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How Many Sets And Reps For Bulgarian Split Squats To Optimize Your Workouts

By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, & PES, PN-L1


how many sets and reps for bulgarian split squats

Many people want to learn how many sets and reps of Bulgarian splits squats they should be doing because they’ve heard this exercise is one of the hardest single leg movements there is.  

They have heard right! 

Although they are one of the hardest exercises, for some reason they are my favorite! 

There is just something rewarding about finishing a hard set of Bulgarian split squats that I don’t get with other movements.

Anyways, you’re not here for my intimate love stories about them…

The ideal sets and reps for Bulgarian split squats will depend on your experience level, how good/bad your balance is, what your current goals are, what else you will be doing in your workout, and what type of Bulgarian split squat variation you perform.

For the average gym goer, 3 - 4 sets of anywhere between 4 - 15 reps per leg of Bulgarian split squats will help you build strength and muscle.  Rest 3 - 5 minutes if you do between 3 - 5 reps as this is considered more of a max strength lift or 2 - 3 minutes if you do 6 - 15 reps as this is more hypertrophy (muscle building) / muscular endurance.

I’ll tell you this.  Your heart is going to be pumping if you do these right and challenge yourself with the different rep ranges!


Let’s break down what type of Bulgarian split squat rep scheme is best for you.

Bulgarian Split Squat Sets And Reps For Beginners

Bulgarian split squats are an advanced exercise that take time to learn and perfect.  Not only are they challenging on your legs, but you also get the added difficulty of having to balance on on one leg.

As a beginner, the most important thing you can do is take the time to learn perfect form before you start aggressively increasing weight.  For most of my online and in person clients, I start them with split stance squats before we dive into Bulgarian split squats.

If you don’t take the time to learn proper form, you risk having bad form that can lead to knee, hip, and lower back pain.  Generally speaking, you want to stay away from low reps (which means heavier weight) until you feel confident with the movement.  


Guidelines for Bulgarian split squats sets and reps for beginners:

  • Start with bodyweight Bulgarian split squats until you feel confident with and can perform pain free and with good form.  From there, add dumbbells in each hand.


  • Perform 3 sets of 6 - 12 reps.


  • Rest 2 - 3 minutes to ensure you are fully recovered.


  • Start at the lower rep range (6 - 8 reps) at the beginning since you’re going to be doing both legs and can fatigue quickly at the higher rep range.


  • If using weight, find a weight that you do for the 6 - 12 reps and still have 2 - 3 reps left in the tank.  For example, if you do a Bulgarian split squat with 20’s for 6 reps, you should be able to do 8 - 9 with confidence.  This is a safe spot to train as a beginner.


Adding Bulgarian split squats into a dumbbell only leg workout is an effective way to help you build muscle and gain strength.

how many reps of bulgarian split squats should you do

Bulgarian Split Squat Sets And Reps For Intermediate & Advanced Lifters

Once you get comfortable with using dumbbells for Bulgarian splits squats, you can start experimenting with a wider range of reps that can focus more on hypertrophy or maximal strength.

Also, you can experiment with pauses, half reps, slow eccentrics, and/or holding only one dumbbell.

Additionally, you’ll feel more comfortable pushing the intensity with the movement, allowing you to get closer to failure with your reps.

Guidelines for Bulgarian split squat sets and reps for intermediate and advanced lifters

  • Perform 3 - 4 sets of 3 - 15 reps per leg.


  • Rest 3 - 5 minutes for a rep range of 3 - 5 and 2 - 3 minutes for a rep range of 6 - 15.


  • Use different training techniques (pauses, half reps, eccentrics) to increase the difficulty. 


  • Leave 1 - 2 reps in reserve (RIR) on each set.
how many sets of bulgarian split squats should you do

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do I Find Bulgarian Split Squats So Hard?

Difficulty with the Bulgarian split squat is due to weak leg muscles, poor mobility in the ankles and knees, and/or a lack of balance.

You may need to regress the movement and focus on other single leg exercises like split stance squats and lunge variations.  Here are 11 other alternatives to back squats that you may want to try.

To improve ankle and knee mobility, along with balance, spend a few minutes a day doing variations of TKE’s, anterior tibias exercises, and movements that have you standing on one leg.

Is 3 Sets Of Bulgarian Split Squats Enough?

Since Bulgarian split squats are a big compound movement that work multiple muscles, it can be very taxing on your central nervous system depending on how many reps you are doing.  That means that if you choose weights effectively, 3 sets will be plenty.

Once you become more experienced, you can do 4 hard sets that will really wipe you out!

Here's my take on whether you should do squats or single leg exercises like Bulgarian split squats or lunges.

Should You Go Heavy On Bulgarian Split Squats?

Maximal strength for Bulgarian split squats is done in the rep range of 1 - 5.  Going heavy on these is fine if you don’t feel any pain and you can do them with near perfect form.

To reference my clients again, we stay in the 3 - 5 rep range if that is their goal.   The risk versus reward isn’t worth it doing 1 - 2 reps.  You are better off going slightly lighter and adding extra reps to prevent injury.  Also, your wrists become a limiting factor the heavier you go with dumbbells.

I can’t even tell you the last time I did a 1 rep max with a client!  

Do Bulgarian Split Squats Build Size?

Yes, when performed correctly and with the right intensity, you will build size in your glutes and quads from Bulgarian split squats.

They are an awesome lower body exercise that are easy on your joints and allow for size and strength while limiting the risk of injury.


As you’ve learned, there is a wide range of options when picking your sets and reps for Bulgarian split squats.   If you’re a beginner, stick with 6 - 12 reps for less sets and focus on form.  Once you get more advanced, add more sets, more variety with rep ranges, higher intensity, and harder variations.