Loading Strategies: How Much Weight For A Bulgarian Split Squat?

Understanding how to load an exercise successfully will be crucial to making long term progress in your training. If you are looking to understand how to select the weight for the Bulgarian split squat, and for the principles on how to make loading decisions for all exercises then this article is for you. Loading strategies for exercises are based on your body and you will need to learn to make good decisions that allow for both adaptation and sustainable training.

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

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In This Resource
  • Individual Differences
  • Goal Adaptation
  • Skill Level
  • Avoid Strength Training (Very Heavy Loading)

Individual Differences

There is no fixed weight that everyone should aim to perform on the Bulgarian split squat. The weight used on this exercise will depend upon an individuals physiology and a number of factors that I will discuss below. It is really important to understand this point, everyone should be using a weight that suits them and their physiology, not some predefined fixed weight.

This means testing weights, starting light and conservative and moving heavier if it feels too easy or lighter if it feels to heavy. Looking for rules based on your squat doesn’t work, some people have strong squats and terrible single-leg balance and visa versa. Find the weight that works for you individually and make good loading decisions for your body, not based on a percentage on the internet.

Goal Adaptation

The weight used will highly depend on the goal adaptation. If you are attempting to cause muscle growth then you should be using a weight that allows you to perform a high amount of repetitions. When selecting a weight for hypertrophy training it is important to pick a weight that allows you to generate a lot of fatigue in the muscle through performing high volume, if the weight is too heavy then not a lot of volume will be able to be performed. Think about striving to perform at least 6 repetitions on the last sets and 12+ repetitions on the first set.

An example here might be an individual who uses 16kg each side for 4-6 sets and performs as many reps as possible minus one or two repetitions each set;

Set 1: 15 repetitions

Set 2: 11 repetitions

Set 3: 9 repetitions

Set 4: 8 repetitions

Set 5: 6 repetitions

If the weight had been 24kg each side, this individual would only be able to perform around 5 repetitions each set and therefore would be effectively working the strength of the single leg squat, but not performing hypertrophy training. This is why weight selection is important to match to your training goal.

For more information on repetition selection please read through the article I wrote on repetitions ranges for the Bulgarian split squat.

Skill Level

If you are still learning the exercise or are performing it for the first time, then this completely changes the amount of weight selected. Performing as many repetitions as possible on exercises requires you to be relatively advanced on the exercise. There needs to be a phase of training where you perform sets with weights that you find slightly challenging but can perform the movement with confidence and a high level of skill, this will ingrain good movement patterns. Technical proficiency always comes before loading, otherwise loading will just lead to technical breakdown, preventing you from creating the desired adaptations and increasing the chances of injury.

Avoid Strength Training (Very Heavy Loading)

The Bulgarian split squat is not an exercise where you want to be performing for high level strength training that involves performing singles, double or triple repetitions at very heavy loads. This is because the exercise puts the individual in a compromised position, being the bottom of a lunge where the knee doesn’t touch the floor, which can result in serious injury in the muscles surrounding the hips when stretched to far. Therefore the weight should never be so heavy that you cannot perform 5 technically sound repetitions with control throughout the entire movement. The risk to reward ration just isn’t worth it, strength can be gained in a huge variety of other exercises.

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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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