Have you been thinking about doing the Bulgarian split squat with a barbell across your back?

I was a personal trainer several years ago at a gym, and before I had a client perform this exercise with a barbell across the back, I made sure they are absolutely ready for this movement.

You’ve probably seen people doing the Bulgarian split squat with dumbbells. This exercise is as much a favorite among women as it is men.

You can also do this with a barbell across your back. If your legs are already strong, you’ll have no choice but to use a barbell.

For obvious reasons, it would be extremely impractical to do split squats with a 75 pound dumbbell in each hand, let alone a 100 pounder.

Get familiar with this movement by first using dumbbells. But even if your back squat load is light to begin with, you’ll want to soon get used to the Bulgarian technique with a barbell.

After all, this is about building the legs, not hammering the traps and exhausting the grip, which may force you to end the set before your legs and glutes give out.

With barbell across back, stand before the length of a bench. Place the front of one foot on it after you estimate how far from the bench your support foot will need to be to execute a comfortable squat.

You don’t want the support foot to be too close to the bench. Not only would this be very uncomfortable, but it would put too much stress on the knee.

The knee of the support leg shouldn’t track ahead of the foot. Proper positioning will make the set more doable, and will recruit not only the quads, but the glutes and hams. Don’t assume that you must use only a standard weight lifting bench for support.

If this doesn’t feel right no matter how much you adjust, try a different-height platform. You can also build a platform using a “stepper” from the aerobics studio and putting risers beneath it.

The Bulgarian split squat is great because on one hand, it’s done with a much lighter load when compared to a regular squat, and two, single-leg training always has its place in muscle building and fitness.

When possible, the Bulgarian split squat should be done in a squat rack if you use a barbell.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.