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How to Split Squat: Variations, Proper Form, Techniques

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The split squat is a highly effective lower body exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core. Mastering the split squat requires a combination of proper form, technique, and understanding of the various variations. Whether you are an athlete, a fitness enthusiast, or someone looking to improve overall strength and stability, mastering the split squat will be a game-changer in your training routine. 

By incorporating split squats into your training routine, you can enhance body strength, stability, and overall athletic performance. Here’s everything you need to know!

Understanding the Split Squat Form and Split Squat Benefits

Definition, Muscles Targeted and Benefits

Split squats are a highly effective lower body exercise that targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core. In this exercise, the individual assumes a split stance, with one foot positioned in front and the other positioned behind. The front leg carries most of the load, while the back leg provides stability. As a unilateral exercise, split squats isolate each leg individually, allowing for better muscle activation and addressing any muscle imbalances.

Benefits: Split squats offer numerous benefits for individuals looking to improve their bottom body strength and overall fitness. Firstly, they are exceptional for quadriceps development, as the front leg takes on the majority of the load, leading to increased muscle activation and growth in the quads. Additionally, split squats contribute to unilateral strength by addressing any imbalances between the legs and enhancing stability and balance through the engagement of the core and stabilising muscles. 

By engaging the glutes and hip stabilisers, split squats promote optimal hip function and mobility, which can be beneficial for athletes and individuals in their daily activities. Incorporating split squats into a well-rounded fitness routine can yield remarkable results in terms of strength, muscle development, and functional movement.

How do Split Squats Differ from Lunges?

Split squats and lunges are often mentioned in the same breath when discussing lower body exercises, but they do have distinct differences. While both exercises target the bottom body muscles, there are key differentiating factors.

  • Split squats, as a unilateral exercise, focus on one leg at a time, whereas lunges involve alternating between legs during each repetition. In split squats, the emphasis is on the front leg, which carries most of the load, while the back leg provides stability. This unilateral nature of split squats allows for better muscle activation and the opportunity to address any muscle imbalances.
  • Another difference lies in the range of motion. Split squat exercises typically involve a more controlled and limited range of motion compared to lunges. This can be advantageous for individuals with mobility limitations or those who prefer to focus on stability and muscle engagement.
  • Furthermore, split squats place a greater emphasis on keeping your core engaged throughout the exercise. This helps maintain stability and proper alignment, ensuring optimal muscle activation and reducing the risk of injury.

At PTSPOT, our team of experienced physical therapists is right here to help you maximise the benefits of split squats and lunges while ensuring right form and minimising the risk of injury. Take the next step towards achieving your fitness goals by scheduling a session with one of our knowledgeable physical therapists today!

Split Squat Variations: Lower body exercises

Incorporating different split squat variations into your lower body workouts can provide increased challenge, target specific muscle groups, and enhance overall strength and stability. Remember to maintain the right form, engage your core, and gradually progress in intensity. Consult with a fitness professional or personal trainer to ensure proper execution and to tailor the exercises to your specific needs and goals.

Standard Split Squat:

The standard split squat serves as the foundation for all split squat variations. In this exercise, you maintain a static position with one foot in front and the other behind. The front leg takes on most of the workload, targeting the quadriceps, while the back leg provides stability and engages the glutes and hamstrings. This variation is excellent for beginners or those looking to establish the right form and technique before progressing to more challenging variations.

Standard Split Squat

Correct Form and Technique:

  • Begin by standing in a split stance with one foot positioned in the front and the other foot positioned behind.
  • Keep your chest lifted, shoulders back, and core engaged throughout the exercise.
  • Lower your body by bending both knees, ensuring the front of the knee tracks over the heel and the back of the knee descends toward the ground without touching.
  • Aim to create a 90-degree angle with both knees, with the front thigh parallel to the ground.
  • Push through the heel of the front foot to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat the movement for the desired number of reps before switching legs.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Allowing the front part of the knee to extend past the toes.
  • Collapsing chest and rounding the back.
  • Lifting the back heel off the ground.

Tips for Beginners:

  • Start with body weight to focus on form.
  • Use a support (wall, chair) for balance if needed.
  • Gradually add weight to increase intensity.

Advanced Techniques for Experienced Lifters:

  • Try barbell split squats for added resistance.
  • Incorporate plyometric split squats for power and explosiveness.
  • Use single-leg split squats for increased difficulty and balance challenges.

Whether you are a fitness enthusiast or an athlete looking to enhance your performance, it’s important to work with a qualified professional who can guide you through these exercises and tailor them to your specific needs! Explore and connect with Personal Trainers and nutritional experts at PTSPOT!

Stationary Split Squat

Similar to the standard split squat, the stationary split squat involves maintaining a static position throughout the exercise. This variation allows for a controlled and focused movement, emphasising proper alignment, stability, and muscle engagement. By keeping your core engaged and maintaining an upright posture, you can maximise the benefits for your bottom body muscles, particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

Stationary Split Squat

Correct Form and Technique:

  • Begin in a split stance with one foot in front and the other foot behind, maintaining a static position throughout the exercise.
  • Keep your core engaged, chest lifted, and shoulders back.
  • Lower your body by bending both knees, ensuring the front of the knee tracks over the heel and the back of the knee descends toward the ground without touching.
  • Maintain an upright posture and aim for a 90-degree angle at both knees.
  • Push through the front heel to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions before switching legs.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Allowing the front of the knee to extend beyond the toes.
  • Collapsing chest and rounding back.
  • Neglecting to engage the core for stability.

Tips for Beginners:

  • Start with body weight to focus on form.
  • Pay attention to foot placement for stability.
  • Gradually add weight as you progress.

Advanced Techniques for Experienced Lifters:

  • Increase intensity with additional weight (dumbbells, barbells).
  • Include bilateral movements for a greater challenge.
  • Experiment with tempo variations for muscle control.

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Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat takes the basic split squat to a new level by elevating the back foot on a bench or step. This variation increases the range of motion and places more emphasis on the front leg, particularly the quadriceps. It also engages the glutes, hamstrings, and core for added stability. The Bulgarian split squat is an excellent choice for individuals looking to build strength and muscle in the bottom body.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Correct Form and Technique:

  • Position yourself with one foot forward, and the other foot elevated on a bench or step behind you.
  • Keep your chest lifted, shoulders back, and core engaged throughout the exercise.
  • Lower your body by bending the front knee, ensuring it tracks over the heel and the back knee descends toward the floor without touching.
  • Aim for a 90-degree angle at the front knee while maintaining an upright posture.
  • Push through the front heel to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions before switching legs.

Common  Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Allowing the front of the knee to extend beyond the toes.
  • Collapsing chest and rounding back.
  • Touching the back of the knee to the floor.

Tips for Beginners:

  • Start with body weight only, focusing on form.
  • Use a comfortable height for the bench or step.
  • Gradually increase intensity as you progress.

Advanced Techniques for Experienced Lifters:

  • Incorporate dumbbells for added resistance.
  • Experiment with tempo variations for muscle control.
  • Focus on engaging the working leg muscles throughout.

Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat

In the rear foot elevated split squat, the back foot is elevated on a bench or platform, allowing for a deeper range of motion. This variation primarily targets the front leg’s quadriceps but also engages the glutes and hamstrings. By increasing the stretch and demand on the muscles, the rear-foot elevated split squat is an effective choice for building strength and improving mobility.

Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat

Correct Form and Technique:

  • Position one foot forward and the other foot elevated on a bench or platform behind you.
  • Keep your chest lifted, shoulders back, and core engaged throughout the exercise.
  • Lower your body by bending the front part of the knee, ensuring it tracks over the heel and the back knee descends toward the floor without touching.
  • Aim for a 90-degree angle at the front knee while maintaining an upright posture.
  • Push through the front heel to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions before switching legs.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Allowing the front of the knee to extend beyond the toes.
  • Collapsing chest and rounding back.
  • Lifting the back foot or losing balance.

Tips for Beginners:

  • Start with body weight only, focusing on form.
  • Choose a comfortable height for the bench or platform.
  • Engage the core for stability throughout the exercise.

Advanced Techniques for Experienced Lifters:

  • Incorporate dumbbells or kettlebells for added resistance.
  • Explore variations like deficit rear-foot elevated split squats or plyometric movements.
  • Maintain a stable foot position on the bench or platform.

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Walking Split Squat

The walking split squat adds a dynamic element to the exercise. Instead of staying in one spot, you perform split squats while moving forward or in a designated area. This variation challenges balance, coordination, and stability while still targeting the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Incorporating weighted implements such as dumbbells or kettlebells can further intensify the exercise and increase overall muscle engagement.

Walking Split Squat

Correct Form and Technique:

  • Use weighted implements for increased resistance.
  • Focus on maintaining proper form and mind-muscle connection.
  • Increase intensity by incorporating longer strides or adding more weight.

Frequent Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Extending the front of the knee beyond the toes.
  • Collapsing chest and rounding back.
  • Losing balance or rushing the movement.

Tips for Beginners:

  • Begin with bodyweight to focus on form and coordination.
  • Start with shorter strides and gradually increase distance.
  • Choose a clear and spacious area for walking split squats.

Advanced Techniques for Experienced Lifters:

  • Use weighted implements for increased resistance.
  • Focus on maintaining proper body posture and mind-muscle connection.
  • Increase intensity by incorporating longer strides or adding more weight.

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Isometric Split squat

The isometric split squat instructions involve holding the bottom position of the split squat for an extended period. This variation increases time under tension, challenging muscular endurance and promoting strength gains. It is particularly beneficial for individuals looking to improve stability and control in the bottom body.

Isometric Split squat

Correct Form and Technique:

  • Start in a split stance with one foot forward and the other foot back.
  • Lower your body by bending both knees until the front thigh is parallel to the ground.
  • Hold this position isometrically for the desired duration.
  • Maintain proper alignment, with the front knee tracking over the toes and the back knee hovering above the ground.
  • Keep the chest lifted, shoulders back, and core engaged throughout the exercise.

Frequent Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Allowing the front part of the knee to extend beyond the toes or collapsing inward.
  • Rounding the back or losing proper posture.
  • Resting the back knee on the ground during the hold.

Tips for Beginners:

  • Begin with a comfortable duration and gradually increase over time.
  • Focus on maintaining form and stability.
  • Use a mirror or seek guidance to ensure proper alignment.

Advanced Techniques for Experienced Lifters:

  • Add resistance, such as dumbbells or a weighted vest.
  • Explore variations like an elevated front foot or deficit split squats.
  • Experiment with different hold durations.

Several Muscle Groups Targeted with Proper Form!

Squats, when performed with proper form, effectively target multiple muscle groups including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core. Incorporating the above exercises into your training routine can provide a well-rounded lower-body workout that targets various muscle parts and promotes strength, stability, and balance.  

Busy schedule making it hard to fit in physical therapy? PTSPOT brings therapy to you, on your time. Schedule sessions that work with your lifestyle! Our experienced physical therapists will guide you every step of the way, helping you achieve your health and wellness goals.

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