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Bulgarian Split Squat Rest Between Legs

I does 3 sets of 10 reps of bulgarian split squats. I rest 2 minutes between sets. My set comprises of 10 reps for left leg and then immediately for right leg. In total 20 reps. Training like this is immensely exhausting. I feel that my other legs get lower number of reps and it is substantially harder to train second leg. I was thinking about doing rest between legs but I don’t know whether it is correct way of doing split squats. I don’t want to waste to much time but also I don’t want to do half assed reps. How do you program this exercise?

Just be consistent. I usually don’t rest between, it sucks to begin with but gets better over time.

I feel that this exercise is more conditioning than strength and I think I may be doing something wrong.

I take a little break between legs if I need to, maybe 15-30 seconds to catch my breath. I wouldn’t want to do less on the 2nd leg because I was tired.

I do lots of single arm/single leg stuff and for the toughest or heaviest lifts like bulgarians or rows I sometimes need a little break.

I agree with you, between the balancing, bracing and bobbing up and down split squats can totally feel like conditioning. Any leg move where I’m moving my body and not sitting down makes me breath heavy.

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Make sure you’re focusing on creating tension. I think, like @FlatsFarmer said, there’s a lot of other stuff going on in this movement; it makes it easy to forget about contracting your quads/ glutes, and just focus on flinging your body through space.

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IMO, there are several aspects needed to make this a successful exercise:

  • The set-up: the elevated foot is often too high, e.g. on a standard bench. You want it about half that height. Similarly, foot comfort. I found getting my foot in a comfortable position, where it didn’t become a distraction, a challenge, until I started using the padded leg extension on my bench as the support for the top of the foot/ankle.

  • This is a movement that requires a bit more mental discipline (lunges are in the same stable). You need to work on good mind muscle connection; fire through the heel and feel the glutes working. Aim for constant tension and control the eccentric portion of the rep.

  • I really feel these when I do them as muscle rounds, which means 6x4 with 10s between each mini (cluster) set. This works well for unilateral exercises: 4 reps on left leg; no rest, then 4 on right leg, no rest. Repeat for total of 6 sets each leg.

Regardless of your rep scheme, I would recommend resting between legs. Despite best efforts, the ‘resting’ leg is not actually resting.

I would also consider you try depth lunges using similar guidelines. Here you elevate both feet on shallow platforms (I use a couple of breeze blocks but 2 plates could also work).

Great, great point. I hate having my trail toe flex on these - I need somewhere to set up where I’m getting my shoelaces down

Yeah, I thought I was just being a wimp but you can actually buy a foot rest from strength equipment shops for this very purpose (not that I would - that’s a ‘step’ too far):


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I’ve seen the roller attachments on racks, too, and it took me a long time to figure out what they were.

Why not? Rather than resting 2 minutes after doing both legs, rest one minute between each leg. If the 2nd leg feels harder then each week switch which leg you do first. If one leg is noticeably weaker then always do that one first.

I find it works much better when you hold the rack to keep your balance. If you’re doing it to build muscle or strength then there is no benefit to not make it as stable as possible. I actually started doing just regular split squats instead of the rear leg elevated style and I find it feels much more comfortable.

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Or! Something else I’ve played with - do the strong one first, then take as many “mini-breaks” as you need to match reps with the weak leg. Sometimes my weak leg is “dumber” and doing the stronger one first reminds me how to break and do the rep.

Totally agree with you on balance - I prefer to keep it from being the limiter.

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Bulgarian split squats have been a staple in all my lower body training for a few years now. I always treat each leg as an individual set and cut my rest in half. So if you’re used to resting 2 min between sets, just rest 1 min between legs. Exact same amount of total rest. It’s silly to make one leg unnecessarily more challenging than the other by not giving yourself ample rest.

Lots of good advice so far. This exercise is a staple of my lower body work; my main tip is not to chase numbers at the expense of good form. Even if you’re pretty strong, if you’re controlling/slowing the eccentric phase, keeping constant tension throughout, not bouncing out of the hole, not putting loads of force through the ‘resting’ leg etc. then you really don’t need much weight at all to totally destroy yourself.

Split squats are not a lift where you should chase numbers in any case

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Why not? I ran a pretty long strength cycle for them last year when hip issues prevented me from squatting. Got up to 225 lb for 6 doubles. There’s nothing inherently dangerous about the movement relative to any other that should prevent you from getting stronger on that movement pattern.

It just seems pointless, nobody is ever going to care how much you can split squat, Bulgarian or otherwise. It’s like going for a side raise world record.

To each his own, but I don’t think I’ve used what other people care about as a metric for choosing what to do in the gym for at least 10 years haha. Pretty sure I’d only train bench and biceps curls if that were the case.

A side raise? C’mon dude. That’s a single joint exercise primarily using just the medial delts. A Bulgarian split squat is a compound movement engaging all the same muscles as a squat (albeit in a different way due to unilateral stance that challenges balance), and it’s only one degree of freedom less complex since it’s confined to the sagittal plane. Not to mention, its carryover to sprinting and jumping make it a solid strength movement for professional athletes.


Ok, but the question is why are you doing split squats in the first place? If it’s to build muscle then there is no need to chase big numbers, and if it’s to get stronger for some other movement then there is going to be a point where pushing it further isn’t worth it. Chasing numbers on something like that just for the sake of having a massive split squat seems extremely stupid.

I agree with some of what you’re saying–there may be a point of no return. Increasing your split squat from 100 lb to say 250 lb may have a pretty dramatic effect on your jump if you’re a pole vaulter, for example. But maybe going up to 300 lb will stop having any extra carryover. (Just making up these numbers hypothetically as an example.) But I’m not so sure that’s always the case. Oly lifters always include squatting in their programming several days a week even though neither of their two main lifts directly incorporates a back squat. Moreover, every oly guy I know has long periods where increasing their 1RM back squat and front squat is a priority and training the snatch and c&j take a backseat. So when it has such stronger carryover, yeah…it’s sometimes worth it! And tell me improving your 1RM on an overhead split squat will not consistently carryover to a stronger split jerk.

Can’t your point be applied to any lift? Why chase big numbers on squat? Deadlift? Bench? What if you don’t compete in PLing? It’s somewhat arbitrary what we choose to make our primary max effort lift. As long as you’re hitting all the core movement patterns, who cares?

Yeah but usually they stop pushing their squat once it’s strong enough. I remember an article about Vasily Alexeyev, he was saying that the other top guy back then who could never beat him was squatting quite a bit more than him but couldn’t match him on the comp lifts.

Because powerlifting is a sport.

Then maybe there is no point in chasing numbers, unless you have a reason to do so. If you aren’t trying to compete in anything then just trying to be relatively strong and in good shape should be good enough.

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