EBENEZER SAMUEL/MEN’S HEALTH
Gym shorts and bathing suits are getting shorter and less baggy, so you’re going to want to fill them out right. You’ll get a good workout with standard back squats—but if you really want to make glute gains, you’ll focus in on the muscles and slow down for some hard-hitting unilateral work.
This somewhat simple tweak to the Bulgarian split squat from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., makes the exercise that much more of a glute-annihilator, largely because of how much more tension it forces upon the maximus-sized muscles.
The key to growing the glutes with the move comes through patience and control, according to Samuel. “We’re going to pause in the bottom of the split squat position; make sure your back knee is still an inch from the ground when you do this,” he says. “This is both extra time-under-tension for your glutes, and it’s also an exploration of the bottom position of the Bulgarian. It’s trickier to hold this position than you think, and it’s also going to give your back leg a great stretch along that quad.”
You add an extra challenge with the load, too. The racked kettlebell position is more taxing on your abs than if you were to hold the weights down at your sides, so you’ll need to brace your core to keep strong, healthy back alignment throughout the movement.
To perform the pulse pause Bulgarian split squat you’ll need a set of kettlebells and a bench or some other stable platform.
- Hold a pair of kettlebells in the racked position and stand slightly in front of the platform. Raise one of you feet back onto the surface and rest your weight onto it, finding your balance. Your legs shouldn’t be positioned so far that you have to stretch to perform the lunge, but they shouldn’t be so close that your range of motion is impeded. Most importantly, you should be able to maintain a vertical shin in your front leg when you squat.
- Bend your knees and squat down. Pause for a count at the bottom position, then fire your glutes to pulse up slightly once. Make sure that your knee doesn’t touch the ground, and work to maintain that vertical shin position in the front leg.
- Squeeze your glutes to lift yourself out of the hole. Stay balanced throughout the movement.
This exercise is all about patience. “It’s also erasing all the elastic energy you’d normally use to escape the bottom of the Bulgarian,” says Samuel. “Suddenly, something has to re-initiate the acceleration of the body upwards. If you have weak or inactive glutes, your body may try to create drive from elsewhere, maybe by rocking your torso forward and back.”
The weight are more useful than just giving your core an extra challenge, too. “[The load] will both force core accountability and keep you from using excessive torso rock as a substitute for glute and leg drive out of the hole,” Samuel says.
Add the pulse pause Bulgarian split squat to your leg day with 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps per side.
By Brett Williams And Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.