Bulgarian split squats are the go-to exercise when you want to build muscle mass in your legs, tone your tush, or you want to make the most out of your squat routine. But the same exercises can get old and fast, or if you’re recovering from an injury, you may need an alternative. That’s where we come in!
Below you’ll find seven alternatives to the Bulgarian split squat that work the same muscle groups or provide an added benefit so you can continue to enjoy the results while keeping your workout fresh.
The seven Bulgarian split squat alternatives include:
- Regular split squats
- Reverse lunges
- Bench single leg hip thrusts
- Curtsy lunges
- Weighted step ups
- Front foot elevated split squat
- Staggered-stance Romanian deadlifts
Regular Split Squats
If you can’t do a Bulgarian split squat due to mobility or stability issues, regular split squats are the next best option. Split squats use the same movement pattern as the Bulgarian split squat, but aren't quite as advanced.
This makes them perfect if you’re having trouble balancing throughout the movement and need to train your body to be able to do a Bulgarian split squat.
- Start with your right leg forward and your left leg back. Your feet should be hip width apart.
- Lift your back heel so your weight is on the ball of your foot.
- Bend both knees to slowly lower your hips to the floor until your back knee is just above the floor. Your front leg should be parallel to the floor.
- Pause at the bottom for 1-2 seconds.
- Press through your front foot to return to the starting position.
Reverse lunges closely mimic Bulgarian split squats because both exercises require about the same level of coordination, flexibility, and target the same muscles.
Because they are so similar, you should see the same results as well as an increase in your endurance and strength conditioning. The biggest difference here is the movement of the exercises.
With a Bulgarian split squat you remain stationary with a foot on the weight bench (or on your squat machine if you’re a DB Method customer) and a reverse lunge keeps you moving throughout the exercise.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Take a step backward with your right leg.
- Lower your body till you make a 90-degree angle with your left leg.
- Drive through your left heel to return to the starting position.
- Repeat with your opposite leg.
Pro-tip: Use The DB Method’s DreamBelt to increase the intensity of these lunges.
Bench Single Leg Hip Thrusts
The bench single leg hip thrust uses the same equipment, works the same muscle groups, and even has some of the same benefits like improving your balance as Bulgarian split squats.
However, what makes this alternative stand out more is that it is done lying on your back, so your glutes do most of the work (instead of your quads). If your goal is to have a tight and toned tush, this is your new go-to alternative.
- Start by placing your upper back against a weight bench with your right knee bent at about 90 degrees and the foot of the same leg flat on the floor.
- Lift your left leg up while bending your knee until both your hip and knee form a 90-degree angle.
- Lay your arms out flat on the bench.
- Squeeze the glute in your right leg while lifting your hips up until they’re in line with your torso.
- Hold for 1-2 seconds and then return to the starting position.
Similar to Bulgarian split squats, curtsy lunges target your hip adductors and glutes and both require the same amount of flexibility and coordination. This alternative to the Bulgarian split squat is better for improving your stability and balance, because the position of your non-working leg is different. This allows you to work additional muscles like your calves.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands on your hips.
- Step your right leg back and across so your right foot is just to the left of your left foot.
- Lunge down to bring the right knee toward the floor.
- Push through your front thigh to go back to the starting position.
- Go directly into your next lunge.
The weighted step up is essentially a reversed Bulgarian split squat. While the general form is reversed, you activate the same muscles and require the same intensity.
Weighted step-ups are a much simpler lower body exercise that targets your quads, glutes, and hamstrings at a much lower intensity. This gives you the same type of target muscle groups, but a refreshing way to hit them if your routine has become stale.
- Stand with a step, plyo box, or bench directly in front of you while holding a set of dumbbells in your hands at shoulder height.
- Step up onto the bench with your right foot, pressing through your heel to straighten your right leg.
- Bring your left foot up to meet your right foot on top of the bench.
- Bend your right knee and step back down with your left foot.
- Bring your right foot down to meet the left foot on the ground.
Front Foot Elevated Split Squat
The front foot elevated split squat is an alternative to a Bulgarian split squat because your front foot is elevated. It works your hamstrings and hip adductors get more of the workout, but you do lose the focus your quads and glutes. So there is a downside to this one.
- Stand behind a platform or box and put your front foot on top of it.
- Get yourself into a forward lunge position with your torso upright and your core braced.
- Lower yourself into the split squat until your back knee almost touches the ground.
- Reverse the move to return to the starting position.
Pro-tip: For more of a challenge, raise your arm that is opposite to your front leg and reach forward. You should be able to feel the burn in your glutes, hamstrings, and adductors even more doing this.
Staggered-Stance Romanian Deadlifts
Staggered stance Romanian deadlifts are one of the best single-leg alternatives to the classic Bulgarian split squat. The difference here is that the Bulgarian split squat focuses on your quads while the staggered stance Romanian deadlifts use your hamstrings and glutes more. This can make them perfect if you play sports that require fast take offs or want to build your leg strength.
- With your arms down by your sides, hold a dumbbell in each hand.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Step back about 12 inches with your left leg and flex that foot, so your heel lifts up from the floor.
- Bend both of your knees slightly. Your left leg should have a deeper bend than your right leg.
- Bend at your hips, push your butt back, and keep your back straight.
- Lower the dumbbells in front of you as far as you can without bending your knees any more.
- Use your hamstrings and glutes to pull your body back to the starting position.
There are plenty of alternatives to the Bulgarian split squat that give you the same effectiveness but focus in on specific muscle groups or take away tension from problem areas. Now you have seven of them to keep your workout routine fresh.