Exercise You Should Be Doing: Front Foot Elevated Split Squat

Single Leg exercises are amazing. However, they are often not fun to do so many people never perform them.

The classic single leg exercises provide a ton of benefits. They’ll build your quad, hamstring and glutes. They also challenge your hip to remain neutral through a complete range of motion. Both of these factors go a long way towards building bigger legs and asses and also beating back pain.

In short, single leg exercises kick ass. You need to be doing them.

Some people, however, have a hard time performing single leg exercises like lunges and step ups due to hip pain and knee pain. Some people also get bored doing them.

Luckily there’s a simple variation you can employ if you fall into either of those camps.

By simply elevating your front foot while you perform stationary lunges (Split Squats) you will make the exercise easier on your hips and knees, while adding an additional challenge.

Why It’s Awesome

By elevating your front foot you are seriously stretching your quads, hamstrings and glutes. That tension enables your hip to remain more stable than usual throughout the entire range of the exercise. Developing stable hips is one of the most effective ways to defeat lower back pain.

A stable hip will also allow your knee to track neutrally. There will be no lateral (side to side) pull on your knee as you perform the exercise due to the tensed muscles and the stability they create.

This same stretch will also make the exercise much harder than a traditional split squat or front lunge. It places a ton of extra pressure on those leg muscles, and adds a few inches of ROM (range of motion). Addition range of motion increases the demand on your muscles to fire efficiently.

Even if you use the same weights you use for a normal lunge or split squat, the front foot elevated split squat will feel about twice as hard.

An additional benefit is the emphasis on deep hip flexion. Hip flexion is what’s happening at the bottom of the squat. Emphasizing a deep hip flexion will bleed over to your quad, and allow you to feel more comfortable at the bottom position.

How To Do It

  1. Place your front foot on something higher than the ground. Start with a 1 or 2 inch elevation. We normally use a 25 lb bumper plate as a starting point. As you get stronger/more comfortable with the movement add more elevation.

  2. Find a comfortable stance. Don’t try to do a spit or be a ballerina. About 12-16 inches between your feet is enough distance. As you build mobility and strength you can elongate the stance, but don’t try to be Jean Claud Van Damme on your first attempt.

  3. Focus on efficiently dropping your back knee to the ground. You want to drop the back knee straight to the ground, with no forward momentum. Go slowly and GENTLY kiss your knee on the ground, do not slam it.

  4. Drive all your weight through the front foot, with an emphasis on the heel. Do not let your heel elevate or leave the platform.

  5. Pause and repeat

The Front Foot Elevated Split Squat is an excellent addition to any serious weight training program. It’s also a great exercise to use if you are battling lower back or hip issues but have exhausted traditional means of improvement.

Single leg exercises are 100% necessary to build strength, speed and burn calories. Don’t skip them just because they’re difficult.

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Patrick Henigan