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Split Squat Your Way Through These 6 Variations For Bigger and Better Legs

The Split Squat is the lower body's biggest family of dumbbell exercises and a direct descendant of the Barbell Squat. Over the years, this muscle-building clan of exercises has made a name for themselves in home gyms around the world as a safer bet and replacement for the Godfather of all leg exercises, the Back Squat. Lately, the dumbbell split squat has morphed into many different versions and is responsible for size increase, strength, and popularity amongst lone-wolves and gym rats.

In this article, we’re going to uncover everything you need to know about the Split Squat dumbbell version. I’m going to show you the best way to execute the exercise, and then I’m going to introduce you to six variations with cues, tips, and pictures to get you warmed up and ready to squat. (Wikipedia Link)

contralateral split squat
contralateral bulgarian split squat
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Split SquatPsymon H., architect of the Mission Jacked movement.

My name is Psymon H., architect of the Mission Jacked movement, and the man making his name from improving physiques and growing natural muscle with minimal equipment.

In my nearly 40 years of going to war with the iron, 15 years of which have been spent training in a minimal equipment environment, I’ve tried almost every exercise you can think of. When it comes to lower body training at home, building an alliance with the Split Squats and all its variants has been one of the main reasons why at the age of 52 (and natural), I’m still able to don a pair of shorts in the summer and look like I train legs.

What Are Split Squats Good For?

Split Squats
contralateral split squat
contralateral bulgarian split squat
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dumbbell split squats
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split squat variations
dumbell split squat

As they are a unilateral movement, they’re great for size, strength, and limiting imbalances between the right and left legs while helping to build general stability.   

Split Squat Muscles Worked:

Split squats are fantastic at building muscle in the quads and surrounding areas such as the hamstrings, core, and the gluteus Maximus, medius, and minimus.

Is Split Squats the same as a lunge?

There are some major differences between the two exercises. The Dumbbell Split Squat is a static movement whereas the lunge is viewed as a dynamic exercise because it’s performed by either stepping or walking forward or stepping back.

Split Squat vs Bulgarian Split Squat:

While they are both members of the dumbbell squat family and are single-leg movements, there are major differences between the two exercises. Think of the Split version similar to a front wheel drive car because with a Split squat, your stabilizing leg is in front of you when you perform the movement. Think of the Bulgarian version as a rear-wheel drive car in that when executing Bulgarian split squats, your stabilizing leg is behind you.

Use The Contralateral Split Squat To Strengthen Your Core & Grow Your Legs

Dumbbell Lunges - Build Muscle In Your Lower Body With These Awesome Variations 

dumbbell deadlift benefits

Dumbbell Squats: 4 Unusual Variations To Beef Up Your Quads & Strengthen Your Knees

quad exercises with dumbbells

How Do You Do A Split Squat?

Cue 1: Hold two dumbbells at your side with a palm facing in grip and stand hip-width apart with toes pointing forward.

Cue 2: Keep a tall posture and take a stride forward. Your ankle, hip, and thigh should remain in a straight line.

Cue 3: Tense your core and maintain a straight back as you lower yourself down until your back knee hovers or lightly touches the floor. A common mistake to avoid is the front knee folding inwards as you lower down. This puts excess strain on the knees and reduces glute activation

Cue 4: Use your front glute and quad muscle to drive yourself back to the start position. Don't lean too far forward or back during the exercise as this can create extra stress on the knee.

You can upgrade this movement by adding a resistance band to the exercise. By doing this you will put more tension at the top of the movement where it is notoriously easiest.

quad exercises at home with dumbbells

Once you master Dumbbell Split Squats, you can move on to some of the variations below. Each modification targets the Quads, Hamstrings, and Glutes differently.

Here is a list of variations we’ll also cover in this article.

1: Platform Split Squats

2: Incline Dumbbell Split Squats

3:  Contralateral Incline Split Squats

4: Bulgarian Split Squats

5: Incline Bulgarian Split Squats

6: Bell Band Bulgarian Squats

dumbbell quad exercise

Variation 1: Platform Split Squats:

If you need more fire on your next quad workout, add this variation to your routine to test every muscle fiber in the lower quarters.

Items Needed: Box, step or platform, and a pair of dumbbells.

Cue 1: With dumbbells in hand, position yourself in a lunge stance, with the front foot on the platform and you on the toes of your back foot. Ensure you maintain an upright posture with your core tight and a square-on torso throughout the movement.

Cue 2: Turn your toes in slightly on the platform so the outer side of your heel sticks out.

Cue 3: Lunge forward until your front knee is at a right angle or just over your ankle. Make sure to stay on the toes of your back foot throughout the movement and maintain a firm base on the platform with your front foot.

Cue 4: Drive through your front heel, keeping your foot firming in contact with the platform as you raise into the standing position. Repeat for the desired amount of repetitions.

quad workouts with dumbbells

dumbbell deadlift form

Variation 2 & 3: Incline Dumbbell Split Squat
& Contralateral Incline Split Squat:

These two versions of the dumbbell split squat will fire shots into the lower portions of the quads. Expect collateral damage in the Hamstrings.

Items Needed: One Bumper plate or a low platform and a pair of dumbbells.

Cue 1: Place your bumper plate or low platform one stride in front of you. Hold two dumbbells with a palm in grip and stand hip-width apart with toes pointing forward.

Cue 2: Keep a nice tall posture as you take a big stride forward onto the edge of your platform. Make sure your front heel stays on the platform and your toes drive into the ground.

quadricep exercises with dumbbells

Cue 3: Tense your core and maintain a straight back as you lower yourself down until your back knee hovers or lightly touches the floor behind your platform.

Cue 4: Drive your toes into the ground as you push yourself back to the start position.

The Contralateral Version:

The contralateral loaded Incline split squat is a variation of the dumbbell split squat and an exercise used to target the muscles of the leg. Contralateral strength training is the effect that training one side of the body will increase strength on the opposite side as well.

The major difference between this and the normal incline version is that you will only need one dumbbell. If you are working your left leg (left leg forward), you have the dumbbell in your right hand in front of or just to the side of your right thigh. You can also do Contralateral Loading in the flat Split position.

quad exercises dumbbell

Variation 4: Bulgarian Split Squats:

As we discovered earlier, the major difference between Bulgarian Split Squats and Split Squats is where the stabilization comes from. The fact that the balance comes from behind on this exercise means that the difficulty is ramped up considerably as this movement will test your balance and core strength that much more.

Target Muscle Groups: Quads, Glutes & Hamstrings.

Items Needed: Pair of dumbbells and a flat bench.

 How To Do Bulgarian Split Squat

Cue 1: With dumbbells at your side, rest the topside of one foot on a bench or a bar off a rack behind you and step forward until your front leg is a good stride in front of the resting leg.

Cue 2: Leaning slightly forward, slowly lower your front leg until it is at a right angle and your back knee is just over the ground.

Cue 3: Briefly pause in the bottom position before smoothly making your way back to the top of the movement.

If you want to target more of your Hamstrings, do the contralateral loaded version as seen below


jacked quads

Variation 5: Incline Bulgarian Split Squats:

Chances are you've done your fair shot of traditional Bulgarian Dumbbell Squats; so if you have and you’re searching for an upgrade, we're going to put the front heel on an incline to redirect the stress on your teardrop area. Take this exercise nice and slow until you find your stride and once that happens, improvements will soon follow.

Items Needed: Flat bench or a rack with a bar, one pair of dumbbells, and a bumper or Olympic plate.

Setup: You want to place your incline station (bumper plate or platform) exactly where you would have your front foot on a traditional Bulgarian Squat.

Incline Bulgarian Split Squat Form:

Cue 1: Place the heel of your front leg on the platform. With a dumbbell in each hand, carefully place the topside of your other foot on the bench.

Cue 2: Lean slightly forward, lock in your core, and press the toes of your front foot into the floor. Slowly lower your front leg until it is at a right angle and your back knee is just over the ground.

Cue 3: Briefly pause in the bottom position before smoothly making your way back to the top of the movement. Make sure to repeat the movement on the other leg.

Variation 6: Dumbbell Band Bulgarian Split Squats  

It’s great to change things up on leg days especially if you are training at home and want to stay motivated and focused on the job of building quads. This variation puts you in the line of fire from top to bottom of the exercise. Not only do you have dumbbell gravity to contend with, but you also have the tension of a medium to heavy resistance band to compete against as you rise to the top of the movement.

Target Muscle Groups:  Quads, Hamstrings and Glutes.

Items Needed: One dumbbell, a medium to a heavy resistance band, and a bench or rack with a bar.

Cue 1: Set up the band so it's securely under the foot of your working leg and across the opposite shoulder.  Hold the dumbbell on the working side.

Cue 2: Rest your non-working leg behind you, placing the top part of your foot on the bench and not your toes.

Cue 3: Don’t drop but lower yourself into the bottom portion of the movement, and tense your core to ensure you stay upright throughout the movement.

Cue 4: Drive through your front heel on the way back up and maintain a strong core.

Looking For More Dumbbell Quad Exercises To Blow Up Your Legs? Click Here!

More Dumbbell Hamstrings Exercises From Mission Jacked

A Great Alternative To The above Split Squats is The Contralateral Split Squat – aka…

1: Dumbbell Contralateral Split Squat

2: Dumbbell Contralateral Split Squats

3: db Contralateral Split Squat

4: db Contralateral Split Squats

5: Split Squats

6: Split Squat

7: Dumbbell Split Squat

8: db Split Squat

9: Dumbbell Split Squats

10: db Split Squats

11: Single Dumbbell Split Squats

12: Single Dumbbell Split Squat

13: Single db Split Squat

14: Single db Split Squats

15: Contralateral Dumbbell Split Squat

16: Contralateral Dumbbell Split Squats

17: Contralateral db Split Squat

18: Contralateral db Split Squats

19: Contralateral Dumbbell Split Squat

20: Contralateral Dumbbell Split Squats

21: Contralateral Single dumbbell Split Squat

22: Contralateral Single dumbbell Split Squats

23: Contralateral Single db Split Squat

24: Contralateral Single db Split Squats

25: Incline Dumbbell Contralateral Split Squat

26: Incline Dumbbell Contralateral Split Squats

27: Incline db Contralateral Split Squat

28: Incline db Contralateral Split Squats

29: Incline Split Squat

30: Incline Split Squats

31: Incline Dumbbell Split Squat

32: Incline Dumbbell Split Squats

33: Incline db Split Squat

34: Incline Single Dumbbell Split Squats

35: Incline Single Dumbbell Split Squat

36: Incline Single db Split Squats

37: Incline Single db Split Squat

38: Incline Contralateral Split Squat

39: Incline Contralateral Split Squats

40: Platform Dumbbell Contralateral Split Squat

41: Platform Dumbbell Contralateral Split Squats

42: Platform db Contralateral Split Squat

43: Platform db Contralateral Split Squats

44: Platform Split Squat

45: Platform Split Squats

46: Platform Dumbbell Split Squat

47: Platform Dumbbell Split Squats

48: Platform db Split Squat

49: Platform Single Dumbbell Split Squats

50: Platform Single Dumbbell Split Squat

51: Platform Single db Split Squats

52: Platform Single db Split Squat

53: Platform Contralateral Split Squat

54: Platform Contralateral Split Squats

quad exercises dumbbell

Now you’ve done the leg work, see how we put the Split Squat and all its variants into operation using the best home muscle-building program - Click The image Below!

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