These 3 Unique Split Squat Variations will Help Create Bigger Quads

Most lifters love to hate the split squat and the various types of split squat variations. So we found three unique variations to grow your quads.

The split squat is an exercise most lifters love to hate. With the reduced base of support, using less weight than the bilateral versions and the discomfort and soreness it gives you, it’s easy to dislike. Split squat and the various split squat variations fall under those things you don’t want to do but need to do.

Like getting regular checkups, taking the trash out or going to bed early for your training the next day. They’re all good for you, even though you may slightly dread them. And when you don’t avoid split squats or even split squat variations, they have great benefits besides defined quads.

Split squat benefits

There’s got to be a reason to embrace the pain and discomfort of split squats. The next time you’re trying to talk yourself out of doing them, remember the following benefits.

Split squat variations strengthens imbalances

During bilateral exercises, sometimes your dominant side can pick up the slack for the weaker side. Have you ever seen a lifter struggle to lock out one side over the other during an overhead press? Or leaning to one side coming up from the bottom of a squat?

By improving your strength imbalances, you will reduce injury risk, improve lifting performance, and hopefully lift more weight with your bilateral lifts.

Split squat variations and improved muscle recruitment

Unilateral exercises like the split squat makes you work harder and recruit more muscle fibers to perform the same bilateral squat movement.

Reducing your base of support with the split squat forces your abductors and core to stabilize your pelvis while in this split stance. In life and on the field of play, you often find yourself in a single leg stance, so it pays to improve this factor by training it.

Sneaky core training

When training unilaterally with split squats, you throw your body off-balance, forcing your core muscles to engage to keep yourself balanced and not fall over on your face.

Improved deadlift and squat performance

Split squats and split squat variations are arguably the best accessory exercise to improve both your bilateral squat and deadlift. When pulling from the floor or coming up from the bottom of a squat, leg drive is a key factor. Split squats with their emphasis on the quads strengthens this leg drive.

If you need to spice up your split squats for further quad gains, take these three variations out for a test drive. You can thank us later … or not.

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Hand Supported Split Squat 

This is like the Hatfield version except you’re using one hand for support while holding a dumbbell/kettlebell in one hand. Because you have more stability, your body focuses on the bigger muscles of the quads and the glutes and less on the stabilizing muscles that keep you upright.

Muscles Trained: Quads, Glutes, Adductors, and Forearms

How it Helps: The increased stability helps drive more muscle recruitment to the quads and glutes, Because of the increased stability, you’re capable of more reps to increase your gains.

How and When To Do It: Use a weight you’d use for farmer/suitcase carries. The working leg needs the one next to the squat rack and grip the rack lightly with fingers and thumbs. Slowly descend until either the weight or your knee touches the floor and maintain a slight forward lean.

Don’t be afraid to load up and go for higher reps in the 12-15 rep range. Pairing with a half kneeling exercise for hip mobility and recovery works well.

1A. Hand supported split squat 12-15 reps

1B. Half kneeling Pallof press 10 reps

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Front Rack Pin-Stop Split Squat 

Because you’re starting out in the bottom position, much like the Anderson squat, you’re taking the stretch reflex out and focusing on the concentric contraction, which improves leg drive. Depending on shoulder mobility you can either place the barbell posteriorly or in the front-rack position.

Muscles Trained: Quads, glutes, adductors, and upper back

How it Helps: Taking the stretch reflex out improves quad engagement to improve leg drive. If you’re doing the front-rack variation, it will improve upper back strength and endurance also. This exercise will test your single-leg balance like never before.

How and when to do it: The key to this exercise is the setup. Focus on getting in the half-kneeling position right for you. Lower the barbell with control because no one likes the sound of a metal crashing into metal. Because of the instability, start on the lighter side with less repetitions until you nail the correct technique.

Pairing with a hip-mobility drill for recovery and improved mobility and recovery works well because this exercise will smoke you.

1A. Pin-stop split squat: 6-8 reps on each side

1B. Leg-abducted rocking: 8 reps each side

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Front Rack Kettlebell Elevated Split Squat

Experienced lifters knows that hip mobility, upper-back strength, and leg drive are key factors for pulling and squatting heavily, and this exercise covers all those bases brutally. The front-rack position of the kettlebells helps emphasize the quads and improves your posture, upper-back strength, and endurance.

Muscles trained: Quads, glutes, adductors, forearms, biceps, and upper back.

How it helps: With the weight being front loaded, it improves core strength and upper strength at the same time. The elevation increases the range of motion for improved quad and glute strength and hypertrophy.

How and when to fo it: Keep a nice, tall chest and your wrists in neutral during this entire movement. Use this for higher reps after your big strength move for the day and pairing this with a single arm row variation hammers your upper back muscles. For example:

1A. Front-rack kettlebell elevated split squat: 12-15 reps on each leg

1B. Deadstop row: 12-15 reps on each arm

This story originally appeared on: Muscle & Fitness - Author:vkim