If you want to jump higher, you need strong legs. As you know, the squat is the best exercise to strengthen the muscles used to jump and one excellent variation is the Bulgarian Split Squat. Other names are the Bulgarian squat, dumbbell Bulgarian split squat, or rear foot elevated split squat. This exercise is a cross between a lunge and a squat and is similar to second part of the olympic lift, the clean and jerk.
Let me start by saying, if you are not squatting yet, start now. You will see the better results from the traditional squat than you will from the split squat. If you do squat, the Bulgarian Split Squat would be an excellent addition to you vertical jump training program to target your glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quads. These are all important muscles for the vertical jump.
Bulgarian Split Squats will give you an explosive vertical jump.
Benefits of Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian Split Squat is a perfect compliment to the squat because it allows for single leg isolation and at the same time improves the muscles used to stabilize your knees and keep your balance. This will not only help you increase your vertical jump, it will also keep you from getting injured. If you are only training so you can jump higher, this may not be as important to you, but when you’re on the basketball court you don’t move in a straight line.
While your range of motion may be cut short when you squat due to limited flexibility, you can safely go as deep as you want with the Bulgarian split squat. This is one of the reasons this exercise works your glutes and hip flexors as good or even better than traditional squats.
Some other benefits that you may not have considered are improved grip, which is important for palming a basketball, a stronger core and since it’s a bilateral exercise it will help your leg strength stay balanced. Oh yeah, it will also help build muscle to jump higher.
Getting Started with the Bulgarian Split Squat
This exercise if fairly easy to get set up. Basically, all you need is a flat bench, or chair or something else, and if you’re strong enough some weights. Even if you are strong, I recommend learning the motion without weights. If you have tried without weights, but still aren’t able to get the motion down, start with a simple lunge with both feet on the ground. You won’t be able to go as deep, but it will still help you build strength.
The toughest part of the exercise, is figuring out how close your front foot should be to the bench. I recommend setting up so your front knee never goes past your front toes. If you’re too close to the bench, your knee will go over your toes. If you’re too far from the bench, you won’t get a full range of motion.
Performing the Bulgarian Split Squat
- Stretch and warm up properly.
- Perform the motion a few times without any weights. Figure out how far in front of the bench you should have your feet.
- Pick up your dumbbells
- Bring your back foot back and place it on the bench. Make sure it’s stable with half of your shoelaces on the bench.
- Take a deep breath. Get your chest up.
- Squeeze your glutes. Tighten your abs and core.
- Slowly lower yourself down as far as you can go. Keep your chest up.
- Squeeze your glutes extra hard at the bottom. Feel the stretch in your rear hip flexor.
- Push from the heal of your front foot to explode back up into the starting position.
- Perform all reps with 1 leg, take a 30 second break and switch legs.
To make the Bulgarian Split Squat more effective, elevate your front foot to get a bigger range of motion.
Important things to Remember
Warm Up Properly – As with all exercise, warming up is crucial. Stretch those hip flexors before this lift.
Bulgarian Split Squats are Hard – Don’t be surprised if your butt hurts for days after trying this exercise for the first time. No one ever said (and wasn’t lying) that getting a vertical jump is easy.
Squeeze Those Glutes – I’ll say it again, to get the most out of this exercise, squeeze those glutes hard. The split squat is great for strengthening your posterior chain.
Hips Forward – The best way to make sure you’re working the glutes, is to push your hips forward at the bottom of the lift.
Abs Tight – Tightening your abs will help you perform the exercise properly.
Chest Up – Work on keeping your chest up so your back will be in the proper position.
Head Forward – Don’t look down at the ground when you go down. Keep your head and neck forward.
Knees and Toes Straight Ahead – Keep your knees and toes pointing forward. Don’t let them move side to side.