Bulgarian Split Squat Balance – Garage Strength

Bulgarian Split Squat Balance

The strength and conditioning space is ripe with disagreements. There are the functional gurus proselytizing asymmetrical loadings for unrivaled core stability to develop that good’ole dynamic trunk control. There are the powerlifting pure breeds who will wager their house, 401k, every source of equity, and their first born child on not performing Olympic lifts–that all you need is to squat (only to parallel) and bench. And doing so, athletes will be plenty well served in their transfer of training.

No need to ever perform the Bulgarian Split Squat according to one, and no reason to ever perform the Bulgarian Split Squat under load for the other.

Neither one is completely right. There is a balance that needs to first serve the athlete’s chosen realm of competition. Second, the programming and exercise selection needs to improve the athlete’s lagging areas. Third, the most effective way to do this is blending and hybridization of not only functional movements and powerlifting movements, but using Olympic weightlifting movements and bodybuilding movements as well.

Strength And Conditioning

In many cases, powerlifting movements, namely the squat, bench press, and their variations, are used to develop raw strength. At Garage Strength we refer to these lifts as absolute strength exercises, tigantic movements that develop raw strength that is needed in sporting events and can be found in our app, Peak Strength. Particularly sporting events where there is the pushing and pulling of an opponent involved.

Along with competitive play in sports involving an opponent that more often than not is in direct defiance of what your athlete is trying to accomplish, there is also the open skilled nature of athletics in general. Meaning that when an athlete is playing football, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, or wrestling, there is an undetermined set of movements that can sporadically take place. This is what we call chaos coordination at Garage Strength.


In open skill sports (think basketball, football, or soccer, as opposed to close skill sports like sprinting, discus, or weightlifting), an opponent can create the demand for an off the cuff juke or level change. Within the parameters of the game, athletes have a certain freedom of creativity that they showcase kinesthetically.

Ever see a folkstyle wrestling scramble and wonder how the athlete ended up with the takedown? Or, you ever see a running back stumble after breaking a tackle, instantly making a jump cut, and somehow be in the open field turning the afterburners on to sprint to the endzone? Maybe even watching the dribbling heroics of a professional basketball player before adroitly stepping back to launch a three point for buckets?  

One thing that almost all of these athletic movements have in common is the need for balance and stability in a unilateral position.

The second thing that almost all of these athletic movements have in common is the need for unilateral strength in an absolute manner.

Enter the Bulgarian Split Squat.

Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian Split Squat is the common name for a single leg squat. This needs to stop. It is a single leg squat. Case closed. The Bulgarian weightlifting team did not do single leg squats. They took tremendous amounts of steroids, maxed out incessantly, and the system left athletes broken and butchered.

All that said, the idea around the Bulgarian Split Squat (um-hum, single leg squat) of standing with one leg perched and elevated on a bench and the other leg forward so that an athlete can squat unilaterally is an incredible concept.

The Benefits


The single leg squat (previously referred to as the Bulgarian Split Squat) does a few things great that athletes are able to benefit from tremendously. To begin, the ability to place load in a unilateral position is advantageous for developing raw, absolute strength.

Being that nearly all field sports in their open field demands have athletes in unilateral positions consistently throughout competitive play, it serves athletes well to be strong in such a position.

Muscle Development

The single leg squat, being that it is a unilateral movement (done on a single limb, in this case squatting with one leg), helps isolate specific musculature.

Through use of the single leg squat, athletes will find that the muscles targeted are heavily weighted towards the posterior chain–the glutes and hamstrings get worked when executing a single leg squat.


The bodybuilding world has taught us the extreme benefits of isolation movements, machines, and partial range of motion for muscular development.

As the single leg squat is a unilateral exercise, it is exceptional for sculpting muscular symmetry and combating imbalances.

It is near impossible to escape a dominant side of the body. Ambidextrous athletes do exist. But it is rare to see athletes who throw a baseball as fast with their one arm as they do with their other arm. And it is similarly rare to see athletes who leap off their one leg as high as they do off their other leg.

In straight forward terms, and in a manner everyone can test, brush your teeth with the hand you typically don’t use. How does it feel? Natural? Easy? Or does it feel more difficult? Odd? Slightly off putting?

Accepting that imbalances will exist, it is still pivotal to train both limbs in unilateral positions to help come as close to absolute symmetry as possible.


Watching a football athlete tiptoe down the sidelines, a wrestler remain neutral hopping on one leg while their opponent has their other leg extended in the air, or witnessing a basketball athlete decelerate, accelerate, take a pen-ultimate step to prep for the leap into a dunk all understand the importance of balance in open skill athletics.

The single leg squat’s most demanding attribute is the kinesthetic awareness the body must have around balance to perform the movement effectively.

Normal, loaded squatting in a bilateral position is tough as it is. Putting any weight on your back is a laborious task in and of itself. Willfully lowering the body and standing back up with a load on your back tougher. It gets even more daunting when weights start matching, doubling, or even tripling athletes’ body weights.

Athletes will often say concerning single leg squats, “It isn’t the weight, it’s my balance that is keeping me from performing the lift.” That, there, is the problem in and of itself!

Technology And Safety

Out of convenience, the single leg squat has almost exclusively been performed using a bench to support the rear leg by an overwhelming swath of the fitness population.

Where it is convenient and a last resort tool that can work, albeit with an inability to seriously load the movement or have it done with any level of comfort from such a precarious position.

The bench does not afford a solid method for the rear foot to be comfortable. Said discomfort disrupts the eccentric portion of the movement. Additionally, the typical height of a bench, 17”, is relatively too high for the typical human’s tibia and fibula.

Single Leg Squat Stand

Technology exists for a reason. Tech makes life easier, safer, and allows for greater work to be done.

Equipment advances, also known as technological advances, are responsible for many of the evolutions in strength and conditioning development. Take the squat stand for instance.

There was a time in history where squat stands didn’t exist. For an athlete to get a barbell on their back they had to do what is historically known as a Steinborn Squat–essentially a side bend to get a bar that stood perpendicular on the ground to then on the lifter’s back. Pretty insane and pretty incredible at the same time. Athletic for sure.

Thankfully the squat stand was invented. Along with plates that bounce, bars that whip and rotate, and a myriad of other equipment developments that have allowed strength and conditioning to advance for greater athletic development.

Enter the single leg squat stand!

The single leg squat stand does a lot to benefit athletes in the strength and conditioning world to improve their athletic performance.

Greater Balance

Because the single leg squat stand is shaped in a cylinder fashion, it is an ideal fit for the ankle crease. The ankle fitting in the roller creates a more natural position for the elevated rear leg to contribute to balance.

Greater Range Of Motion

Because the single leg squat stand’s height comes in the neighborhood of 16.5”, it creates a more conducive range of motion when squatting unilaterally with the front leg.

Think of the couch stretch. The stretch does work. Now imagine performing the couch stretch and your foot having to be artificially elevated. Similar to performing a single squat with the rear foot hoisted on a bench. Not ideal.

Greater Load Capability

As a result of using the technology of a single leg squat stand to perform single leg squat, athletes are then able to use greater loads. As the powerlifting world has taught all of us, greater loads allow for greater strength development.

Essentially what this means is that performing the single leg squat with a single leg squat stand will allow athletes to further advance their unilateral strength in the lower limbs to a greater capacity using resistance based training in the strength and conditioning environment of athletic development.  

Developing Balance In The Single Leg Squat (Bulgarian Split Squat)

Developing balance in the single leg squat, AKA the Bulgarian Split Squat, is a trial in patience.

Before an athlete can ever develop a greater unilateral strength using the single leg squat, they need to first ingrain the movement pattern. Hopefully they are using the safest, most technologically advanced implements (the single leg squat stand) to do so as well.

With that in place, let’s look at variations of the single leg squat, formerly known as the Bulgarian Split Squat, that can be used to enhance unilateral balance.


Bodyweight Single Leg Squat

When performing the single leg squat, athletes should start with their weaker leg. Single leg squats are a demanding exercise and, as load is eventually added, can be quite intimidating and carry even more neurological demands.

With the rear leg elevated, athletes lower their knee until making contact with the foam balance pad.

The foam balance pad is there to protect the knees and serve as a tactile cue of full range of motion being achieved. Its greatest contribution to the performance of the single leg squat is for allowing the greatest range of motion in the safest manner under the circumstances.

The bodyweight single leg squat is performed with no load. It is designed to create familiarity with the movement pattern and begin the kinesthetic patterning to eventually execute the exercise with load.

Dumbbell Farmer’s Carry Single Leg Squat

Typically the first manner in which the single leg squat is performed under load is by holding a dumbbell in each hand.

The movement is performed exactly like the bodyweight version, except athletes now hold weight in their hands.

The weight in the farmer’s carry position will create an added intensity through load, but will also put greater demand on the body’s abs which will help develop core stability and dynamic trunk control.

Core stability and dynamic trunk control are pivotal components to improving balance in the single leg squat. The improved balance in the unilateral position has great transfer of training for athletes.

Plate Overhead Single Leg Squat

The plate overhead single leg squat does not allow for as much loading as the dumbbell farmer’s carry single leg squat, but it does serve as a great variation for targeted balance improvement.

With the plate extended overhead, the single leg squat is performed in the same manner as the bodyweight single leg squat. The plate overhead puts an emphasis on thoracic mobility, while simultaneously putting the arms in a unique position that places greater demand on the core, abs, and trunk to create more dynamic trunk control for stability and balance.

An advanced version of this movement can be performed with a jump.

Barbell Loaded Single Leg Squat 

This is really the bread and butter of Garage Strength. When we say single leg squat, this is what we mean–a barbell loaded with weight and an athlete performing a single leg squat.

The loaded barbell is where the absolute strength and raw power finds its greatest development.

The single leg squat performed with a barbell loaded on the back not only allows the greatest load to be used, but because of the higher intensity of weight, places even greater demands on the abs and core to see some of the greatest development in dynamic trunk control.

The barbell loaded and placed on the back in a unilateral position also accentuates the need for the front leg to balance.

Balancing in the front leg requires spreading the toes and grounding the foot. The tendency when the weight gets relatively heavy is for athletes to push forward. Athletes need to drive the squatting leg into the ground and push through the surge of power the hamstring produces.

Where the back squat version of the barbell loaded single leg squat is freakin’ awesome, it isn’t the only way to load the barbell.

Safety Squat Bar Single Leg Squat

The beauty of using a safety squat bar to perform the single leg squat is that it does wonders for improving balance in the unilateral position under load.

Because the safety squat bar sits higher on the back, the athlete feels greater demand on the abs and core to execute greater dynamic trunk control. The stability created through the core feeds into enhancing an athlete’s balance.

Front Squat Single Leg Squat

Maybe the most single leg squat variation of them all, the front squat single leg squat is the creme-de-la-creme of abdominal and core stabilization development. The dynamic trunk control developed and demanded of the front loaded single leg squat is space shuttle levels of necessity.

Through the enhanced demands of dynamic trunk control brought about by the front squat position, athletes will find that when they return to the back squat single leg squat, that their balance has greatly improved.

The recommendation when first performing the front squat version of the single leg squat is to start no higher than 60% of the athlete’s max back loaded single leg squat.


The single leg squat is an advanced movement that benefits greatly from modern technology to perform the exercise in the safest capacity with the greatest loads and is programmed often within the Peak Strength App, a phenomenal tool for athletic training and development.

The need for balance in unilateral positions is crucial for amplifying athletic capacity in strength and conditioning trainees. Gradually add load in Peak Strength App in a measured, nuanced periodization programming insert variations of the movement to strengthen the core and abs, improve stability, and ensure greater balance in the movement for the best transfer of training to competitive sport.

Individualized Training App

Get elite level strength programming with


Blog Topics

Yo, It's Dane

Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!

Start Training With Me

Join for free educational videos EVERY WEEK on strength coaching and athletic performance

Previous PostNext Post

Leave a comment

Name .
Message .

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published