Exercises that will make you a better Rock Climber – Bulgarian Split Squat

Purpose: Another exercise that came from the East and is now embedded in our society, highly underrated including in Climbing. Almost every sport in the world requires that you drive off one leg at a time, so if you haven’t got some one-legged work in your training plan, then you’re missing something.

The Bulgarian split squat is the answer: not only is it slightly easier to learn and master than the full-on back squat, but it’s also more universally-doable for people with oddly-shaped femurs and arguably more injury proof. In the back squat, for instance, the lower back comes heavily into play, limiting the weight you’re able to lift. In the Bulgarian squat, it’s all about your glutes, quads and hamstrings.

Targets: As well as testing your balance to the max – which will improve core strength – the elevated split squat is a powerhouse of a leg workout, with your quads, calves and hamstrings all set to benefit. The glutes are also heavily involved in the exercise, so it works for anyone keen on perfecting their posterior.

Technique: Grab a chair or another person to hold your back leg and squat. Only go as low as you’re comfortable with, try keep your knee behind your toes, and if you still need help, raise your heels again.

Using a bench placed behind you, extend one leg backward and place the top of the foot so it’s resting on the flat surface (rest on just toes to make it slightly harder). With a dumbbell in each hand, lunge forward until your front knee reaches 90°, being careful that it doesn’t extend past your toes. Lunge with front leg farther away from the bench (rear leg will be straighter) to increase the difficulty.

Broken down in 4 easy steps:

  1. Find yourself a step, bench or any other contraption that you can rest a foot on, it needs to be about knee height.
  2. Get into a forward lunge position with torso upright, core braced and hips square to your body, with your back foot elevated on the bench. Your leading leg should be half a metre or so in front of bench.
  3. Lower until your front thigh is almost horizontal, keeping your knee in line with your foot. Don’t let your front knee travel beyond your toes.
  4. Drive up through your front heel back to the starting position, again keeping your movements measured.