Barbell Split Squat is a very good exercise which is useful for SPLIT JERKers and PUSH JERKers as well. Of course, PUSH JERKers don't have to perform it so often. It helps to strengthen ligaments of knee joints, helps to work outleg muscles and work on the angles in this position. What to pay attention to:
- position of your trunk should be similar to the working position in JERK from the chest, don't arch your back too much and avoid leaning forward too much;
- press your feet to the floor when extending up, and pull your body and the top of your head up, NOT forward;
- squat depth, move down until the front leg is parallel with the floor;
- downward movement should be done in a lower than average tempo, upward movement can be more active, but only with correct technique.
Split squat is a perfect exercise to build your lower body – both its size and strength. It is widely used in regular fitness programs as a basic tool to develop leg muscles. Apart from that, professional athletes from various sports also perform this exercise to acquire particular skills such as coordination and stability.
What muscles are involved in the split squat?
Split squat exercise targets all lower body muscles. Quads and glutes take the biggest part of the load. Still, hamstrings are partially involved as well as the calves and all core muscles.
In contrast to the regular squats, a split option significantly takes the tension away from the lower back. If you have recently had some injuries or other issues, you will find this exercise both a relief and a great way to tone up your lower body.
Split leg squat also trains muscle control, balance, and stability. Some of its variations are really challenging even for advanced athletes. All in all, this exercise is a universal tool to improve your overall capacity and physique.
Split squat technique and phases
Split squats aren’t easy and quick to learn, especially if you have just started your training path. If you don’t manage to grasp its technique at once, don’t get upset, just give yourself some time to feel all the mechanics.
Here is a detailed guide on how to do split squat properly.
We will have a look at split squats with bar so, first of all, take the bar from the racks holding it on the back. The grip should be comfortable for you – usually, putting your hands slightly wider than the shoulder width feels the best.
The feet should be hip-width apart. Take a wide step forward and look in front of you. The heel of the back leg must be up and the center of gravity should be just in the middle.
Before performing split squats, find your proper leg position by tweaking their width and trying out different options without any weight. It will help you get the idea of how wide apart you should put the legs.
Start descending slowly and controllably. While doing that, lean the torso forward just a little bit. It should be in a natural position – neither strictly vertical nor bent forward. Keep your chest open.
Go down till you slightly touch the ground with your knee. Never bump it into the surface as it may hurt your joint badly. If you have any knee issues, shorten the range of motion. My coach has always told us to keep the distance between the knee and the floor so that a fist can fit there.
The main point is that the angles in your legs must be 90°. The front knee should go slightly forward, but remember not to lean it farther than the toe.
While descending, try to focus on the front leg: its glutes and quads. If you feel too much tension in the back leg, you may have stepped too far forward.
When you have reached the bottom point, whether it is the floor or slightly higher, start pushing your front leg into the surface. Feel the tension in your glutes and quads, keep your core tight, and don’t lean forward.
If you can’t firmly maintain such a position, decrease the weight or train with a PVC pipe until you feel confident enough in this movement.
Don’t lock out your knees at the top, keep them soft and start another rep. Finish with the first leg and then perform all the same with the second one.
Novice athletes tend to do the same mistakes while doing split squats. They are usually easy to avoid if you keep them in mind and control the movement. Here are the most common ones:
- Too wide step
Remember that your knee angles must be 90°. If they aren’t, the load distribution fails and you can’t involve the target muscles properly. In this case, you are most likely to direct a lot of effort to the back leg. By the way, having it sore after a set is a very common mistake.
2. Too narrow step
If the distance between your legs isn’t sufficient, you are very likely to drive your front knee too far forward. Instead, the lean must be natural, not farther than the toe. This mistake is especially dangerous for your joints.
3. Wrong back position
Your back must be neutral – no bending forward or backward. The most optimal position is a very slight lean forward that involves your glutes effectively. Still, if you want to focus on your quads, keep your back more vertical.
4. Knee bumping
Athletes often rush while doing split squats and bump their knees hard into the floor. It is extremely harmful to your joints, though. The movement must be all slow and controllable. At the bottom, just slightly touch the surface or don’t reach it at all if you have any knee issues.
5. Feet in line
The starting position demands the hip-width stance and you should move your legs apart at the same distance. Don’t put them in line with each other or it will become almost impossible to keep the balance.
Split squat variations
There are some barbell split squat variations with slightly different positions. The aim of every option is to shift the load to a particular muscle. Apart from that, you can use different equipment, for example, dumbbells or kettlebells.
Here you will find the most basic and common variations.
- Dumbbell split squats
Split squats with dumbbells are a good option for beginners. They allow you to start with a lighter weight before you are ready to work with a barbell. Moreover, the mechanics of this variation is more natural and easier to learn. It is less challenging in terms of balance and stability either.
2. Forward lunges
Split squats and lunges may seem to be the same, but there is one significant difference between them. The first exercise is performed with a more static position when you do all reps for the first leg and then switch to the other one. The latter option demands you to go back to the standing position after each rep and involve your legs in turns.
Lunges are a more dynamic variation of split squats. However, this exercise is more challenging in terms of balance and stability. Usually, it is quite difficult for newbies but if your kind of sport demands high muscle control and coordination, you will find this variation very helpful.
3. Reverse lunges
In contrast to the first variation, this one is more suitable for beginners. It is easier in terms of mechanics and safer for your joints. Moreover, this exercise puts more load on your glutes so girls may find it especially beneficial.
4. Bulgarian split squat
In this variation, athletes put one of their legs on a bench or other elevation. It provides a longer range of motion and allows you to involve your quads, glutes, and hamstrings even more. However, it is rather an advanced variation since you need a lot of strength, balance, and coordination to maintain such a position.
5. Walking lunges
The name itself makes everything obvious. For this variation, you have to cross some distance by lunging instead of just stepping forward. This exercise is the most dynamic option. Such ‘split squat crossfit’ is a great way to both tone up your muscles and develop strength endurance.
Split squats for weightlifters
Weightlifters usually perform split squats during the transition period to add some variety or within the preparatory period to improve their jerk position.
Firstly, it builds the leg muscles which are crucial for successful Olympic lifts. It also strengthens stabilizers and improves coordination and balance needed in weightlifting.
If you stick to the split jerk, this exercise is very helpful in terms of angles. You should use it to become more confident, stable, and strong in the jerk position. In this case, you can include split squats in your training during the preparatory period. If you stick to the push jerk, you better do split squats during the transition period in order to improve the general physique.