How to Do a Split Squat to Increase Flexibility

Fitness woman split squat exercise outdoor

A split squat is a compound leg exercise that provides the body with several benefits. This workout includes multiple lower body muscles, forcing them to work strength, mobility, and flexibility. A proper split squat can increase all of these aspects, although the form is incredibly important if you want to reap all the benefits split squats offer.

This workout is a great way to build muscle in many different muscles at once. Other workouts are popular for increasing these similar muscle groups, but most are much more complex, such as deadlifts, single-leg squats, or back squats. Also, the split squat can be commonly misidentified as a lunge, but a split squat is not a lunge.

The easiest distinction between these two separate workouts is that you move your feet in lunges while your feet remain stationary while doing split squats.

Because of the form of split squats, most of the weight rests on your front foot. This encourages your quadriceps to work. There are a few ways to make split squats more challenging, like adding free weights or elevating your back leg. The benefits of squat splits are maintained through these variations.

More challenging variations to the exercise can help a person gain muscle faster. Whether it is a basic split squat or an enhanced version, split squat workouts are incredibly beneficial for improving strength, flexibility, balance, and other components. man doing split squar  

Major Benefits of Split Squats

Some exercises naturally provide more benefits than most, and split squats is certainly one of those.

For one, this exercise builds muscle in a variety of muscle groups, but it also increases overall health. Split squats are one of the best compound muscle exercise options for your work out.

When performing split squats correctly, a person will work their quads, hamstrings, calves, abs, lower back, and butt muscles. This leads to anabolic workout environments in the body, which results in toned legs and body-wide muscle mass building. 

Working so many muscles at once also makes this exercise more efficient at burning calories. Since so many muscles have to be activated at once, it also requires a lot of focus and energy if you’re new to working out. 

Your muscles, joints, and flexibility naturally decrease when you age, making all of these factors worse with time. The best way to counteract this is by working out different muscles and joints and doing split squats to help you limber up and fight this natural aging process.

If you work out consistently enough, you can fight this process and maintain an overall healthy body longer. 

Bending and stretching your leg muscles will help mobility and balance as you grow. It’s essential to stay fit as you age, as this encourages independent living while you age. Also, split squats are an excellent way to improve stabilizing muscles, which are incredibly important when it comes to aging mobility.

As people get older, mundane tasks like getting out of a chair, running, or bending down become more difficult. Exercises like split squats that work out stabilizing muscles improve these factors because they improve balance. Split squats cause your stabilizer muscles to communicate with your brain, which encourages better connections mentally to these muscles. This is vital in preventing falls, which can be very dangerous to the elderly. 

Fighting aging isn’t all split squats do. They also help improve heart and lung health by developing stronger cardiac muscles and enhancing lung capacity.

Overall, practicing split squats also helps prevent future injuries. Supportive tissues strengthen during this exercise, making it less likely to injure these tissues.

By improving the use of your joints and helping your bones maintain strength, split squats do great work for your body’s strength. If you have low bone density or want to prevent lower bone density that comes with age, split squats can help you fight it off.

Because these squats aid abs, legs, and lungs, it is great at improving speed and jumping ability. The muscles this workout can build in the thighs and the support it gives to the joints make it a great exercise to include in your workout routine if you play basketball, run track, or enjoy running. Improved lower extremities can aid your health in a lot of different ways. 

When you really look at all the benefits split squats offer, it’s easy to see how it improves power, acceleration, jumping, core strength, and leg strength. Things that can improve these factors also improve posture just as a side effect of all the muscles they help strengthen.

Another positive side effect of all of these health improvements is improved digestion and circulation, which occurs because fluids travel through the body faster. More oxygen and nutrients travel through the body’s organs and include improvements to small intestine efficiency.  

How to Improve Flexibility

Flexibility is the range of motion in a joint. The more flexible you are, the more motion you have access to. The other side of that coin is that a restricted range of motion causes joints and muscles to be stiff.

Squatting is a great way to improve flexibility, and it enhances ranges of motion. The online says, “The split squat is a daring leg exercise that you can add to your leg routines to build strength and mobility. The split squats target similar leg muscles as squats but work one leg at a time, making them more effective.”

This acknowledgment of the influence split squats can have on a body speaks to how the correct form can improve health. The downside of this is that if you are new to working out or are an older adult, you may be limited to squats and not be able to challenge yourself.

The best way to maintain the proper form is to go only as far as you can comfortably.  Allow your split squats to be challenging, but don’t force your body to do something painful or move in a way it can’t. Pushing yourself in this way can backfire and cause you to have pain, sore muscles that aren’t growing, or injury.

This is why you should limit your movements to how deep YOU can go and work on improving your form as you practice this exercise. woman doing split squat  

Step-by-Step Instructions for a Split Squat

When you do split squats, a good goal is to complete two to three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions on each leg. When starting your split squat exercise, you should make your goal on the lower end of these repetitions and sets, so you don’t overwork yourself. Move through these steps slowly to ensure you have proper form. As you remember the correct form for the workout and practice split squats, you can move faster.

Most exercises are effective when completed in a slow and controlled motion. 

1. Stand in your split squat stance with your feet in a flat position. Move your front heel to be 2 to 4 feet in front of your back foot. Once you find a comfortable position, raise your back heel in a manner that you can still place weight evenly along your back foot’s toes. Then shift your weight along the entirety of your front foot and be able to grip the floor with your front foot to stay stable. Once you’ve reached this position, you should feel balanced and can move to the next step.

2. You’ll need to square your hips and make your posture tall. Your torso should stay upright, and your feet should be about shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly, and allow your shoulders to come over your hips or slightly ahead of your hips as long as your head and neck stay in a neutral position. It is important to keep your chin tucked. Most fitness experts encourage people to pretend they’re holding an egg under their chin to ensure they keep their head tucked through the whole movement. 

3. Then place your hands on your hips or in front of your chest. It would be best if you keep your arms in a way that helps you balance. You should try too keep arms closer to your body so you have to work your lower body muscles more to achieve balance. Using your arms to help balance will remove the effect this exercise has on your legs. 

4. Engage your core and bend your body in a downward movement. You can bend your knee, hips, and ankle on your front leg and allow your back knee to bend forward. 

5. As you bend, you want to go until your lower leg is parallel to the floor. If you cannot reach this position or you feel pain, take a step back and make any modifications you need for your body. You can also squat less than the recommended amount if necessary. If no changes are needed, squat until you are one to two inches above the ground and pause at the bottom of the movement for one or two seconds. 

6. Start moving upwards by pushing your front foot into the ground to initiate standing. While standing, tighten your chest so you rise with your chest high. Squeeze your glutes and straighten your front knee as your hips travel forward. You can finish this movement by ensuring your shoulders are directly over your hips, marking the end of one repetition.

Repeat these movements until you reach your desired number of repetitions and sets. You can also add things to make the exercise more challenging or try different split squat variations to make your body work harder.

Ways to Make Split Squats More Challenging

If you want to make your squats more challenging, you can always use a cable machine, add some form of instability, or use free weights. Cable machines are great because they require consistent force throughout the exercises’ movement, and this means you have to work harder to move the same way.

Adding instability, like holding a weight in one hand or putting your back foot up higher, means your body has to work much harder to do the same movement as these little stabilizing muscles will require much more energy to help you stay stable.

Lastly, free weights make your lower extremities work more, engaging your muscles and building muscle mass faster.

Alternative Options to Split Squats to Increase Flexibility

Hand-Supported Split Squat

This split squat is an alternative method that goes through the same movements as the original split squat. The only difference is that you will use one hand to hold a weight and use the other for support. This makes your body unbalanced and requires more work to stay stabilized during the workout. It increases the muscle use of your quads and glutes.

Rotational Split Squat

A rotational split squat is similar to a standard split squat with the difference being that the torso twists. You will follow the same steps as the standard split squat but will rotate your torso outwards, adding transverse plane stress and making your hips and inner thigh muscles work more. This can also end up improving hip extensions and the side of your quad muscle, which often gets overlooked in exercises. 

Elevated Split Squat (Bulgarian Split Squat)

An elevated split squat, commonly called the Bulgarian split squat, is the most seen split squat variation. This exercise is similar to the traditional split squat but requires elevating the rear foot. Place your right leg behind you and place the top of your back foot on a step or bench. Your feet should still be shoulder-width apart. 

When doing this specific variation, you should also try to keep your foot position consistent so your left knee doesn’t touch the line of your toes when you lower your feet.

Performing Bulgarian split squats give your quads an extra boost while working out. You can push this exercise even further by adding weight to elevated split squats. Many people love this variation, and it offers many more benefits to the benefits of the traditional split squat.

Doing the elevated squat without adding weight improves the core and upper body strength, flexibility, and range of motion further. Adding weights strengthens these aspects and allows you to build muscle mass even faster. woman doing split squat in gym


Not all workouts can increase your flexibility, but squat-style workouts are well known for increasing flexibility and muscle mass simultaneously. Exercises with as many benefits as split squats are invaluable in workout routines. Not only do these workouts continually provide benefits to newbies getting into fitness as well as experts who have long been in the workout game, but they also help maintain the physical aspects of youth.

Talk to a fitness expert or doctor if you have a pre-existing health condition that may make split squats challenging for you. If you can’t manage to get the proper form for this workout, you’ll have to find a different exercise since the form is a key part of this exercise’s benefits.

Remember during your workout to stop as soon as you feel pain or discomfort. It might just be soreness from past workouts, but you need to make sure to thoroughly examine the cause of the discomfort before continuing with your exercise.

For continued progress and increased body strength, it is vital to provide proper warm-ups and rest days, as well as good nutrition with your exercise routines. It is recommended you rest 24 to 48 hours before training the same muscle groups again.

Split squats undoubtedly improve flexibility, but they aren’t the only way to get more flexible.

Suppose you want to keep split squats in your routine but increase your flexibility even faster. In that case, you could combine this exercise with yoga, stretching, or a pilates routine to encourage better flexibility from similar muscle groups. 

Stretching before or after working out is important to your joints and will help you achieve better flexibility faster when you regularly perform split squats.

Other exercises like a Bulgarian squat, goblet squat, or pistol squat can also improve flexibility in different muscles and tendons than the split squats do. If you want to develop strong leg muscles, a barbell squat, single leg squat, and single leg exercise can really help to build those muscles efficiently.

Any take on the traditional squat will aid muscle growth and flexibility, but not many workout routines consist of so much muscle activation in tandem with lower body flexibility. 

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