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The #1 Best Lower-Body Exercise You Can Do, Trainer Says

Dreaming of lean, toned legs and firm glutes? Then this should be your go-to move.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan

No matter what your fitness goals may be (fat loss, muscle gain, improved sports performance), you need to be training your legs. I recommend most people train them at least twice a week—especially since they're an often neglected body part.

Of course, there are a lot of exercises you can do to target your lower body: squats, lunges, step-ups, hip thrusts, deadlifts, leg curls… the list goes on. All of these moves are great for increasing your strength and building muscle, and should be incorporated into your regular workout routine in order to round out your lower-body training. But, if I had to choose the number one lower-body movement to build your legs, it would be the Bulgarian split squat.

Here's how you perform this #1 lower-body exercise and three reasons why it's so effective at building strength in your legs. And next, don't miss  My Weekly Workout Plan for a Lean Body Throughout the Holidays.

The Bulgarian Split Squat

bulgarian split squat
Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

From a standing position, rest your back foot on a bench or couch and step out with your other foot about 2 to 3 feet away from the bench. Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides, then start the move by lowering your body straight down—using control—so that your back knee almost touches the ground and your front knee is in a runner's lunge. Then, use your weight to drive through your front heel in order to return to standing, flexing your quads and glutes as you rise. Repeat for 10 reps on each leg.

Now, here's why the Bulgarian split squat is so effective.

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1

It builds your quads and glutes

bulgarian split squat
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Many of us are very quad-dominant due to our modern lifestyle and daily activities. Because of this, we don't have strong glutes, which help us stabilize our knees and keep our lower back healthy. In order to combat this issue, you need to be doing more movements that target your glutes.

In this instance, the Bulgarian split squat can not only work your quads, but you can place an emphasis on your glutes especially if you lean your torso forward during the movement to make it more hip dominant.

Related: Secret Tricks for Getting a Lean Body After 40, Science Says

2

It improves hip mobility

man living room working out split squat
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Just like being quad-dominant, many people tend to have tight hip flexors because of prolonged sitting. Because the Bulgarian split squat exercise elevates your back leg, as you lower yourself down, you'll feel a great stretch in your hip flexors and quads, which will help to improve your hip mobility.

Some of my clients notice that they're more flexible and less tight in the legs after performing this exercise regularly in their workout routine.

Related: One Major Side Effect of Sitting on the Couch Too Much, Says New Study

3

It evens out your strength imbalances

legs workout sneakers
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All of us tend to have one side of our body that's stronger and/or tighter than the other, especially when it comes to our legs. (You can see this more readily in some people when they perform a squat or deadlift—there's usually a shift in the hips or favoring to one side.)

In order to even out any strength imbalances in your lower body, you should be performing exercises that target one leg at a time. In addition to improving hip mobility, the Bulgarian split squat can help you work on building balance and strength, one leg at a time.

Incorporate this great exercise into your training program, and you'll reap the rewards! And for more, check out 4 Exercises You Should Do Every Morning for a Flatter Stomach.

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.
Tim Liu is a fitness and nutrition coach based in Los Angeles. Read more