The Strength Exercise You Should Be Doing

The Strength Exercise You Should Be Doing

Are you someone who is looking to burn fat, build muscle, get stronger, get faster, get more athletic?

If any of those above pertain to you and you are not currently performing a split squat in your program keep on reading.

Many training programs have the staple exercises like squats and deadlifts and by no means am I here to say they are bad. Along with that, there is a lot of bilateral leg work involved. Doing these will get you all of the above goals but if you are not implementing a split squat into your training program somewhere you are missing out.

The Split Squat

Enter the split squat, the exercise every person should be performing at some point in their routine. It is often underutilized in programming, and it packs a punch.

Many choose bilateral exercises in their training program because let’s face it, they are relatively easy to perform. Guess what life is not bilateral, we live in an asymmetrical world, our bodies are designed asymmetrically, our brains function asymmetrically, our primary mode of transportations, walking is asymmetrical as can be. And yet most of the time in the gym we see people only performing bilateral work. 

The split squat puts the body into a single leg stance, it requires one the hip to be in a more internally rotated position and the other in a more externally rotated position, teaching the body to create balance in this position and pulling the body down towards the floor and then push back up. The importance of training in a single-leg stance is beneficial for all.

The split squat doubles the reps performed than a bilateral exercise, so if you are looking for a metabolically taxing workout or stress to the system, high rep split squats are going to be your best friend. Performing 8+ reps each leg on the split squat will drive crazy amounts of adaptations and drive the heart rate up, the system is cranking away.  When using 8+ reps you are going to be performing over 16 reps total per set, then multiply that by at least 3!

If you are looking for strength, increase the weight and decrease the reps, typically I use 5 reps or under with a heavy load. Performing heavier reps also trains the body to absorb more force through the hips, quads, hamstrings, ankles. This will yield greater adaptations and allow the body to withstand more force.


The ability to handle more force transfers to more athleticism, the mechanics of the split squat are similar to the one we use in running, sprinting, or cutting. Muscles of the legs decelerate us as we reach heel strike and accelerate us as we get to toe-off. The descent of the split squat trains the body to hand weight and decelerate the body to the floor then the ascent is the ability to produce force and propel us forward.

Getting stronger at the split squat will help top-end speed and acceleration, training the hip to create a force at different ranges of motion. For athletes it is a key aspect to their sport the ability to be explosive and accelerate quickly, athletes should be taking advantage of split squats often in their programs.

The split squat is also a movement used for training how to get into and out of cuts, cutting is crucial for many sports. Loading the split squat appropriately and body orientation will determine the aspect of cutting we are working on. To work on going into a cut we want to be rotating the torso towards the leg in front, the goal with this positioning is to drive a more internally rotated position through the hip and leg that will train early to midstance aka getting into the cut. The opposite is for coming out of the cut, we will have a more squared-up torso or even slight thorax rotation contralateral to the leg in front. 

The easy way to train going into a cut is a contralateral weight hold and the ribcage is rotated towards the leg and for getting out of a cut ipsilateral (same side) hold with slight rotation away from the leg working.


Training different variations of the split squat will bring different ranges of motion to train and different aspects of training.

Rear Foot Elevated- Trains the ankle in a more dorsiflexed position working on midstance to the late stance which puts focus on driving through the ground and propelling forward. This position forces weight off the back leg and takes the foot out of the movement, shifting all the work to the front leg. Heights can vary on this exercise. 

Front Foot Elevated Split Squat- Works on the early stance to midstance as the shin angle moves forward

Double Feet Elevated Split Squat- Allows a deeper range of hip and knee and hip flexion.

Supported Single Leg Split Squat- Pure unilateral training

Single-Leg Split Squat with knee tap- This one is the ultimate single-leg stability plus strength movement. Can you control the opposite knee to the floor tap and push through the front leg.

There are many variations of the split squat that can be added to your training program, reassess your program and see where you can get them in.

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