Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredDumbbell
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypePush (Unilateral)
  • Experience LevelIntermediate
  • Secondary Muscles
    Abs, Adductors, Calves, Glutes, Hamstrings, Shoulders, Traps, Upper Back
Target Muscle Group


Quads Muscle Anatomy Diagram

One Leg Dumbbell Squat (AKA Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat) Overview

The dumbbell Bulgarian split squat is an excellent exercise for those looking to build a stronger squat personal record. It can also be used to correct muscle imbalances some might experience over the years from strictly focusing on bilateral leg movements.

The dumbbell Bulgarian split squat is a variation of the dumbbell lunge in which you elevate your rear foot. The elevation shifts the emphasis to the grounded foot and allows pressure to be placed directly on the quad.

The dumbbell Bulgarian split squat is best considered an accessory movement, however, one can utilize them as a primary quad building exercise depending on their goals.


One Leg Dumbbell Squat (AKA Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat) Instructions

  1. Set up in a split stance position while grasping dumbbells by your side with a neutral grip.
  2. Position the back foot on a bench or circular pad to increase the range of motion.
  3. Descend by flexing the front knee and continue until the back knee touches the ground directly beneath the hip.
  4. Drive through the front foot and extend the knee as you return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

One Leg Dumbbell Squat (AKA Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat) Tips

  1. You can utilize a bench for this variation but it may be slightly more uncomfortable on the ankle joint. As such, it may be wiser to use the pad on the leg extension machine or perhaps the squat pad attached to a bar at a lower height. Ideally the back foot should be positioned at knee height or slightly below. Setting the back foot too high will likely just drive your lumbar spine into excessive extension.
  2. If you want to emphasize the quads during the split squat, focus on taking a slightly smaller split stance and drive up through the ball of the foot.
  3. If you want to emphasize the glutes and hamstrings during the split squat, focus on taking a slightly larger split stance and drive up through the heel of the foot.
  4. If you’re an overextended athlete then you may find it more beneficial to allow for slightly more torso lean throughout the drill as this will help to keep your spine neutral and load the front leg more effectively.
  5. If the front leg keeps diving in excessively as you reverse from the eccentric to concentric, attach a band to a rack, loop one end around your knee, and allow it to pull you into a valgus position (not excessively, just slightly). From here, push out against the band to engage the glute and keep yourself in a more neutral position.
  6. You don’t need to feel like you have to be completely upright as you complete the movement. On the contrary, you should have a slight forward lean and focus on keeping your lumbar spine neutral.
Posted on: Mon, 10/30/2023 - 02:18

what is the desired weight for the dumbell

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 10/30/2023 - 18:12

That is up to you and how strong you are. Go light to start until you master form, then slowly start pushing it on the weight.

Posted on: Sat, 03/11/2023 - 12:51

I find it hard to keep balance and feel that hurts my knees. Can I substitute this exercise for leg extension?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 03/11/2023 - 19:54

I would suggest single leg extension so you can focus on each, but yes, you could make that swap. Keep in mind that the split squat also hits the glutes as a secondary muscle. If that is a priority, then you need to find another movement that won't hurt your knee to target that area as well.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 03/26/2023 - 15:44

You can check out the Exercises section at the top of the site and click on both quads and glutes to find movements that you feel you can do. You're going to have to try several to find ones you can do. You should also talk to your doctor about your knees to make sure you don't have something very serious going on.

Posted on: Sat, 03/18/2023 - 12:24

Roger, thank you so much. Any other exercise would you recommend
To work quads and glutes instead of this one? That won’t be so hard on
Knees and balance? Linda

Posted on: Sun, 08/14/2022 - 17:06

I find that as well as driving through my lead leg, I also push through my ankle on the raised leg. Any top tips to help?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 08/16/2022 - 10:03

Less weight and slower reps. It sucks, but that was the only way I could break myself of that habit. Go lighter, slower, and put all your thought into that lead foot.

Posted on: Mon, 01/11/2021 - 18:16

Hello, is it 3 sets of 12 reps for each leg or should I split them 3 sets but do 6 reps with both?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 01/12/2021 - 10:59

Hey Danny - which workout are you referring to?

Posted on: Sat, 01/16/2021 - 21:19

The split squats

Soumya Pahari
Posted on: Tue, 12/25/2018 - 11:38

Can they be replaced by step ups? Cause split squats really hurt my knee

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 01/02/2019 - 13:55

Hi Soumya,

Yes, that would be a good substitution.

Posted on: Sun, 01/04/2015 - 13:01

I really dislike any form of these squats. My gams can't tolerate more than a few before they conk out on me.

Posted on: Sat, 10/06/2012 - 01:29

I have bad knees is there a different exercise that I can perform to replace the split squat?

Wilson Sanchez
Posted on: Tue, 02/25/2014 - 21:59

you can do box squats