Squats and deadlifts are the backbone of any good leg workout, but they aren’t the only way to build big wheels, and they aren’t the only way to grow the strong, powerful glutes and hamstrings that your body needs and wants.
In fact, not everyone squats and deadlifts cleanly, says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. And that’s one reason Samuel loves building in Bulgarian split squats in his leg routines. “I love the move,” says Samuel, “because it allows you to work through the squat pattern even if you’re struggling with hip or ankle mobility. It’s also going to train a ton of athleticism.”
Bulgarian split squats are also a great way to get lighter weights to go far, says Samuel. “We can pile up reps and work through a full range of motion for our legs,” he says, “and get a nice deep burn. It’s a great way to cause a ton of metabolic stress for our lower body.”
That’s exactly what you’ll do in the Bulgarian split squat hellset, which, in just 10 minutes, can absolutely hammer your glutes, hamstrings and quads, promoting both muscle growth and serious strength gains. “Bulgarian split squats are a great way to work a deep squat range of motion,” says Samuel, “while still holding proper mechanics. And in this particular hellset, a standalone workout by itself, you’re really going to smash the all-important glutes.”
The Bulgarian split squat hellset can easily be a nasty 1o-minute leg workout all its own. It can also be a scary leg day finisher, wiping out every muscle in your legs after you’ve done squats, deadlifts, and lunges.
No matter how you use it, the game plan is simple, says Samuel. “We’re gonna lead with a lot of pauses and pulses, using those to pattern strong contractions, and using them to force your glutes and hamstrings to work extra-hard,” he says. “We’ll gradually transition away from those pauses and pulses as the set wears on.”
You’ll also crush your abs more than you expect, says Samuel, partly because of the position you’re holding the kettlebells in. “You’re living in a front rack position for a sustained period of time, and that’s work,” Samuel says. “This is a ton of leg work, but, in some ways, it’s a total-body crusher too.”
- Start with a pair of kettlebells held in a front rack, core tight, right leg set back on a bench, positioned for Bulgarian split squats. Do 6 to 8 reps of pulse Bulgarian split squats, lowering into the bottom of the split squat, pausing momentarily, pulsing up so your thigh is just above parallel to the ground, then standing all the way up and squeezing your glutes.
- Immediately transition into 6 to 8 reps of pause Bulgarian split squats, lowering into the bottom position, holding for one second with your back knee just off the ground, then standing all the way up and squeezing your glutes.
- Immediately transition into 6 to 8 standard Bulgarian split squats.
- Rest 45 to 60 seconds, then repeat on the other leg. Do 2 to 3 sets per leg.
The sequence will leave your legs crying, says Samuel, so, especially the first time you do it, don’t get too ambitious. “It’s great to do 8 reps if you can in each stage,” he says. “But don’t be afraid to do 6. You’re still piling up 18 total reps and a ton of time-under-tension, which is exactly what your legs need.”
In a pinch on the road? Ditch the kettlebells, says Samuel, and do the entire sequence with bodyweight. “It’ll still rough you up,” says Samuel, “creating a nice deep thigh pump.”