Can You Do Bulgarian Split Squats With One Dumbbell? (Examples Included)

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Indeed, it’s possible to execute Bulgarian split squats with only one dumbbell, and there are several variations available for you to explore. Initial option is the goblet Bulgarian split squat, in which you hold a single dumbbell in front of your chest. A popular one-dumbbell variation is holding the dumbbell on the same side as your rear leg. Alternatively, you can grasp the dumbbell in the opposite hand, though this presents distinctive difficulties, particularly regarding core stabilization and balance.

Goblet Bulgarian Split Squat With One Dumbbell

A Woman Holding a Dumbbell in the Goblet Position

I actually think performing Bulgarian split squats with one dumbbell is a great idea.

The movement itself is a great muscle and strength builder, primarily in the quads and glutes.

However, Bulgarian split squats also hit the hamstrings, calves, adductors, and core to great effect.

With that being said, by using a single dumbbell you’ll typically be faced with a steeper challenge.

This is mainly in terms of core stabilization and balance.

The easiest version of one dumbbell Bulgarian split squats will involve holding the dumbbell goblet style.

So, much the same as a standard goblet squat, you should hold the dumbbell with two hands directly in front of your chest.

The position of the dumbbell immediately engages your core much better than standard Bulgarian split squats performed with a barbell or two dumbbells.

In fact, this is my preferred method of doing the exercise.

Personally, I believe you should be doing BSS goblet style until you can perform a decent number of reps and sets with the heaviest dumbbell in your gym.

Once you’ve achieved this it’s time to move onto the heavier weights provided by two dumbbells or a barbell.

With that being said, there are also advantages to the goblet variation over the others.

The most obvious of these is the difference in grip.

When you perform BSS in the standard manner with a dumbbell in each hand, your grip can eventually become a limiting factor.

Admittedly, getting a dumbbell up to chest level, and keeping it there, for the goblet variation presents it’s own challenges.

However, you definitely won’t have to worry about your grip giving up before your legs do.

One-Arm Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

You can of course perform Bulgarian split squats by holding a single dumbbell in one hand.

In fact, this is the most popular one-dumbbell variation.

By holding the dumbbell with just one hand you completely change your centre of gravity.

Therefore, this provides more of a challenge as well in terms of stabilizing your core and your balance.

The most popular method is to hold the dumbbell on the opposite side of the lead leg, in other words, the same side as your back leg.

What this does is to increase hip musculature activity, especially of the gluteus medius, of the front leg.

It’s important to fix your gaze 10-20 feet in front of you whenever you perform Bulgarian split squats.

However, this is even more important when you’re using only one dumbbell.

Due to the exercise being more of a challenge there is a tendency to look directly down.

Unfortunately, it’s even harder to balance when you look directly down at the ground in front of you.

And this will take the focus away from the working muscles, plus you’ll be making a difficult exercise even harder.

There is also the option to hold the dumbbell in the other hand, so the same hand as the lead leg.

But, in truth, this isn’t a commonly practiced variation, as it simply makes balancing even more of a challenge.

With that being said, challenging the muscles in different ways will always lead to better all-round ability with the BSS.

One-Arm Dumbbell Front Rack Bulgarian Split Squat

Another variation of the one-arm dumbbell Bulgarian split squat is to hold the dumbbell in the rack position.

Personally, I prefer to perform the exercise with a kettlebell, as it allows for slightly more stability.

In other words, for me, I find it easier to hold a kettlebell in the rack position.

But, that’s not to say that you can’t also do it with one dumbbell.

Much the same as the goblet variation you’ll find that the rack variation hits your core extremely hard.

Additionally, you’ll typically find that the rack position forces your cardio and conditioning system to work harder.

So, the rack variation may be a better exercise to do for higher reps, while focusing more on muscular endurance rather than strength.

I would also say that you need to be even more wary of having a focal point out in front of you.

With so much going on with the rack BSS, the last thing you want is to make balance and stability even harder by staring down at the ground.

You should also really focus on keeping your chest up, as there is a tendency to allow the torso to fall forward.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, it’s absolutely fine to do Bulgarian split squats with one dumbbell.

You have a choice of doing them goblet style, holding the dumbbell by your side, or in the front rack position.

Each variation will provide you with a slightly different stimulus.

However, one dumbbell (especially when held to one side) will test your core stability and your balance.

Next, a related subject that I’m sure you’ve often thought about, namely, why are Bulgarian split squats so hard?

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