The Mighty Split Squat

What is probably one of the most underrated, but effective exercises for strengthening legs is the might split squat. There are many variations, but here are my top 3. 

Front Foot Elevated Split Squat (Poliquin Style)


Why this version is awesome

Firstly it is a great introductory exercise for beginners. You get a fantastic stretch on the trailing leg's hip flexor, adductor and also stimulate the quads, glutes and hamstrings of the front leg. If you happen to be very tight this is a great way to loosen up as well as iron out any imbalances between the legs.  

Coaching Tips

  1. Be sure to keep the weight on the front heel
  2. Keep the body in a mostly upright position
  3. If possible squeeze the glute (butt cheek) of the trailing leg and tuck your pelvis under, to illicit a greater stretch
  4. Move into position in a slow controlled manner and think about pushing the floor away with the front heel as you come up.

Watch out for

  • Knee collapsing inwards
  • Knees are ok to go over the toes as long as they stay aligned with the toes
  • Avoid front heel coming up
  • Too much arching of the lower back in an attempt to stay upright. If this is the case tilt forward slightly. 
  • Aim to keep the back leg as straight as possible and avoid bending where possible
  • Taka a little break between legs, you will thank me later...

Regular 90/90 Split Squat

Why is this version awesome?

The regular 90/90 split squat is a nice progression from the front foot elevated version. Some people may be flexible enough to mimic the front foot elevated split squat on a flat surface. For most of us, however, a better progression is simply to move the back knee up and down onto a pad as demonstrated in the video. 

You still obtain all of the benefits of the split squat, but there is less risk of doing the movement wrong and causing any injury. 

Many of my clients report feeling a big stretch on the back leg whilst they do this. 

Coaching Tips

  1. Start from the bottom up, by placing the back knee on the pad first
  2. Ensure the knees are aligned over the ankle and try to mimic a 90/90 
  3. Keep as much weight on the front heel as possible and push the floor away
  4. Stay as upright as possible

Watch out for

  • Arching of lower back in an effort to maintain good form
  • Knee travelling over the toe. Try putting your toe against a wall which should block the knee. This will reinforce the movement pattern we are after.

Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat

Why is this version awesome?
This is the most difficult version of the split squats, and should only be attempted once a strong base has been established with the other two split squat versions. 

The rear foot elevation intensifies the stretch on the back leg and also increases the demands of strength required on the front leg.

This will provide the height of challenge for quad dominant single leg work, in a safe way. 

If you want to make this harder for yourself you can try the following.

  • 5 second eccentric on the way down
  • Load yourself with KB's/DB's on each side
  • Load yourself with KB's and a weighted vest
  • All of the above with varied tempo

Coaching Tips

  1. Place the laces of your back foot on the edge of a bench or roller pad (such as in the video). 
  2. Place the back knee down on a pad below you and adjust your front foot accordingly for the best balance
  3. Push the floor away in an upright position whilst maintaining posture and balance

Watch out for

  • Avoid putting the toe on the bench, this can cause pain and limit your performance
  • Avoid over-arching your lower back in an effort to stay upright. If you are a little tight it's ok to tilt forward slightly
  • Keep the weight on the heel of the front foot and a little on the laces of the back foot. 
  • Use a rear foot position of roughly halfway between your ankle and your knee. If the resting position for the back foot is too high it may cause you to compensate by arching your back

Yours In Health

Patrick Fallis

Founder of Leaner