How Many Sets and Reps for The Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat (rear foot elevated squat in lunge) is one of the most popular exercises on the internet. Not only is it important that you perform it with technical precision, with a load that is appropriate for your current strength level but also use the correct number of sets and repetitions to create the desired adaptations.

5 min read
Sean Klein
Written by
Sean Klein
Published on
Last updated
Lower Body

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In This Resource
  • Simple Response
  • Sets
  • Repetitions Are Goal Dependant
  • Understanding Weekly Volume
  • Key Definitions
  • Maintenance Volume
  • Minimal Effective Dose
  • Maximal Adaptive Volume
  • Maximal Recoverable Volume
  • Taking Training Age Into Consideration
  • Designing A Week of Squatting
  • Adding This Week Into A Block of Training

Simple Response

Sets - 4-6 Working Sets Per Session

Repetitions - 5-12+ repetitions per set (depending on goal adaptation)


In order to create an effective dose, the literature suggest performing 4 working sets on a muscle group to create an adaptation. This will depend on the individual and their training age. As a very general rule of thumb, perform between 4-6 sets on the Bulgarian split squat in any given training session.

Repetitions Are Goal Dependant

If your goal is to build strength or hypertrophy repetitions will change based on your goal. For strength on the Bulgarian split squat I suggest using between 5-7 reps, I am not keen on using maximal weights that require less than 5 repetitions on the Bulgarian split squat. This is because the movement puts you in a stretched position where if you go to low you could easily sustain a serious injury. For hypertrophy the goal is to induce a great deal of fatigue, this is done through performing high volume sets (high number of repetitions). This will mean performing a near maximal set at a weight that isn’t very heavy, usually around 55-65% of 1RM.

Understanding Weekly Volume

Although this question surrounds one exercise, the Bulgarian split squat, it is very important to understand that weekly output on a movement pattern (not an individual exercise) is one of the key factors of making progress in the gym. When we discuss how many sets we should be performing, it should be in the context of the week, rather than session by session.

The Bulgarian split squat should be viewed as 4-6 working sets that make up part of your squat (knee flexion) training for the week. In order to make progress in the squat, we need to pass our minimum effective dose. This is different for everyone but usually is between 4-8 working sets per week.

Key Definitions

In order to fully understand training volume, understanding these definitions will help you frame the key concepts of volume landmarks.

Maintenance Volume

Maintenance volume is the amounts of working sets that need to be performed to maintain current levels of strength and muscle. This will change for individuals and muscle groups within an individual, though roughly it is usually around 3-6 sets per week.

Minimal Effective Dose

The minimal effective dose is the amount of volume required to create adaptation (of either strength adaptations or hypertrophic adaptations). This typically ranges from between 5-8 per muscle group or movement pattern but again will depend on the muscle group.

Maximal Adaptive Volume

The maximal adaptive volume is the amount of volume that creates high levels of adaptation, this is a very effective amount of volume and will create very good results. This kind of volume will require good levels of recovery.

Maximal Recoverable Volume

Maximal recoverable volume is the maximal amount of volume that can be performed before starting to risk injury. This means that volume in the muscle group or movement pattern is extremely high and recovery protocols will need to be excellent. This sort of volume cannot be maintained for long periods of time without a deload.

Taking Training Age Into Consideration

Training age will have a huge impact on all the different volume landmarks discussed above. Someone who is doing their first session will likely adapt from doing just one session a week as they have never been exposed to a stimulus, whereas someone who has been training for 10 years will need a much larger stimulus to induce an adaptation.

Designing A Week of Squatting

In order to help you put the concept of weekly volume into context, I want to show you what a week of squatting might look like for someone trying to gain muscle mass in their lower body.

Exercise Selection

Back Squat - 6 sets

Leg Press - 6 sets

Bulgarian Split Squat - 5 sets

17 working sets are performed in the week. This is likely enough for an advanced individual to make progress towards their goal of hypertrophy. Remember the importance of making the sets working sets, if any of these exercises are done with a weight that is too light or not enough repetitions, it will not create an adaptation. For a beginner individual this could be way to much squatting volume to start with, it could create too much fatigue and lead to tendinitis in the knee.

Using this weekly volume landmark approach is how we construct a full body resistance training programme that can ensure progression on any movement pattern. This concept is obviously not just limited to the squat but is used across all different movement patterns within resistance training.

Adding This Week Into A Block of Training

Once you have designed your week, which in strength and conditioning terms is a meso cycle, you will then perform this for a block or cycle of training. This just means that you will perform the same session multiple times, slowing increasing the difficulty of the session. Here is an example of a Bulgarian Split Squat progression.

Week 1 - 4 x 8 @8kg

Week 2 - 5 x 8 @8kg

Week 3 - 5 x 10 @8kg

Week 4 - 4 x 12 @8kg

Week 5 - 5 x 15 @8kg

Week 6 - 6 x AMRAP - 1 @8kg

Deload - 3 x 8 @6kg

Please note that this is just a theoretical example, the actual adjustments should be made based on how the session felt last week. What you will notice is that each week is slightly more difficult than the next untill we reach a week which is extremely difficult and then we pull back and deload. The important thing to understand is the principle of slowly making exercises more challenging over time.

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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.

Sean Klein


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