Exercises You Should Be Doing: Goblet Bulgarian Split Squat

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Note:  Goddammit!!!!!!!!  My bad everyone. I know filming “vertical” videos is a big no-no on the interwebz and is about as convenient as watching a whale give birth, but you’ll have to forgive me as it’s a video that I filmed last night and it’s the only one I took.

At some point I’ll eventually learn how to use my iTouch correctly. Until then you’re just going to have to suck it up a deal I’m afraid…..;o)


Ask any coach who’s been in the game for a while whether or not he or she feels single leg training is kind of important, they’ll inevitably give you “the look” as if to say, is the Pope catholic?  Does a bear shit in the woods?  Does David Hasselhoff like alcohol?

You get the idea.

At the expense of preaching to the choir – as I know a vast majority of people who continually read this site are uber intelligent, not to mention painfully good looking – single leg training serves a plethora of benefits.  Including but not limited to:

– Helps ascertain whether or not there’s an imbalance between one leg or the other.

– Helps improve athletic (and life) performance – there aren’t many sports we play or things we do in everyday life that don’t require us to stand, run, leap, walk, jump, etc on one leg.

– Helps improve hip stability and overall lumbo-pelvic-hip function.  Single leg training targets what’s known as the lateral sub-system (glute medius & adductor complex on one leg, and the quadratus lumborum on the opposite leg).

– Makes people of the opposite sex want to hang out with you.

– Helps improve single-leg strength, which in turn, almost always translates to increased strength in the bigger, more popular lifts like squats and deadlifts.

– Helps reduce axial loading and gives the spine a bit of a break from the grind of constantly lifting heavy stuff.

– Furthermore, single leg training helps to fix or alleviate many of the issues that cause chronic knee, lower back, and hip pain (which reverts back to the whole lateral sub-system thing noted above).

Honestly, the list could go on and on, and like I said, I don’t want to seem like I’m preaching to the choir.

Today with Halloween right around the corner, I want to do my best Ben Bruno** impersonation and showcase a cool single leg exercise that I’ve grown to really love and appreciate.

Goblet Bulgarian Split Squats

Who Did I Steal It From – I guess technically, the one and only Dan John.  Since he’s the one who invented the Goblet Squat, I can’t have the word “goblet” in the name of an exercise without giving credit to him.

Likewise, I don’t even know why the Bulgarians get credit for the the “bulgarian split squat.”  I mean come on:  are we REALLY supposed to believe that no else in the history of the world ever thought of this concept?  It took some random Bulgarian to put two and two together?

I digress.

What Does It Do: Along with all the benefits mentioned above, I love this variation for two reasons.

1.  By holding the dumbbell in a Goblet fashion, there’s a (more) significant anti-flexion component to the exercise, and as such, it will encourage people into more thoracic extension, which is generally never a bad thing considering most people are a walking ball of flexion in the first place.

2.  In a sense, because the load is more anterior (and you’re not placing a barbell directly on your spine) you could make a case that there’s less compressive spinal loading. If that’s something that concerns you, this may be a more viable option.

Key Coaching Cues: I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.  A few things, however:

1. Try to keep the knee of the standing leg in line with your second toe as you perform the exercise.  Many trainees tend to allow their knee to cave in during split squat variations (or any squat variation for that matter), and it’s important that you don’t allow this to happen.

2.  From a comfort standpoint – some may find it more prudent to place a half foam roller or maybe even a rolled up towel on top of the bench so that their foot stays in place or so they don’t crush their toes.

3.  From a mental cue standpoint, try to think to yourself, “chest up,” “chin tucked,” and to sit back and drive THROUGH THE HEEL!!!!!

In other words:  don’t lean forward, stay as upright as possible, and try to prevent your weight from shifting into your forefoot while performing your reps. The brunt of your weight should be in your heel.

4.  Also, try to squeeze the glute of the trailing leg throughout.

5.  I generally prefer people perform 6-10 repetitions on one leg, rest for 20-30s, and then finish off their set by completing the same number on the opposite.

Try it out today and let me know what you think!

** = Just in case someone blows their gasket and thinks I’m throwing Ben under the bus, I understand that he trains bilateral movements too.  In fact, he and I train together every now and then, and I’ve seen him do it.  Sooo, deep breaths.  Relax. Everything will be okay.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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  • Ray

    These are going to suck. Which means they’ll be awesome…but still suck. And, Bulgarian Split Squat just sounds cooler than, say, a French Split Squat, which actually sounds kind of dirty.

    • TonyGentilcore

      That’s actually a good point….;o)

  • Trevor

    You are a wizard, I have been doing these for maybe a month tops, they are killer! What are your thoughts on kb rack position Bulgarians and an alternative?

    • TonyGentilcore

      Racked position is cool, too! Go for it!

      • KB rack position FTW. In addition to the anti-flexion you get from the goblet hold, you also get some anti lateral flexion as well….and if you go heavy it is significant. I find the heavy single bell rack position, or single arm farmer hold to really be a nice addition to this drill. I’ll often do 4 sets, one for each possible lead foot/hand combo (left leg forward holds right/left farmer & right/left rack). Most people additionally feel a fairly significant “core” workout doing it in this fashion.

        • TonyGentilcore

          Indeed – racked holds are a bitch!!!! Thanks for chiming on Clifton!

  • R. Smith

    Tony, I programmed these in as a B1 for Day 2 of your (modified) Strong & Ripped program last month, and I loved ’em. My ass has other thoughts. The anti-flexion element felt good, and I cannot get too much thoracic extension. Not sure about you, but I noticed that having folks do these as opposed to holding dumbbells at their sides seems to clean up some of the excessive leaning. I use the cue from Assess & Correct, in that I have folks think up and down, not bend forward and go back. Placing a hand over their head and telling them to reach it on the ascent helps mightily.


  • The Bulgarian claim has always baffled me as well! 🙂

    • TonyGentilcore

      HA! I’m not the only one!!!!

  • Ben Bruno

    Great exercise! Your arms are way too huge to impersonate me though. I feel like a wuss now.

    • TonyGentilcore

      HA! Well, you also pulled 600 lbs for a triple not too long ago, soooooooo, um, yeah. Who’s the wuss now? *me*

  • sandiegopete

    Awesome exercise. Been doing split-squats for a few years now – inspired by your fellow Bostonian Mike-something-or-other. Will add the goblet variation. This exercise is great for training at home with limited equipment and the john basedow just aren’t doing it anymore

    • TonyGentilcore

      Wow, I haven’t heard Basedow’s name in a while. Well played!

  • Bill

    I feel like that terrible Nelly Furtado song is playing in the background of way too many of your videos for you to really be the purported techno fan you are.

  • Nick

    Technically, to use an engineering term, the weight only has one “load path” to the ground, which is through your spine, to your pelvis and then down the legs unless it isn’t somehow supported above the pelvis. The arms just hang on to it, but the load has to push down on something that connects to the legs. I’d say the main limiting factor of spinal compression is that no human can goblet hold a freakin’ back squat load, especially in split squat stance.

    Just something that crossed my mind.

    • TonyGentilcore

      hahahahahaha. Yes, I understand that there IS compressive loading on this exercise. I didn’t mean to imply that there wasn’t (which I don’t think I did anyways). All I alluded to was that there was less compared to a barbell – which as you noted, most wouldn’t even be able to come close to the same loading.

    • josh mcgowenski

      You haven’t met or viewed Matt Hastie. He’s not human, more like Super human.

  • DAN Sheppard

    I agree with your bit about bulgarian and this awesome exercise. i came to the conclusion is the first person who ever gave that name to this exercise when training his athlete or client in the US did so because he was smarter than everyone else and knew how valuable this exercise and its variations are since in the 80s and 90s and even today to some extent no one used sleg exercises and if they did they would be looked at and made fun of whether athlete or gym rat and def bodybuilders. bodybuilding training compromised a good portion of everyone’s training back then here in us. even athletes workouts back in the day. so actually bulgarian probably was originally added in with good intentions in the hope it would convince his or her client he wasn’t off his rocker and immediately dismiss him as a great strength coach or trainer. even though we all know better now. whenever we heard the word russian or bulgarian before we all know or knew what we all know now we would think of some huge strong athletic beasts being trained since birth with some secret methods and exercises after all the eastern block countries did dominate many events in the olympics in those days steroids or not. so thats my take.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Wow, thanks for that Dan! Awesome history lesson!

  • DAN Sheppard

    many aspects of training were just learning to accept as truth and become accepted in mainstream in every aspect of training they had learned long ago. through monitoring and critiquing every aspect of their athletes training before the eastern bloc broke.

  • Whitney

    These are one of my favorite exercises for my athletes. I notice in the video you have your foot lying on the bench. What about having the foot flexed with the toes only on the bench? Some of my athletes seem to like this better when they have crap ankle mobility (although I would like them to perform them the way you perform them in the video). Any thoughts? Thanks for the great post!

    • TonyGentilcore

      That’s fine too. Whatever is comfortable.

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  • Joe

    Magnifico article. The bear-shit-woods bit just killed me. Thanks for the useful info – I’d never thought of Gobletting the Bulgarian Split Squat (I’m writing that self-consciously) – and I’m going to work it into my routine. I’ll definitely be back here. Peace!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks Joe – glad you liked it! Let me know how it goes and I hope you stick around.

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  • elixer8062

    I love Bulgarian split squats. I workout at home and I do these because they don’t require as much weight as regular squats, they’re safer and they use less space. No need to spend money and floor space on a power rack.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Glad to liked the exercise elixer!

  • pernicious kitten

    im just curious how you could give credit to the invention of the goblet squat to one man. ive never heard of dan john or goblet squats until the past week, yet ive been doing “goblet squats” for years. its a natural progression that one can assume by using kettlebells regularly and consistently.

    • TonyGentilcore

      I don’t “really” think Dan John invented the Goblet Squat, but he is the person I “learned” them from so I give him credit.

      • pernicious kitten

        i can accept that answer, makes sense. aside from my minor point of contention i can say i like your website. information is clear and concise from the few articles ive read so i will be reading more in the future.

        • TonyGentilcore

          Thanks Lance – appreciate you taking the time out of your day to check it out and read it.

  • ronellsmith

    Playing with this one for a while now, with the goal of getting 225 for reps w/anterior (barbell) loading. Up around 200 now. Currently I’m using the goblet RFESS using a 100lb. dumbbell, and it feels easy. My gyms uses the bulky, non hexagonal dbs, though, which are awkward as hell and hard to hold.

    A huge benefit to this exercise, beyond those you mention, is it makes you very aware of your adductors the following day. Whew.


  • josh mcgowenski

    Your back leg doesn’t need to be that high on a bench, you’ll apply unnecessary pressure to your spine/disk area, especially the lumber area, and cause severe damage if you utilize a bench. Bill Poliquin, an Olympic trainer for over 400 Olympians, SAFELY recommends that your back leg/foot be ONLY 4″ to 6″ inches off of the floor. His method is safer and more effectively than the aforementioned misque and accident waiting to happen. These should only be performed, maximum, once per week to allow for ample recovery time and to avoid burn out. Our trainer, weighing only 181 lbs., does 370 lbs. one leg bulgarian split squats with a barbell and without a belt, safely, because he knows how to control his breathing and stabilize his muscles. So many novices and so called ‘experts’ online, though. LOL

    • TonyGentilcore

      Boy you really showed me Josh.

      t’s just a video of me demonstrating the exercise. I wasn’t trying to use maximal weight here.

      And yes, you’re right: not everyone needs to use that high of a bench when performing these. Bench height can and should be adjusted.

      In other news: water is wet…..;o)

      • josh mcgowenski

        If you’re going to demonstrate an exercise, then do it correctly and safely, 100%, or not at all. Again, a bench should not be utilized for this crucial and effective exercise, unless you’re a misinformed amateur and desire to destroy your erector spinae muscles, along with applying more ‘unnecessary’ compressive force on your disks. Newsflash, another novice and ‘wanna be’ trainer(pretender) demonstrating an exercise improperly. Poliquin, an Olympian trainer for over 400 Olympians or ToniGentilcorpse? The former supersedes the latter ‘planet fitness’ trainer and disco era ‘disco duck’. In other news: the earth is flat. Alot of misinformation on novice websites by pretenders.

        • TonyGentilcore

          I think we’ll agree to disagree. I’ll admit, given this is an older post, I’d cue things a bit differently now.

          I’d want my ribcage down more and my lumbar not so excessively extended.

          However, I don’t feel I’m causing anyone any irreparable harm with this video. The GOBLET variation isn’t meant to be an “intense” exercise. And, using the bench does allow trainees to gain more of a hip flexor stretch on the supporting leg.

          But you are correct: I WOULD fix anyone who was too extended and I’d address rib position.

          Anyhoo: I’d also like to extend the offer to read my more recent posts. I think you’ll understand that I’m not just some “poser” wanna-be trainer…..;o)

          I actually do know what I’m talking about.

          While it’s easy to judge someone off of ONE post, written several years ago, lets try not to assume anything too soon.

          • josh mcgowenski

            I just blew out my lumbar, discs C-4 & C-5, because of your incorrect video instruction. You will be hearing from my Philadelphia lawyers, via electronic correspondence, in the forthcoming weeks, with superseding and swift litigation proceedings. Yes, they’re the best and they’re of the Hebrew faith. LOL. I’m thumping my chest now! LOL. Check out Matt Hastie on you tube. He’s a freak, all natural, too. His Zeucher lift is insane and unorthodox. Also, watch the aforemention’s Bulgarian split squat of 370 lbs. @ a body weight of 181 lbs. Cheat curls 300 lbs, too. LOL.