Split Squat Alternatives that will Work Your Glutes and Legs

Split Squat Alternatives that will Work Your Glutes and Legs

The split squat is an exercise that works the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings to a lesser degree. Since the individual performing the movement will have their chest bent slightly forward and their hip hinge at a forward angle, users can change the degree to which their torso and shin muscles are also activated during the movement.

The split squat not only works the anterior and posterior muscles of the legs but helps with hip flexion mobility, knee flexion mobility, and dorsiflexion mobility. Combining leg power and strength with this mobility is especially beneficial for athletes who need to jump, run, and sprint in their sport.

Split squat alternatives are exercises that tax the same muscle group and use similar movement patterns but either use different equipment, varying movements, or tax the muscles to various degrees. Alternative can be suitable for beginners who do not know how to do the more advanced exercises, or for expert gym-goers and bodybuilders who want to do a more strenuous exercise.

Some of the best split squat alternative exercises for beginners include a bodyweight lunge, bodyweight squat, reverse lunge, goblet squat with kettlebell, or step-up. Beginners can try bodyweight split squat alternatives or split squat alternatives for a home to reap the same benefits without any risk of injury or danger.

Advanced users can try kettlebell split squat alternatives, trap bar split squat alternatives, barbell split squat alternatives, or other more challenging exercises that work unilateral muscles or tax the entire posterior chain. These exercises suitable for advanced athletes and bodybuilders include the Jefferson squat, single-leg Romanian deadlift, and narrow stance squat.

1. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

The single-leg Romanian deadlift is a Bulgarian split squat alternative that works the four major muscles of your hamstring, including the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus, along with your gluteal muscles. This exercise is effective for athletes who need to work on balancing their power output and unilateral strength.

Alternatives of the single-leg Romanian deadlift include the barbell deadlift, barbell Romanian deadlift, dumbbell deadlift, single-leg leg press, single-leg glute bridge, reverse lunge, and single-leg squat. One mistake to avoid during this exercise is rounding your upper back. Users can prevent this mistake by hinging at their hips and keeping their back flat throughout the motion. 

The toughness level of this exercise is a 5 out of 10 since it takes coordination, unilateral strength, and proper form. 

2. Reverse Lunge

The reverse lunge is a split squat alternative that works the gluteal muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, and core. The muscle worked to the highest degree involves the hamstrings during the reverse motion of the lunge and the gluteus maximus during the reverse motion. Although forward lunges work the quadriceps more, reverse lunges can still target the anterior muscles on your leg. This movement is good for athletes and weightlifters who want to build their posterior leg strength. 

Reverse Lunges Correct Form

Alternatives of the reverse lunge include forward lunge, lateral lunge, single-leg leg press, single-leg leg extension, Romanian deadlift, barbell deadlift, and barbell back squat. One mistake to avoid during this exercise is letting your knee cave inwards. Avoid this mistake by keeping your knees tracking over your toes and keeping your chest upright. 

The toughness level of his exercise is a 4 out of 10 since it can be done without any weights and requires only one movement during the entire exercise. 

3. Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is a split squat alternative that works the quadriceps, core, gluteal muscles, pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, deltoids, latissimus dorsi, and trapezius. Since the user is going to be keeping the weight in front of them and in place during the entire motion, the upper body and core will be working to stabilize their trunks. This movement is suitable for beginners who want to build up to a back squat or front squat. 

Alternatives to the goblet squat include the barbell front squat, barbell back squat, hack squat, leg press, leg extension, goblet reverse lunge, and kettlebell deadlift. One mistake to avoid during this exercise is rounding your upper back at the bottom portion of the squat. Users can prevent this mistake by keeping the weight high during the entire exercise and not letting their knees cave in during the bottom part of the squat.

The toughness level of this exercise is a 4 out of 10 since the weight can help keep the users’ chests upright and avoid rounding their upper backs.

4. Pistol Squat

The pistol squat is an alternating split squat jump variation that works the gluteal muscles, quadriceps, hastings, hip adductors, hip abductors, calves, and core. Since the user will be doing a one-legged squat, they will need the other side of their body and core to stabilize them during the motion. Furthermore, they will need the anterior and posterior chain of their leg muscles to keep them balanced and coordinated during the squatting motion. This exercise is good for athletes to build single-leg strength and power. 

Alternatives of the pistol squat included the lunge, reverse lunge, goblet squat, barbell deadlift, kettlebell deadlift, single-leg leg extension, single-leg leg press, single-leg glute bridge, and single-leg kettlebell RDL. one mistake to avoid during this exercise is going down too low and not being able to stand back up. Users can prevent this mistake by starting small and using a bench as a proprioception tool.

The toughness level of this exercise is a 6 out of 10 since it takes a high level of one-sided strength and coordination. 

5. Lunge

The lunge is a smith machine split squat alternative that works the gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps, gastrocnemius, and knee stabilizers. Since you need to keep your knee in line with your toes during the entire motion, the knee stabilizers, such as the soleus, will have to keep your knee in the right line. The lunge is helpful for athletes who want to build unilateral strength and bodybuilders who want to develop the front and back of their legs. 

Alternatives of the lunge include reverse lunge, barbell reverse lunge, kettlebell rack front lunge, barbell deadlift, barbell Romanian deadlift, and dumbbell Romanian deadlift. One mistake to avoid during this exercise is letting your knees go over your toes during the lunge. Users can prevent this mistake by tracking their knees with their toes and keeping their chest upright.

The toughness level of this exercise is a 4 out of 10 since it requires balance and single-leg strength. 

6. Step-Up

The step-up is an alternative to Bulgarian split squats that works the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. Since you are stepping onto an elevated surface, your glues will be taxed more so than the typical lunge. Weightlifters, bodybuilders, and athletes can all use this exercise to build the ps anterior chain of their legs.

Alternatives to this exercise include a lateral step-up, lateral lunge, reverse lunge, forward lunge, and barbell step up. One mistake to avoid during this exercise is choosing a step that is too high for you to safely step up. Two tips to avoid this mistake are to measure out a box or bench beforehand and to have a spotter during your first time doing this exercise.

The toughness level of the hit exercise is a 4 out of 10 since it does not require any equipment and can be done safely. 

7. Jefferson Squat

The Jefferson squat is one of the alternatives to the Bulgarian split squat that works the quads, glutes, hamstrings, adductors, obliques, spinal erectors, and latissimus dorsi. This exercise is suitable for eight lifts and bodybuilders who want to build their upper and lower bodies.

Alternatives to this exercise include the leg extension, seated leg curl, narrow stance squat, hack squat, barbell back squat, and front squat. One mistake to avoid during this exercise is letting your chest bend over the bar. Users can prevent this mistake by keeping straight arms and their knees bent at 90 degrees at the bottom of the movement.

The toughness level of this exercise is a 6 out of 10 since it requires more technique and proper form than other split squat alternatives. 

8. Leg Extension

The leg extension is an alternative to split squats that works the quadriceps, such as the rectus femoris. This exercise is suitable for bodybuilders and weightlifters who want to build the front of their legs without using heavyweights. 

The right way to use Leg Extension Machine

Alternatives of the leg extension include the barbell back squat, front squat, kettlebell squat, hack squat, leg press, and bodyweight squats. One mistake to avoid during this exercise is to lock out your knees fully at the end of the range of motion. Users can prevent this mistake by keeping a slight bend in their knee at the end of the range of motion and setting up the machine properly. 

The toughness level of this exercise is a 3 out of 10 since your body is supported and the weights are on a track. 

9. Seated Leg Curl

The seated leg curl is a split squat alternative that works the hamstrings. This exercise is good for beginners who do not want to use heavy weights or for bodybuilders and weightlifters who specifically want to isolate and target their hamstrings for growth.

Alternatives of the seated leg curl include glute bridge, Romanian deadlift, barbell deadlift, single-leg deadlift, and reverse lunge. One mistake to avoid during this exercise is arching your back. Users can prevent this mistake by keeping their hands on the handlebars and setting up the machine properly.

The toughness level of this exercise is a 3 out of 10 since the machine is beginner-friendly. 

10. Narrow Stance Squat

The narrow stance squat is an alternative Bulgarian split squat alternative that works the vastus medialis more so than the wide-stance squat. This exercise also works the gluteus maximus at a comparable rate but focuses mainly on the inner quadriceps and the adductors for additional growth. This exercise is good for athletes who need to build their abductors and bodybuilders who want to focus on the inside of their legs.

Alternatives of the narrow stance squat include abductor raises, cable abductor pull-ins, back squat, front squat, step-ups, and lateral step-ups. One mistake to avoid during this exercise is going up on your toes during the squat. Users can avoid this by putting blocks under their heels if they do not have enough heel mobility or using a lighter weight.

The Toughness level of this exercise is a 5 out of 10 since it requires proper form and more coordination than the typical squat. 

What to know about Split Squat alternatives?

Split squat alternatives are great for both beginners and advanced users alike. Beginners can modify the split squat to find something more manageable for them that doesn’t require a full range of motion or heavyweights, whereas an advanced user, such as a bodybuilder or weightlifter, can choose an alternative exercise for split squat that works the specific muscle groups to a higher degree.

Which Split Squat alternative is beginner friendlier?

Beginners must find an alternative to Bulgarian split squat that is user-friendly. The split squat alternatives that are beginner-friendly are the reverse lunge, goblet squat, lunge, leg extension, and seated leg curl. 

Which Split Squat alternative is better for Glutes?

The best Bulgarian split squat alternatives for glutes include the reverse lunge, pistol squat, and step-up. 

Which Split Squat replacement exercise is better for Legs?

The best split squat replacement exercise that is better for the legs is the reverse lunge, step-up, Jefferson squat, and narrow stance squat. These leg exercises are great routines to add to your leg day.

Which Split Squat substitute is better for strength?

The best split squat substitute for strength includes compound movements that tax the most muscle groups to the highest degree, such as the reverse lunge, goblet squat, Jefferson squat, and narrow stance squat. 

When should an athlete use the split Squat alternative for exercise?

An athlete should consider using a split squat alternative if they cannot do the full range of motion for the split squat, they have an injury, or they are focusing on a specific muscle group or muscular weakness. Athletes would benefit from doing single-leg exercises, such as the single-leg Romanian deadlift, to get rid of any unilateral weakness. Furthermore, they would benefit from doing power-related exercises and lower-body strength exercises, such as the goblet squat, pistol squat, step-up, and lunge. 

What are the advantages of modifying Split Squat?

The advantages of modifying the split squat are to make an exercise easy for someone to avoid injury, risk of overuse, and incorrect form that can lead to injury. Furthermore, advanced athletes can modify split squats to make the exercise harder for their individual needs. 

Can Split Squat alternatives replace the Split Squat?

Alternatives to split squats cannot fully replace the split squat, but they can recruit the same muscle groups and fibers as the movement. The most similar movements include the single-leg movements, like the single-leg RDL, lunge, and reverse lunge. 

What are the Split Squat Variations?

Here you can see the split squat variations.

  1. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift – This split squat alternative is beneficial for joint function at the hip and hamstring engagement. 
  2. Reverse Lunge – This split squat alternative is suitable for less strain on your joints and for beginners who have limited knee and hip mobility. 
  3. Goblet Squat – This split squat alternative helps strengthen the upper and lower body and prevents injury from over-loading a back or front squat. 
  4. Pistol Squat – This split squat alternative builds lower-body and core strength. 
  5. Lunge – This split squat alternative helps with your posture, core, and stability. 
  6. Step-Up – This split squat alternative builds single-leg power for athletes. 
  7. Jefferson Squat – This split squat alternative increases leg hypertrophy, builds adductor strength, and builds core stability. 
  8. Leg Extension – This split squat alternative strengthens the quadriceps and patellar ligament attachment. 
  9. Seated Leg Curl – This split squat alternative is beneficial for isolating the biceps femoris and semitendinosus. 
  10. Narrow Stance Squat – This split squat alternative targets the adductors and inner quads. 
Athletic Insight

Athletic Insight Research

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

The Athletic Insight Research team consists of a dedicated team of researchers, Doctors, Registered Dieticians, nationally certified nutritionists and personal trainers. Our team members hold prestigious accolades within their discipline(s) of expertise, as well as nationally recognized certifications. These include; National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT), National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC), International Sports Sciences Association Nutritionist Certification.