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Exercise of the Week: Split Squat

I have unintentionally taken a year long hiatus from writing blog posts, but we are back with our first post of 2024! What better way to get back into it than starting off with an exercise of the week. 

Muscles Worked and Benefits: I will probably say this about almost every exercise, but split squats are one of my favorites. The main muscles worked in a split squat are the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings. One of the main reasons I love split squats is because they are a great way to work on single leg strength. They are easier to perform than a lunge because they are stationary and require less deceleration. I require all clients to master this exercise before they can progress to a lunge variation. Because of the single leg component, split squats are easier to load than bilateral squats. You’ll always be able to lift more with both legs than you would on one, so the overall load required to make this exercise challenging is going to be less than that of a bilateral squat. This will be less taxing overall for an athlete and easier on their joints. For example, if an athlete is capable of back squatting 400 lbs that is a lot of load on their spine vs. a 200 lb split squat. They will most likely be able to recover faster from the split squat vs. the back squat and feel less fatigued overall. (This is nothing against back squats, they are still a great exercise). 

How To Perform: If you’re new to split squats I recommend starting on the ground in a half kneeling position with both knees at about 90 degrees and back toes curled under. Think front knee over ankle and back knee under hip. Feet should be about hip to shoulder width apart. For a more quad focused movement you will keep your torso upright and let your front knee track further over your toes. For a more glute focused movement you’ll want to hinge your hips back slightly and keep a relatively vertical shin angle in your front leg. After you have set up in the correct position you’re going to stand up by driving your front leg into the floor as if you’re trying to push the floor away from you. While your back leg is assisting in the movement, your front leg should be doing a majority of the work. After standing up you will lower back down, tap your back knee to the floor (make sure you tap gently, don’t slam it) and then repeat the movement. 

Loading Variations: 

Body Weight 

Dumbbell/Kettlebell in Each Hand 

Dumbbell/Kettlebell Goblet Position

Dumbbell/Kettlebell in Opp. Arm of Working Leg (contralateral loading)  

Dumbbell/Kettlebell in Same Arm of Working Leg (ipsilateral loading) 

Barbell Back Rack 

Barbell Front Rack 

Here is a video of a bodyweight and dumbbell loaded split squat 

Be sure to check out our free 3 day a week exercise template! Click here to get access!

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