The Dead Stop Bulgarian Split Squat Gives You a Chance to Lift Heavy
The Bulgarian split squat‘s name may sound more intimidating than the movement itself, but the exercise is one of those surefire leg day staples that most lifters love to hate. True, Bulgarians are a challenging exercise no matter where you fit them in your routine, but its benefits—from increasing lower-body and core strength to helping to level out muscle imbalances—makes it a move for athletes looking to gain strength, add power, even improve speed and leaping ability.
Because this is a tough unilateral movement—back leg elevated while your front foot’s heel and toes fight to maintain a solid grip with the floor as you bend that leg to 90 degrees holding a pair of dumbbells—we usually perform them toward the end of a workout using lighter weights for higher reps.
For this variation, however, Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. adds a tweak to the standard Bulgarian split squat that allows you to go extra heavy: the dead stop Bulgarian split squat.
The difference is in the name. The standard Bulgarian split squat requires you to hold the dumbbells throughout the entire set, which could limit the amount of weight you can work with because of your grip strength. Here, Samuel suggests stacking two or three weight plates on each side of you so you can bring the weight. That does a few things. You have a shorter distance to pull, which will make the weight more manageable. You’re also going to come to a complete pause at the end of each rep—hence the name—and because you’re using a heavier load, resting the dumbbells on the plates is also going to allow you to your grip on the dumbbells each time before beginning another rep.
Another tip to look out for when doing the dead stop Bulgarian split squat is to use the pause to reset your core. Fight to maintain an upright position with your torso, while also keeping a focus on squeezing your shoulder blades between reps. This will allow you to maintain a consistently powerful drive from the ground up, giving a nice glute and quad contraction at the top of every rep.
Because you’re training heavy here, there’s no need to work with a high rep count. Grab big dumbbells, then work for 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps so you can maintain the heavy weights.
For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts.
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