How Many Bulgarian Split Squats Should I Do To See Proper Results?

One of the best strength training exercises for increasing leg strength, power, and hypertrophy is the Bulgarian split squat.

It is also a great functional strength training exercise because the unilateral movement pattern replicates everyday life activities and exercises like running, hiking, and walking.

When planning your workouts, you probably wonder: how many Bulgarian split squats should I do to build muscle? How many Bulgarian split squats should I do if I’m a beginner? And what is the best load for Bulgarian split squat workouts for strength vs. hypertrophy?

In this guide, we will discuss how to do Bulgarian split squats for lower-body strength workouts, a good weight to use based on your training level and goals, and ultimately answer your question: how many Bulgarian split squats should I do in my workouts?

Let’s dive in! 

A coach helping a client do Bulgarian Split Squat.

How Do You Do Bulgarian Split Squats?

Before we discuss how many Bulgarian split squats you should do depending on your fitness goals and fitness level, let’s review how to perform the Bulgarian split squat exercise, also called a rear foot-elevated split squat.

The Bulgarian split squat is one of the best leg day workout exercises.

While all forms of squats, lunges, and split squats work all of the major muscles in the lower body, elevating your rear foot with the Bulgarian split squat really helps isolate the demand on the quad muscle on the front leg.

As a unilateral exercise, you can add this exercise to your leg workouts to help correct strength imbalances between your two legs.

Beginners can start Bulgarian split squats as just a bodyweight exercise. It is surprisingly difficult just to balance in the Bulgarian split squat position, so it is helpful to practice first with sets of bodyweight Bulgarian split squats.

Then, as you get continually stronger, start to hold dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell to increase resistance for building muscle and increasing strength.

Here are the steps for how to do Bulgarian split squats with dumbbells:

How To Perform A Bulgarian Split Squat

  1. Stand about three feet in front of a weight bench, facing away. Your front foot should be far enough forward that when you drop into a lunge, your front knee does not extend beyond your toes.
  2. Reach one foot back and place the laces part of the shoe down on the bench. Keep your core tight and your shoulders back and down away from your ears. Your chest should be up and proud, and your glutes should be engaged. The toes on your front foot should face forward.
  3. Hold dumbbells down at your sides, or hold a single kettlebell up at the height of your sternum.
  4. Keeping your core tight, bend your front knee and back knee to drop down into a split squat. Move slowly and with control. Keeping your torso upright and your weight balanced across your pelvis.
  5. When the thigh of your front leg is parallel to the ground, pause and hold the contraction for 2-3 seconds.
  6. Explode through your heel to press back up to the standing position.
  7. Complete all of your reps and then switch sides.

How Many Bulgarian Split Squats Should I Do To See Good Results?

If you are structuring your own strength training plan, you will need to know how many Bulgarian split squats to do based on your fitness goal or fitness level.

When we consider how to structure a strength training workout, the number of reps of an exercise that you do—be it Bulgarian split squats or any other exercise—is only one part of the programming of the exercise into the workout.

This means that it is not as straightforward as giving a specific number of Bulgarian split squats reps to do for strength vs. hypertrophy vs. reps of Bulgarian split squats for muscle endurance.

Rather, you also need to consider the number of sets you perform and the weight of Bulgarian split squats you are using to determine the overall training load for the exercise.

Here, it is important to distinguish that the amount of weight that you are lifting refers to the relative load or intensity of the weight you are using for you personally.

Bodyweight Bulgarian split squats.

With the Bulgarian split squat exercise, just bodyweight Bulgarian split squats may be extremely difficult for a beginner and pose essentially very little challenge for an advanced athlete.

When discussing relative load to determine how many reps of an exercise you should do, the weight that you lift is compared to your one-repetition maximum (1RM) for the exercise.

Your 1RM for an exercise is the maximum amount of weight that you can lift with proper form for just one complete repetition of that exercise.

For example, with Bulgarian split squats, if you can squat with a 160-pound barbell for one repetition but not more than that, your Bulgarian split squat 1RM is 160 pounds.

Then, if you are using 135 pounds in your Bulgarian split squats workout, you are lifting 84% of your 1RM.

The strength continuum offers a framework by which the appropriate load to lift can be determined based on the number of reps that you are performing.

According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the following table shows the percentage of your 1RM you should use for the given number of reps of an exercise:1TRAINING LOAD CHART. (n.d.). https://www.nsca.com/contentassets/61d813865e264c6e852cadfe247eae52/nsca_training_load_chart.pdf

Maximum Number of RepsPercent of 1RM Load
1100%
295%
393%
490%
587%
685%
783%
880%
977%
1075%
1270%
Bulgarian split squat.

To interpret this strength continuum, you look at the number of reps of an exercise that you want to do and then determine the relative load that you should use in the column next to your desired number of reps.

For example, if you want to do 12 reps, the recommended load is 70% of your 1RM; if you are only doing six reps, you should use 85% of your 1RM.

We are getting close, but we still haven’t answered the question: How many Bulgarian split squat reps should I do based on my training goal?

Your Fitness Goals

Your primary training goal is the main factor other than your fitness level that will affect how many Bulgarian split squat reps you should do. The number of Bulgarian split squat reps has to be considered in the context of how much weight you should lift.

The number of reps and weights for Bulgarian split squats—or any strength exercise—depends on your primary goal, as each strength training goal has a different general recommendation for programming workouts.

The following table provides recommendations for how many reps to do and how much weight to lift for different strength training goals based on the average guidelines from the American Council on Exercise (ACE)2How Many Reps Should You Be Doing? (n.d.). Www.acefitness.org. https://www.acefitness.org/resources/everyone/blog/5867/how-many-reps-should-you-be-doing/ and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.3Sands, W., Wurth, J., & Hewit, J. (2012). The National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) BASICS OF STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING MANUAL. https://www.nsca.com/contentassets/116c55d64e1343d2b264e05aaf158a91/basics_of_strength_and_conditioning_manual.pdf

Bulgarian split squat.
Training GoalSetsRepsRest PeriodIntensity
General Fitness1-3 12-15 30 to 90 secondsVaries on exercise and ability level
Muscular Endurance3-4 >12 Up to 30 seconds<67% of 1RM
Hypertrophy (building muscle mass)3-6 6-12 30 to 90 seconds67% to 85% of 1RM
Muscle strength4-6 3-62 to 5 minutes>85% of 1RM
Power3-51-52 to 5 minutes85%–100% of 1RM 

From here, you can use the strength continuum table to determine how much weight you should be lifting after you determine how many reps of the exercise you should do based on your training goals.

Consider these suggestions:

How Many Bulgarian Split Squats Should I Do As A Beginner?

A good starting place for beginners is two sets of 10-12 reps per leg. Build up to three sets.

Once you can do 10 to 12 reps, you can increase the weight.4Iversen, V. M., Norum, M., Schoenfeld, B. J., & Fimland, M. S. (2021). No Time to Lift? Designing Time-Efficient Training Programs for Strength and Hypertrophy: A Narrative Review. Sports Medicine51(10). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-021-01490-1

Bulgarian split squat.

How Many Bulgarian Split Squats Should I Do To Increase Strength?

If your goal is to increase strength, use a weight that corresponds to at least 85% of your 1RM, or a weight that you could manage for just 4 to 6 reps per leg with proper form.

Aim for 4 to 6 sets with at least 2 minutes of rest in between sets.5de Salles, B. F., Simão, R., Miranda, F., Novaes, J. da S., Lemos, A., & Willardson, J. M. (2009). Rest interval between sets in strength training. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.)39(9), 765–777.

How Many Bulgarian Split Squats Should I Do To Build Muscle?

If you are doing Bulgarian split squats to build muscle, work towards doing 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.6Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, K., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2018). Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise51(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000001764

Use enough weight that you can manage all of your reps but that you feel fatigued by the last 1-2 reps of every set.

How Many Bulgarian Split Squats Should I Do For Muscular Endurance?

To increase muscular endurance, perform at least three sets of at least 15 reps per leg with no more than 60 seconds of rest in between each set.

If you are mostly interested in how many Bulgarian split squats you should do to build muscle, check out our muscle-building guide here.

A resistance band squat exercise.

References

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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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