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How Split Squats build essential lower body Strength & Stability

Unilateral exercises like Split Squats enhance balance, coordination, proprioception along with providing a safe option for building lower body strength.

Additionally, we like single-leg exercises for it's ability to expose any imbalances between right and left legs. Being that we work with a variety of athletes from 7 years old all the way to college and pros, we like exercise like these that are scalable and provide a progressive training approach.

This blog post will highlight the progressions from the simple but effective Split Squat shown above.

Besides enhancing the ability to maintain balance, which is crucial in sports, Splits Squats are known as a knee-dominant exercise and targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

For athletes new to strength training, or who need stability work, or coming off physical therapy, Split Squats are a great starter exercise. Perform 1-3 sets of 8-10 reps, lowering up and down. Option to increase intensity by holding the bottom position for 3-10 secs per rep. The longer the hold, the shorter the rep scheme.

A simple progression would be to add load as shown below. Either hold on to dumbbells in 1 hand, dumbbells in both hands for eg. as shown below. Start by lowering down and pausing for 1 sec and returning to the top without moving feet. Same set and rep progression scheme: 1-3 sets x 5-8 reps per leg

Next Progression: Rear Foot Elevated Split squats as shown below by Coach Christian:

Elevating the rear foot increase the load on the front leg, and challenges hip mobility, leaning to greater muscle activation and strength gains.

Start by using body weight first before adding load. Caution when adding load - start with light weight then progressively increase weight over time. Athletes that load too much weight too soon, have a hard time maintaining a stable pelvis and risk rotating the pelvis in an effort to stabilize the heavy load. This in turn creates a shearing force which can lead to groin strains or tears.

Next option, Front Foot Elevated Split Squats as shown below:

Elevating the front foot shifts the focus more to the hamstrings and glutes, while still working the quadriceps.

This might be an ideal exercise for athletes with poor ankle mobility.

Again, over time, while maintaining good form, add load to further strengthen and challenge lower body strength and stability.


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