip the rest or make it shorter for about 60-120 seconds.
Depending on your training goals, you can also use various split squat programs. For example, if you want to build strength, you can do fewer reps (3-5) and more sets (4-6). For muscle hypertrophy, on the other hand, try to add more training volume. So you can do about 4-6 sets with 6-8 repetitions. As for muscle endurance, it’s recommended to do even more repetitions. So aim for 12 and above repetitions and fewer reps.
These are just some guidelines but are only the only way to program split squats. You can use these recommendations to adjust it to your preference.
Who Should Do Split Squats?
Split squats have plenty of benefits and that’s why it’s so popular among strength and power athletes, fitness goers and many others.
Weightlifters can benefit from an increase in balance, coordination and unilateral strength that comes with the split squat exercise. Strength and power athletes that have improved these attributes can prevent injuries and movement disorders, as well as increase their strength and hypertrophy potential.
Runners, cyclists and fitness goers can benefit from the unilateral leg strength and coordination. Moreover, athletes will benefit from increasing lower body muscle mass, knee and hip stability, and strengthened movement patterns.