Sharpen Your Split Squat Skills


The split squat (often called a lunge or stationary lunge) is an exercise that is revered and feared by many. There are very few exercises that have the ability to humble you or leave you as sore as a split squat. There are many variations of the split squat, but they have one thing in common: most people butcher them like crazy!


This is NOT the way to perform a proper Split Squat.

This is NOT the way to perform a proper Split Squat.



Split Squat No 2 - cropped

Neither is this!



Here is a checklist of things to think about before you perform a split squat:


1.  Railroad track steps.


Begin with your feet about hip-bone width apart. As you get in position, imagine a straight line going forward (or backward if you step backward) from your foot, as if you were walking on railroad tracks. Your foot and knee should stay in line with your imaginary tracks.


If you have hip stability issues, you will find that your legs will want to drift inward or outward from the “tracks” to compensate for the weakness and instability. Even if it means dropping the weight, keep your form. This will force the stabilizers of the hip to strengthen, allowing for bigger squat numbers, among other things!


2. Square your hips.


If you had headlights coming out of your hip bones, they should be facing straight ahead. This will get your pelvis square and in the proper position for a split squat, and also ensure that you are getting proper hip extension and a good hip flexor stretch.


3. Ribs down, then get tall.


That means ribs down, chest up, and spine neutral.  It’s very hard to get your ribs down once you get your chest out, so make sure you think “ribs down” first.  This will ensure good posture during the split squat and engage your abdominals more effectively. Some people tend to arch back or lean forward to get tall, instead of up. To prevent this, make sure that there is a straight line from the hips to the shoulders.


4. Squeeze the glute of the back leg, and pull your hips under using your abs.


This ensures you are getting extension from your hip and not your lower back and keeps your pelvis stable and in the correct position throughout the split squat.


5. Drop straight down.


Most people have a tendency to lunge forward because they are quad dominant. Your shin should be vertical and perpendicular to the floor.  This will force you to engage your glutes and hamstrings more, and it will give you a better hip flexor stretch and take some of the shearing force off of your front knee.


Holding a kettlebell in the “rack position” (as shown) is one way to load the movement. Once you sharpen your split squat skills, you feel free to add load!



6. Avoid knee cave.


You should picture keeping the front knee towards your pinky toe. Forcing the knee out will engage the medial glute during the movement, providing stability and strength during the split squat.



If you didn’t hate split squats before, you might, for a little while, now that you’re attempting these correctly.  However, going through this checklist in your mind before you perform split squats or lunges will help you get stronger, and it will put some meat on even the flattest derriere! You’re welcome.



About the Author: Molly Galbraith

Molly is a certified strength and conditioning specialist from Lexington, Kentucky, and co-founder and owner of Girls Gone Strong. She recently stepped away as co-owner of her gym to focus more on GGS and her own website and you can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

  • Chiara

    i hate and don’t get them :( the movement has always felt awkward to me! in fact i tweeted just last night that i love goblet squats, as much as i hate split squats!

  • Raena Boston-Yancey

    I’m not going to lie. I’m not in love with split squats, but thank you for the tutorial!

  • Alice

    so… What was wrong in the pictures above? Was she not squeezing her glutes, or was it her feet distance, or…?

    • Molly Galbraith

      Hi Alice! Did you have a chance to watch the video?

      I know the mistakes can be hard to see if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

      In the first picture, my feet are too far apart, my lower back is hyper-extended, and I didn’t drop straight down, but rather, I came forward a bit.

      In the second video, my lower back is hyper-extended, I’m leaning backwards, I’m not getting “tall,” and I’m pushing forward and “hanging” on my hip.

      Hope this helps!

  • Reenie

    This is by far the BEST tutorial I have seen – thank you Molly :) Will show to all my clients…I’m forever explaining this and demonstrating and it helps to have someone else reiterate it so they hear it twice, and from someone I don’t know, so it’s not like I’m asking someone I know to repeat it for me. Kudos and great form!

  • Wendy

    I’m confused! It looks to me that your demonstrating an awesome rear lunge…. I know split squats as the exercise similar to this but your rear foot is elevated on a bench or step?

    • Molly Galbraith

      Wendy — you’re thinking of a BULGARIAN Split Squat (also called a Rear Foot Elevated Lunge). Some Trainers/Coaches say that there are some differences between Split Squats and Lunges (i.e. that the back foot is “at rest” during a Split Squat), but our rear foot is never really “at rest” even when it’s elevated on a bench… so it’s somewhat semantics, and many people use them interchangeably. :)

      Also, because of the angle of the knee, form changes slight for a Bulgarian Split Squat, and some forward lean and hinge of the hip is OK! :)

      Bulgarian Split Squat ==> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBCo_NgO8rk

      (this is “front-loaded” with a barbell, but bodyweight is fine!)

  • Lightening16

    Hey Molly a question…When I do split squats I have a tendency to lean forward a more quad dominant movement I guess. I’ve had 2 knee surgeries and find that leaning forward seems to put less stress on my knees. Picture if doing a split squat but then you touch the ground with straight arms on either side of the forward foot. Should I drop the weight and try and aim for complete upright or continue with what I am doing? I actually find it easier to do with a little weight. Does this change if it’s a rear elevated split squat?

  • oregoncrna

    Hi GGS–I love all of your great content. I have a love/hate relationship with split squats but ultimately they DO work! One concern I have is that I notice my trailing leg/quad fatigues before my front leg. Isn’t the front leg supposed to be the leg doing the work? Any cues you can think of or insight you can provide? For what it’s worth, I have followed the cues in this article to the letter but still notice rear quad fatigue on both legs. Thanks!