Welcome to our weekly Move of the Week series. Every Monday, we’ll be sharing with you one of our favourite exercises – how to do them, what muscles they work and why they should be a regular part of your workout regime. This week: split squat.
Squats and lunges are the bread and butter of strength training. They work our big powerhouse muscles that are responsible for getting us from A to B (the glutes, hamstrings and quads) and keeping us injury-free as we do so. The split squat is kind of like a halfway house between those two exercises. On the one hand, you’ve got one leg in front of the other – like a lunge, but on the other, you’re staying static as you would in a squat.
What exactly is a split squat?
A split squat is a static exercise designed to build lower body strength by bending and straightening the knees. Your feet don’t move and because of that, you may find that you’re able to lift heavier weights than if you were lunging.
It’s great because it:
- Targets your big leg muscles: Exercises that target your bigger muscles tend to help you get fitter and stronger faster.
- Is adaptable: Start with both feet on the floor, then as you gain confidence, try out a Bulgarian split squat variation (resting the back foot on a raised platform). Add yet more depth by standing on a raised platform and keeping that back foot elevated. Use a front rack barbell instead of dumbbells, or a single kettlebell to challenge your balance.
- Requires less balance: Because you’re not moving your feet, you may feel more secure in a split squat than a lunge – and that will allow you to add on more weight.
What muscles does a split squat work?
This is mainly a lower-body move, working:
- Hip and ankle stabilisers
How to do a split squat
- Grab your dumbbells and stand with feet hip-width apart.
- Step forward with your right foot.
- Slowly bend both knees so that your back knee is an inch off the floor and your front leg is now at a 90’ angle.
- Slowly straighten the legs.
- Go again. Concentrate on doing one set of reps on one leg then switching over to a set on the other, rather than alternating between the two legs.
Keen to improve your form? Check out our How To library to see exactly how the experts do over 100 of the most common strength training exercises.
Miranda Larbi is the editor of Strong Women and Strong Women Training Club. A qualified personal trainer and vegan runner, she can usually be found training for the next marathon, seeking out vegan treats or cycling across London on a pond-green Tokyo bike.