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This is both the single greatest leg exercise and the greatest single leg exercise, and I’m going to show you how to do it step by step. The Bulgarian Split Squat or rear foot elevated squat is one of the best exercises you can do period, let alone for your legs. There are so many benefits to this leg exercise beyond just its ability to build up your leg strength and size without requiring any heavy duty equipment.
The additional benefits of balance, direct axial decompression not offered by a traditional back squat, and the functional carryover to sport make this a superior choice when it comes to selecting leg exercises for your leg day workouts. That said, this is one of the most commonly misperformed exercises you can do.
The tendency to make a mistake on either the descent of the Bulgarian Split Squat or on the return to standing is common. In fact, many will make mistakes on both portions of the lift, which essentially nullifies the tremendous benefits it can have on helping you to build bigger legs. To start, you may want to try this without holding any dumbbells at all. This will enable you to feel the movement without having your form break down under load.
Start by hopping far enough away from the bench with your front foot so that when you drop straight down into the squat, your front knee is bent to 90 degrees. If you don’t get far enough away from the bench you will find that your knee tracks much further forward than the knee on that leg, which will worsen an anterior knee pain problem.
From here, you want to simultaneously hinge at the hip while bending the knee. This will set your center of gravity on a downward path to the floor and keep your knee from tracking ahead of your toes. It will also help you to groove the path of the pelvis as it sinks downward and sets up the proper return to standing that you will need to execute if you want to perform this leg exercise properly.
Once at the bottom, the rise to the top has to follow the same path as you took to get down there in the first place. This means, that the knee must stay in it’s position as you simply press your body up to the starting position. If your knee significantly tracks backwards, away from the anterior front point, you can be assured that you will likely never reach full hip extension and you will be taking stress off of the quads at the same time.
This is not something you want to do if you are trying to build bigger legs. Instead, aim to maximize the stress directed to the quads while minimizing the stress delivered to the lower back, knees and hips. Perform this properly each time you train your legs and be sure to incorporate some single leg training into your leg workouts to be as strong and athletic as you possibly can be.
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