Bulgarian dumbbell split squat vs normal double leg barbell squat

Hello All:

I have recently begun strength training again with the intention of running 100 and 200m in masters track and field competition. For several reasons (which I would rather not debate now) I intend to focus a great deal of my strength training efforts on Bulgarian dumbbell split squats rather than normal double leg barbell squats. Because of that, I am trying to figure out what is a reasonable goal lift.
For example, I have always operated under the notion that the minimum standard for a reasonable sprint/power athlete is around 2x BW for normal bilateral barbell squat. So now I am trying to figure out what is an equivalent performance for the Bulgarian split squat. As a point of reference I weigh about 155lbs and during my first try at Bulgarian split squats I got up to 40lb dumbbells in each hand for 10 reps.
During a normal barbell squat at 2xBW each leg is loaded roughly with 1.5BW (because of course you weigh 1xBW). When you do a Bulgarian split squat, you have most (but not all) of your own BW on the lifting leg plus the weight of the dumbbells. So lets say you have 80% of your own BW on the lifting leg plus the weight of the dumbbells (or maybe only part of the wt of the dumbbells as well). The simplest equivalency would suggest that you need another 70% of BW in the dumbbells to make the equivalent of a 2xBW squat (80% of your own BW + 70%BW = 1.5BW). BUT, the barbell in a normal back squat probably has a larger lever arm about the hip joint so I don't imagine the comparison is not quite that simple.
That's probably more background than necessary to ask this simple question: What is the equivalent comparison for Bulgarian split squat to normal bilateral barbell squat?
70%xBW for Bulgarian = 2BW for squat? 1xBW? 1.1BW?
Those of you who regularly perform Bulgarian split squats and normal squats, please tell me what weight (lets use units of BW to keep things applicable across body size) would you use for the same number of reps and effort for each?

Thanks in advance,


DrSquat's picture

Jim, I've wrestled with this

Jim, I've wrestled with this question before. The answer that I came up with is that you're comparing apples and oranges. Here's the big difference...bearing the weight on your shoulders requires you to use your low back, whereas holding dumbbells at mid-thigh level you don't use your back. So, your question becomes, how much does one's back contribute to a regular squat?

Any math you superimpose upon solving these issues has become speculative at best, owing to the huge differential in segment strength/physics/etc. across a wide spectrum of lifters. I suggest you simply treat the Bulgarian squats as a completely different exercise, and develop your training load just as you would with any other lift.

Thanks Dr. Squat and fair

Thanks Dr. Squat and fair enough to treat the two different lifts as different.

So then the question becomes "What is the base line performance standard for Bulgarian Split Squat with Dumbbells for a good power athlete?" What is the "cover charge" for good sprint performance? Just looking for a reasonable performance criteria.



DrSquat's picture

Use lifting straps to affix

Use lifting straps to affix the dumbbells to your hands. Try 100 pounders at first (a good amount of weight, I assure you!). Also, make sure you are using perfect technique (no back involvement), as you are required to come out of the hole VERY explosively! Do sets of 8 reps. Adjust up or down accordingly.

BTW, I have never understood why the Bulgarians take credit for this exercise, when in my teens it was commonly done by weightlifters who were still using the old split style snatch technique (myself included). We called 'em one-legged squats.


Hey Jim

I asked quite a lot of questions about this a while back.
I've just been through the old thread and it's very informative.
Here is the link:


Good luck


DrSquat's picture

Yeah, Nick...that was a

Yeah, Nick...that was a pretty good thread. Perhas I'll just spend a bit of time reviewing some of those old threads in the archive.