The Bulgarian Split Squat is an excellent exercise for developing single leg stability and strength under an axial load. Unfortunately, a lot of people perform them incorrectly, and often times even the most subtle corrections can go a long way. While these may not seem like drastic, life-altering cues (or perhaps, they may even go uncorrected in most facilities because they don’t look excruciatingly ugly or jump off the page to most), perfecting every single movement we do is absolutely imperative to not only maintaining health and reducing injuries, but for improving performance when we need it most.
Coaching Cue #1: Arched lower back, or more specifically, lack of core control and stability.
This may not look like a drastic change (the first 2 attempts show improper technique, the last 2 attempts show proper technique), but with increased load the effects of this posture will be detrimental. Maintaining a slight arch in the lower back is part of the normal spinal curvature, but too much exaggeration will irritate facet joints, jack up the erector spinae, and contribute to poor core stability. Focus on aligning the pelvis underneath the ribs, contract the glutes, and don’t allow the ribs to open up.
Coaching Cue #2: Knee valgus
A common problem for females due to some biomechanical disadvantages is a tendency for the knee to cave in, which will contribute to all sorts of issues down the road. The first 2 attempts show slight valgus collapse (this may even go uncorrected in most facilities because it isn’t severe) while the last 2 attempts show proper hip external rotation needed to align the thigh in the proper position. By taking the path of least resistance, we are not only sacrificing knee and hip health, but stability as well. Maintain a hip width stance (not too narrow or too wide), activate the hip external rotators to maintain a straight forward thigh, maintain neutral posture, and align the knee cap with the 3rd and 4th toes.
Coaching Cue #3: Hip dominance
When we perform a proper bulgarian split squat (whether it’s goblet style, front rack style, or with two dumbbells as seen in the videos), we want to engage our posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) to some extent. However, a common issue which can be referred from a few different problems, is an emphasis on being too hip dominant. Lack of stability in both the single leg and core as well as lack of strength in the knee and thoracic extensors will contribute to too much of a forward lean and a hip back posture when standing back up. With too much load this will contribute to low back stress, poor core control, and ultimately injury. Focus on lightening up the load, maintaining a neutral spine, and keep the pelvis in line with the rib cage.
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