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.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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