You know that one thing that you changed about your fitness program that changed your whole life? Like you realised that veggies don’t totally suck and can actually be pretty yummy. Or that instead of doing abdomen crunches until you’re blue in the face, you found that strength training with good technique was a super intense ‘core’ workout? (and if you didn’t know that earlier, you do now :D)
For me, that game changer was Split Squats. Nine months of progression on this exercise and my legs stronger, I got more powerful when I sprinted, and I totally fit into my shorts better!
What are Split Squats?
As the name suggests, you squat from a ‘split’ stance so that you overload your front leg while your back leg assists with balance. In the picture above, I have over 80% of my bodyweight on my front leg alone. My back leg provides some additional stability, but I push through my front leg alone.
To clarify, these are different from lunges because your legs stay fixed in the same spot. So while lunges are a more dynamic movement, Split Squats are a better tool in terms of building strength alone because it’s safer to load up a Split Squat than a lunge.
Why are they awesome?
Because Unilateral training is the shiiiiz.
Unilateral or one-legged training gets you stronger in a bunch of different ways. It forces your smaller stabiliser muscles to work hard, because you need to balance on one leg as opposed to doing things with both legs pushing equally. And because it forces your body to balance predominantly on one leg, it actually helps build better balance!
Split Squats = stronger glutes = stronger you
Split Squats make the glutes (butt muscles) work. And work hard. Given that these are amongst the strongest muscles in our bodies, it makes sense that stronger glute muscles will make you a stronger system overall.
And here’s the kicker – glutes that function well actually reduce the chances of lower back pain!
Because Split Squats promote fat loss….and/or build some rhino booty!
Combined with some sensible food choices, Split Squats are a great fat burner. They engage the larger muscles in our bodies (glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings) which leads to increased metabolic demands, which in turn leads to a ton of fat burnt off.
And if your goal is to build a booty that has its own pin code, Split Squats can get you there too. They work as a great midway between a total body exercise and an isolated exercise, because they target the glute muscles, while also building total body strength.
Because I like to geek out about exercise science and talk about things like Hip separation and Contralateral connections
Split Squats require one hip to flex (bend) while the other extends (straightens). This is called Hip separation and it’s important because with all the sitting that we do, our hips lose their full range of motion unless we include exercises like these in our daily routine.
Contralateral connections are part of the ‘software’ part of our bodies. Contralateral means opposite sides of our bodies. When you do Split Squats on your left leg, it isn’t just the left side of your body that’s working. Your entire right side needs to get stiff and provide assistance to your left leg.
How do you do them?
I like to start teaching the Split Squat using a bottoms up approach, so we learn the bottom position first.
And here’s how you start the squat from the bottom position,
Once you are confident doing bodyweight Split Squats, you can start loading them up with external weights. But before you do, check that,
- You feel your glutes working on the way up from the squat. Not your lower back, though it’s okay to feel your quadriceps as well.
- You are able to perform 10 reps on each leg without losing balance
Once you get to using weights, I’d recommend starting with a single weight (dumbbell or kettlebell) like this,
And once you get confident using a single weight and you are able to tick off the same requirements as above, you can move on to using two weights, like this,
In case I haven’t made my point already, Split Squats are totally what you should add in to your training program. Do you have any questions about how to do them? Any clarifications? Comments section right below! As always, feedback is welcome.
Go get squatting! 🙂