A few weeks ago I made a blog post called Two Single Leg Challenges that shared…wait for it…two single leg challenges.
I’ve had quite a few people write in to me that they tried the challenges and enjoyed them, so I thought I’d share a few other single leg challenges that I’ve been using.
See, I’ve been dealing with some shoulder issues the past month and haven’t been able to do much upper body training at all. For me though, training is like a therapy and I feel much better about life when I get a workout in for the day, so I’ve changed my lower body training so that I can train 4-5 days a week: more for mental than anything if I’m being honest. I just love to train, so when I can’t do upper body, I change my lower body training so that I can train more often.
Thing is, high frequency lower body training can be tricky because heavy deadlifts, squats, and lunges can take their toll on your lower back and knees. For that reason, I’ve been doing two heavy days a week and then 2-3 lighter days. And it’s been working like a charm.
I almost always do trap bar deadlifts on Mondays, and I’ve been doing heavy Bulgarian split squats on Wednesday or Thursday.
The other 2-3 training days I do lighter stuff like bodyweight Bulgarian split squats, reverse sled drags, and skater squats. I also do non lower back intensive posterior chain stuff on most days: stability ball leg curls, glute ham raises, hip thrusts, and single leg hip thrusts.
My workouts are pretty short. An hour on heavy days, and 30 minutes on lighter days. On the lighter days, I’ve doing a lot of single leg challenges with just my bodyweight or a light weight vest. I shared two of the challenges here, and here are two more.
1. 200 Rep Challenge
This is a brutal challenge where the goal is to complete 200 reps (100 per leg) in under 6 minutes. Start by doing 30 per leg, then 25, then 20, then 15, then 10, resting as needed. Here I’m completing the challenge with a 30 pound weighted vest. Holy burn!
To modify this challenge to make it a bit easier, do 50 reps per leg instead of 100, breaking it down into mini sets of 20, 15, 10, and 5.
2. Tabata Bulgarian Split Squats
Here you do 20 seconds of Bulgarian split squats followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of eight rounds. Alternate legs each set, so four sets per leg. Strive to get at least 12 reps per set.
To modify the challenge to make it more manageable, increase the rest intervals and gradually shorten them over time.
Note: Some fitness professionals take issue with calling something a Tabata that doesn’t mimic the exact Tabata protocol. I totally get that, but you have to realize that I write more for regular people than trainers, and as such, I prefer to use terminology that people understand. I truly don’t care what an exercise or a workout is called. So this isn’t a true Tabata, but for ease of use, that’s what I’ll call it. You can call it whatever you’d like, but give it a shot.
I recently hit personal bests on both trap bar deadlifts and Bulgarian split squats, so I’m very happy with that despite being bummed about not being able to do an upper body stuff.
When I was training mostly athletes, and good athletes at that, I used to think of squat jumps and rear foot elevated squat jumps as pretty basic exercises and assumed that with a little practice most people could do them pretty well.
Just about every athlete I worked with could do squat jumps and make them look pretty athletic, and I can’t recall even having any of my athletes complain of pain when doing them. In fact, it was usually my regression for people that couldn’t Olympic lift for whatever reason.
Here is an example of one of the kids making them look ridiculously easy, even with a weighted vest.
Rear foot elevated split squat jumps took athletes a little practice before they got the hang of them, but for people who were already proficient with regular rear foot elevated split squats, it usually only took them a few times before they got the hang of them and could do them well.
Again, here is an example of one of the kids getting some pretty serious hang time and making it look like a walk in the park—again with a weighted vest.
I’ll admit that working with good athletes spoiled me and made me take a lot of things for granted as a coach. Athletes pick things up extremely fast—even really advanced stuff—and make coaches look good. Damn kids.
When I transitioned from working as a strength coach to working as a personal trainer working with non-athletes though, I quickly realized that squat jumps and rear foot elevated split squat jumps actually aren’t that easy for most people. A lot of clients struggle to do them well and find that they bother their knees, hips, and/or lower backs. Squat jumps no longer looked athletic, and rear foot elevated split squat jumps were basically out of the question for the vast majority of my clients, both due to knee pain and just because they were too difficult.
If you’re a strength coach working with athletes, you might not have this issue. If you’re a personal trainer, then you can probably relate to exactly what I’m describing.
If you or your clients struggle with regular squat jumps of rear foot elevated split squat jumps, try using a little assistance from rings or suspension straps.
Set up with the rings or straps at about shoulder height when you’re standing up straight and then perform the exercises just like you normally would but use your arms for a little assistance.
Here is what the assisted squat jumps look like:
And here is what the assisted rear foot elevated split squat jumps look like:
You can also do alternating split squat jumps, like so:
The rings help with balance and let you use your arms to generate a little more oomph as you push off and to help absorb some of the force upon landing.
I’ve been able to use these assisted jumping variations with clients of all ages and abilities. Some jump higher than others obviously, but it works well for a lot of different clients. I use the assisted squat jumps all the time, and though I just started using the assisted rear foot elevated jumps about two months ago, they are quickly becoming one of my favorite exercises.
Most of the assisted jumping variations I’ve seen before involve setting up behind the anchor point so the straps are at an angle. I’ve tried them this way, but I much prefer setting up with the straps more vertical right underneath the anchor point because I find it allows for a more natural jumping pattern and lets you use your arms to absorb more of the force upon landing.
Even though I can personally do regular squat jumps and rear foot elevated squat jumps just fine, I’ve been using the assisted version myself and doing them explosively because I’m finding it lets me get a little more oomph in my jump while at the same time taking some of the stress off my knees. So I think they have value both as a regression for clients who struggle with the regular version and as a variation for more advanced clients.
Give these a try and I think you’ll like them.
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Today I want to share two different Bulgarian split squat workouts that I’ve been using. I’ve been taking a break from doing super heavy Bulgarian split squats and instead have been doing different things to get a good training effect with lighter loads.
Both are good when you’re short on time or when you’re feeling a little beat up but still want to get a good leg workout.
1. 100 Rep Bulgarian Split Squat Challenge
This one is very simple but very difficult. Like the name suggests, you do 100 Bulgarian split squats—50 per leg. The goal is to get to where you can do all 50 reps on each leg in continuous fashion without having to take your back foot off the bench and/or take excessive breaks without taking too much time between legs.
A lot of times when people do challenges like this, form goes out the window and it just becomes a race against the clock. Don’t do that. Good form still matters. Use a full range of motion and keep the reps controlled.
After testing this challenge a bunch of times, I’ve figured out that if you do all 100 reps in continuous fashion and take about 10 seconds between legs, it comes out to just under three minutes, so from that, I’ve set the goal of being about to complete the challenge in under three minutes. If you finish much under that, I’d question your form.
At first, 100 reps may be too much, so modify the challenge to meet your current level and build up to 100 reps over time. Once you can complete 100 reps unbroken, try adding a little weight.
Here is a video of me completing the challenge with a 30 pound weighted vest.
I’ve been using this challenge as a finisher on lower body days or on upper body days when I’m looking to get a little extra work for my legs.
If you jump right into 100 reps without building up it’ll make you sore, but if you build up appropriately it really won’t, though it’ll certainly burn like crazy while you’re doing it. It’s a great challenge to test both your body and your mind.
2. 10 Minute Bulgarian Split Squat Challenge
Here you do 10 reps on the minute for 10 minutes, alternating between legs from set to set. So it ends up being five sets of 10 on each leg. It comes about to about 20-25 seconds on and 35-40 seconds off.
It might not seem that hard on paper, but trust me, it’s a real toughie. At the end of 10 minutes my t-shirt always looks like a jumped in the shower fully clothed.
As a point of reference, right now I can do about 250 pounds for 10 reps for one set when I’m fresh, but my best weight for this challenge is 150 pounds. My goal is to complete it with my bodyweight (185 pounds). When I do this challenge, it’s usually my entire leg workout for the day, as I’m spent afterwards. This makes it great one when you’re short on time.
Again, form matters, so don’t get sloppy.
If you’re loading the exercise beyond your own bodyweight, hold dumbbells at your sides and put the dumbbells down between sets to give your grip a break.
Give these challenges a try and let me know what you think. Have fun!
I want to share a cool landmine exercise variation that I’ve been using more recently with some of my clients that I think you’ll like.
It’s a single leg RDL/reverse lunge combo. Do one single leg RDL, then one reverse, then another single leg RDL, then another reverse, yada yada yada for however many reps you’re trying to do. Like this:
This isn’t my idea. I first tried out this exercise combo after my friend Eric Cressey shared it three years ago in this article when he showed it using dumbbells. I liked it then, but in the past few years I’ve grown partial to using the landmine for single leg RDLs and it’s become my favorite way to perform the exercise. And I like it a lot for reverse lunges too, especially when you’re looking to target the glutes a little more.
This is a great combo with the landmine because most people will use just about the same weight for landmine single leg RDLs and landmine reverse lunges, so one exercise doesn’t really suffer for the sake of the other.
You won’t need a ton of weight to make this really challenging, and some of my clients use just the empty bar. Once you get the hang of it though, don’t be afraid to load it up a little bit. I’ve been using about 75 pounds on the bar and it’s downright brutal.
This combo will smoke your glutes and hamstrings, especially when you focus on taking a nice big step back on the reverse lunge, which is how I generally coach it.
Give it a shot, and remember to subscribe to my You Tube page for more exercise demos.
I just had a new article on T-Nation called Dips: The Upper Body Squat. I compare dips to squats and share a few ways to make them safer and more effective.
You can read the article HERE.
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