Exercises You Should Be Doing: Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat

Over the last 6-8 months I have really changed the way that I train. I still perform my fair share of bilateral lower body movements but I have also started to add in as much single leg training as I can. One of my favorite single leg exercises is the rear foot elevated split squat (Bulgarian Split Squat in many circles). I must confess when I first started adding the RFESS into my program I almost bailed on it within the first couple of weeks, not because I thought exercise wasn’t for me or that it was useless, but because of the difficulty. The weight I was using was humbling and I really took a hit to the ego.

Fast forward to present day and I’m pretty happy I stuck with the RFESS. The weight I am using on the RFESS has gone up dramatically and the weight that I am using on bilateral lower body movements has also seen a nice little increase. I also feel that the single leg training has also improved some muscle imbalances that I previously had due to an ACL reconstruction a few years ago.

So what’s the point of all this? Everyone should incorporate single leg movements into their program. It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete, a weekend warrior, or a jogger, single leg movements like the RFESS will only enhance your current training and lower body strength. Here’s a quick guide to performing the RFESS:

First you need to be able to master the split squat. For most healthy and younger individuals this shouldn’t be much how an issue. However, if performing the split squat correctly ends up being an issue, you need to correct that issue before you can move on to the rear foot elevated version of the split squat. In this video the split squat is done simply with bodyweight and then loaded with dumbbells and finally a barbell.

Once you have been able to successfully perform a split squat you can move on to the rear foot elevated version. In this version there is an added element of stabilization due to the fact that you only have one foot supported your weight. With more weight being stabilized by the front foot and less on the back foot, the movement has become a notch tougher than the regular split squat.

The great thing about the RFESS is that you can load it in an endless amount of ways. If a barbell is your weapon of choice, you can go with the traditional back squat bar position as seen in the previous video or move it into a front squat positioning. If dumbbells are your weapon of choice, you can hold the dumbbells at your side or you could use them in a goblet squat positioning. You could also load the RFESS with a weight vest or even with chains if you want to feel hardcore. And, if you really want to have some fun, you could load the movement in a typical back squat position with chains attached to each end of the barbell, varying the amount of weight as more links of the chain come on and are lifted off the floor.

And finally, if you really want to challenge yourself give RFESS jumps a try. Chances are you won’t even need to add any added weight to make these extremely hard. This is admittedly a progression that I am still working to get to.

Don’t make the same mistake as I did and overlook the benefits of the RFESS and add it into your program ASAP. You may find it extremely difficult at the beginning for various reasons, but once you become more familiar and comfortable with the exercise you’ll see nothing but positive changes in your physique and performance.

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