How to Barbell Split Squat (with Benefits & Tips)

Are you looking to add exercise to your repertoire? It's versatile but can be quite challenging at the same time. If you're focusing on strength training, then the barbell split squat could be something to consider. One of the things that we like about this is that it targets multiple muscle groups and offers plenty of benefits that will help your fitness goals become even more attainable.

This guide will show you how to perform a split squat using a barbell properly. This will improve your overall balance, stability, and coordination. It's also an exercise that will challenge your body's stability while being able to engage multiple muscle groups at the same time actively. You'll be surprised that a barbell exercise like this can provide you with excellent results in the long term. Whether you're a seasoned lifter or a beginner, it's time to learn this exercise.

 

A woman in the gym doing squats

What Are the Benefits of Barbell Split Squats?

Before getting into the exercise itself, we must outline the many benefits that make this a great addition to your workout routine. If you want to improve your overall fitness level, you'll be happy with the benefits of the barbell split squats. They include but are not limited to the following:

Builds lower body strength and stability: The barbell split squat is excellent for developing strength and stability, particularly in lower body muscles. This exercise will focus on your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. You can build functional strength to ensure better performance in various physical activities and sports you participate in.

Improved balance and coordination: Addressing this exercise's balance and coordination aspect is also essential. The barbell split squat requires you to maintain a stable and controlled position while lifting the weight on one leg. Your balance and coordination will play a role in ensuring your success. As you do this exercise consistently, you will notice that your balance and coordination will improve overall. Likewise, the reduction of injury risk and increase in athletic performance will undoubtedly be noticeable.

Enhancing mobility and flexibility: The split squat position features a significant range of motion, particularly in your hips, knees, and ankles. Just by including this exercise in your regular fitness routine, you can improve your overall mobility and flexibility. This means you can move around and also experience a good amount of flexibility, especially in other physical activities that require wide ranges of motion.

It strengthens your core: Although barbell split squats target more body muscles, your core muscles will also be engaged. This ensures stability throughout the entire motion. A strong core is always good for people who want to maintain good posture, prevent injuries, and improve their strength and performance.

What Are the Muscles of Focus?

Now that you know the benefits of barbell split squats, we'll look closer at the muscles of focus when performing these exercises. As mentioned, these muscles are worked simultaneously throughout the entire exercise. These are the following muscles that will be of focus:

Quadriceps: Located at the front of the thigh, this is the main muscle group responsible for helping you extend your knee and will be heavily engaged during the barbell split squat.

Hamstrings: These muscles are located at the back of the thigh. Typically, they are involved in knee flexion and hip extension, both of which are critical for the barbell split squat.

Glutes: These muscles include the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus. They play a role in hip extension and can help stabilize the body.

Calves: The calf muscles will be engaged as you perform a barbell split squat. They are responsible for providing ankle stability and for the overall development of the muscle itself.

Hip adductors: The hip adductor muscles are on the inner thigh. They stabilize your grounded leg while allowing you to maintain proper form throughout the exercise.

Core muscles: These are your abdominal and lower back muscles. Both will be engaged during the barbell split squat. This aims to help you maintain stability and an upright torso position.

What Is the Proper Technique?

 Like any other exercise, it's essential to ensure you maintain proper form and technique. By doing this, you can maximize the benefits while minimizing your risk of injury. Let's take a look now at how you can perform the barbell split squat properly:

Setup

  1. To begin, position the barbell on a squat rack and ensure it is set at around shoulder height.
  2. Stand under the bar and ensure your feet are shoulder-width apart. Next, position the barbell across your upper back, resting on your rear deltoids or traps.
  3. Secure the barbell using an overhand or mixed grip. Then, take a step forward with one leg to create a split stance. Ensure your front foot is flat on the ground while your rear foot is elevated on a platform such as a box, block, or bench.

Descent

  1. Begin the movement by sending your hips back and bending your knees. Lower your body until the rear knee is just an inch off the ground.
  2. Ensure that your front knee is aligned with your toes and does not extend beyond them. Failure to do this may cause excessive knee travel, leading to injury.
  3. Be sure to maintain an upright torso position throughout the movement. This will allow you to engage your core muscles, allowing you to maintain stability and balance.
  4. During your descent, make sure it is controlled and avoid making any sudden or rapid movements.

Ascent

  1. When you reach the bottom position, you want to drive your front heel to initiate the ascent.
  2. Using your front leg, push through and ensure both knees are straightened and returned to the starting position.
  3. At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes for maximum engagement.
  4. This completes one rep. You can repeat steps one through three until you reach the desired number of reps.

As mentioned, you must be mindful of the motion as you perform this exercise. This includes making sure that your front knee does not extend beyond the toes and that you don't round or lean too far forward.

After you've performed this exercise and finished at the gym, having a protein shake to celebrate a job well done is always a good idea. Raw Nutrition is one of the best brands for protein powder. Chris Bumstead and the team have plenty of different flavors to offer, including the CBUM Itholate Protein, which features flavors like Birthday cake, mint chocolate chip ice cream, and more.

 

A woman getting ready to do squats in the gym

 

 

Tips for Successful Barbell Split Squats 

You now know how to perform a barbell split squat. We will now look at tips for success so you can perform this exercise repeatedly, safely, and effectively. Be mindful of the following tips that we are providing for you:

  • Maintain proper posture and alignment: We can't stress this enough. By maintaining proper posture and alignment, you can perform this exercise efficiently, mainly when you can engage your abdominal muscles and the other core muscles. Remember not to lean excessively forward or backward or round your back. 
  • Be in control: This includes controlling the weight and movement. Please set it to a weight that will allow you to maintain the proper form and control throughout the entire range of motion. Do not add heavier weights or sacrifice the technique for such a reason. Personal trainers will be able to assist you if you are struggling with control.
  • Perform different squat variations: If you want to switch things up, consider performing different barbell squat variations. For example, you can try a Bulgarian Split Squat if you want a bit of a challenge. This will require you to plant your left foot on the floor while resting the right one on a bench or box (and vice versa). This exercise will help with balance and core strength. Adding different variations to your training program can give you plenty of variety.
  • Adjust the barbell weight based on strength level: If you are a beginner, you should strongly consider starting with a lighter weight. You can gradually increase the weight over time when you become more comfortable with the movement and if you are looking to build more strength. It's never a smart idea to go from a lightweight to something much heavier. If necessary, adjust the weight by at least 5 to 10 lb. If the weight above the previous is too heavy, you can adjust to a lighter weight that you are comfortable with.
  • Increase the reps gradually as well: While gradually increasing the weight is one thing, the reps are another to consider. As you progress, you can increase the number of repetitions as you add more weight. For example, you can perform five reps of the barbell split squat at a starting lightweight weight. You can perform ten reps with a slightly heavier weight if you are more comfortable.
  • Don't be afraid to use a spotter or safety rack: When it comes to working out, safety should always come first. If you're working out using heavier weights, it's important that you utilize a safety rack or, if necessary, a spotter. Both of these will be helpful if you appear to be out of movement.

 

A woman wearing a black t-shirt and shorts, working out in the gym

What Are the Safety Considerations?

Even though the barbell split squat can be great for your lower body strength, you want to ensure you perform the exercise safely. Preventing injuries while maximizing effectiveness in your training experience will be something to achieve. Here are the following safety considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Warm up and stretch: This should be rule number one of every exercise you perform. You want to perform a warm-up exercise to prepare your muscles for the routine. One of the best ways to warm up is by performing light cardio exercises followed by dynamic stretching. Both of these will help you increase blood flow and body temperature. The stretches you perform should focus on the muscles involved, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes.
  2. Use proper footwear: It's also a good idea to consider wearing appropriate footwear with sufficient support and traction. This will allow you to maintain stability throughout the entire exercise. So be sure to choose the right shoes that will enable you to perform every rep successfully. It may not be wise to wear street shoes, especially if worn for a long time.
  3. To add weight or not to add weight? Deciding to add more weight to your barbell split squat may be challenging. However, it is vital to ensure that you start with a lighter weight, even if this is your first time doing these exercises. Be sure to stick to a lighter weight for as long as possible. Make that adjustment if you believe your body is more comfortable with slightly heavy weights. Once again, we stress that you should not jump to heavier weights as you may not know that your body may not be able to handle it just yet.
  4. Listen to your body: You want to be mindful of what your body tells you during your exercise routine. If you experience any pain or discomfort, it's essential to make sure you stop the exercise as soon as possible. If you experience sharp or persistent pain, stop the exercise and contact your healthcare provider immediately. This could be a sign that you may have injured yourself. Be sure to follow the doctor's orders accordingly. This could also mean adjusting your fitness routine drastically and may include lengthy rest and recovery periods.

Final Thoughts

Now, you can perform a barbell split squat with ease. We hope you can start as soon as you are at the gym next time. Be sure to start light and try it if this is your first time using this exercise. No matter how long it takes to get to heavier weights, focus more on the benefits of the exercise so you can reach your fitness goals faster. If you need the best supplements, protein powders, and other items for your fitness goals, Raw Nutrition will have what you need.

Are you looking for something that will enhance your nutrition? Check us out today, and we'll show you what we have.


The information being presented in this blog is intended to be used as educational or resource information only. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from your healthcare provider. This content should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please contact your healthcare provider. You should call 911 for all medical emergencies. Raw Nutrition is not liable for any advice or information provided on this blog, which advice or information is provided on an “as-is” basis, and assumes no liability for diagnosis, treatment, decisions, or actions made in reliance upon any advice or information contained on this blog. No warranties, express or implied, are made on the information that is provided.
July 10, 2024 — Briana Gonzalez

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