While our focus is on prehab, such as finding the weak links in your movement system and addressing them through specifically targeted exercises, we are big advocates of barbell training and we do so regularly. That being said, not everyone is a fan of (or comfortable with) getting under a barbell – especially in the rehabilitation setting. So if you are unable to get your clients or patients under the barbell and are looking for exercises that elicit similar electromyography (EMG) activity to the traditional back squat, look no further than the rear foot elevated split squat aka the Bulgarian split squat! In this article, we are covering everything you need to know about Bulgarian Split Squats including the why, alignment, set-up, and variations!


Try Bulgarian Split Squats If You Can’t Back Squat!

A recent study by DeForest et al 2014 compared the EMG activity of the Back squat (85%RM), the Bulgarian split squat (50%RM), and the split squat (50% RM). Their big finding was that almost all the muscles (gluteus maximus and rectus femoris included) they looked at elicited similar muscle activity. The only significant difference between the Bulgarian split squat and the back squat was that the back squat displayed higher biceps femoris muscle activity. This means that for those clients who are uncomfortable under the barbell, but still want good glute and quad results, you can have them perform Bulgarian split squats and elicit similar muscle activity and gains!


In one of our recent [P]Rehab Audio Experience Podcast episodes, our host Dillon Caswell answers ‘How Do We Begin Strength Training?” Identifying a starting point becomes difficult, likely due to the varying methods that are available to the consumer. Fitness can be confusing! We hope to make it less confusing and give you some key takeaways. In this discussion, we will focus not on the methods but on the fundamental principles of starting a strength program and how to utilize training age! We will also discuss questions you should ask your coach/trainer, red flags that you may be in the wrong program, and lastly, tips to enjoy the process!!!


begin strength training bulgarian split squat the prehab guys


How To Master Bulgarian Split Squats – Learn Optimal Alignment

Alignment is really important when it comes to Bulgarian split squats. Let’s face it, this is not a beginner exercise for most people, especially when you add load to the mix! Be sure to watch this video to get cues for what optimal alignment looks like, and more importantly, what the common compensations people will perform!


Master Bulgarian Split Squats And More With Our Program

lower extremity performance program bulgarian split squats the prehab guys

Have trouble with exercises like the Bulgarian split squats or lunges? Look no further! Our lower extremity performance program has been designed to teach you how to take control of your body while dominating lower extremity movements. Get started today! 


Want To Learn More About Muscle Asymmetries? Watch This!


Master Bulgarian Split Squats By Performing Variations Of The Exercise!

Another study by McCrudy et al 2010 found that the Bulgarian split squat elicited greater gluteus medius muscle and biceps femoris activity than the back squat (although they found lower rectus femoris activity). This makes logical sense considering the unilateral design of the exercise to stabilize the knee (biceps femoris) and the increased demand on the gluteus medius in the frontal and transverse planes. In conclusion, the Bulgarian split squat is an effective alternative to the back squat. If you aren’t convinced yet, give Bulgarian split squats a try, you won’t be disappointed!

As previously discussed, when first beginning to exercise, it can be difficult to know where to start. Questions from which exercises are best, to how much should I do, the answers are not always easy! It is definitely important to establish your baseline prior to exercise, meaning where you should start appropriately. In addition, it also is imperative to progress exercise accordingly in order to maximize your body’s functional potential! In one of our blog posts, we take you through how to progress lower body exercises! You will have the opportunity to learn either from a follow-along video we have created, by reading the information provided in the article, or both!


How To Progress Lower Body Exercises bulgarian split squats The Prehab Guys


Ankle Position During The Bulgarian Split Squats

We got a good question from one of our followers about ankle pain during the exercise. This is a common complaint many have with this exercise, and it all boils down to how the ankle is positioned on the bench. We want to avoid hyper plantarflexion (foot pointing down) with the back leg. Instead, try this easy setup using a half foam roller. It’s the perfect size that fits within the contours of the anterior ankle. Now, if you don’t have the luxury of even this simple setup, make sure you point your TOES straight down into the bench. This will ensure your ankle stays in a relatively neutral position while performing the exercise. We can use the available range of motion at the metatarsal-phalangeal joint instead of relying solely on the talocrural joint for all the motion.

“No Pain No Gain” doesn’t apply to this exercise, nor to any others! If you’re going to exercise, do it RIGHT and do it SAFE. As a Physical Therapist, I’d much rather see you preventatively when you’re HEALTHY, ACTIVE, and FIT than when you’re injured!!


Prehab Membership The Prehab Guys

The Prehab membership is the anti-barrier solution to keeping your body healthy. Access state-of-the-art physical therapy, fitness programs, and workouts online in the comforts of your own home or gym! Taking control of your health with exercise & education from the palm of your hand has never been easier. Get access to 50+ programs, 100+ unique workouts, and 3000+ exercises to build your own workout routines. Trial it for free, and learn how to get out of pain, avoid injury, and optimize your health with [P]rehab!

Take Your Lower Body Performance To The Next Level

lower extremity performance program bulgarian split squat the prehab guys

How about the character coach Herb Brooks of the USA Men’s Miracle Hockey Olympic team created?!? In training, he once stated, “the legs feed the wolf.” That’s what this program is all about! Landing mechanics from jumping are focused on first along with power via medicine ball slam exercises. If training power, strength is also a must. You dive into our favorite lunge, squat, thrust, and deadlift variations. Lastly, to “fully feed the wolf” cardio and mobility is needed, and don’t worry, it is included!



  1. McCurdy K, O’Kelley E, Kutz M, Langford G, Ernest J, Torres M. Comparison of Lower Extremity EMG Between the 2-Leg Squat and Modified Single-Leg Squat in Female Athletes
    J Sport Rehabil. 2010 Feb; 19(1):57-70
  2. DeFOREST BA, CANTRELL GS, SCHILLING BK. Muscle Activity in Single- vs. Double-Leg Squats. International Journal of Exercise Science. 2014;7(4):302-310.


About The Author

Craig Lindell, PT, DPT, CSCS

[P]rehab Co-Founder & Chief Content Officer

craig lindell the prehab guysCraig is a South Jersey native & Penn State Kinesiology Alumni. When the opportunity came, Craig packed his bags and drove to California to pursue his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California. With [P]rehab, Craig oversees all digital content creation and multi-channel publication that reaches millions of people on a weekly basis. As a PT, Craig has a wide array of experience from working with various neurological conditions to working with collegiate & professional athletes across the Big Five in North American sports. Experiencing physical therapy first-hand as a soccer player in high school, Craig has a passion & special interest in adolescent athletic development working with young athletes to overcome injuries. In his spare time, Craig enjoys exercising, playing golfing, hiking, traveling, watching Philly sports, and spending quality time with his family.






Disclaimer – The content here is designed for information & education purposes only and is not intended for medical advice.

About the author : Craig Lindell PT, DPT, CSCS


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  5. J O'Connell July 1, 2020 at 7:20 am

    You can also get a yoga mat and roll it up, holding it in place with some resistance bands. I use this to rest my ankle on for BSS

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