A 4 Step Progression for Bigger Stronger Legs 


Back Squat, Front Squat, Leg Press, Deadlifts… You have probably already come across them when trying to find the most optimal leg exercises for muscular growth or strength and there is no doubting these are great exercises. However, a split stance movement can be a great exercise to add to your leg day. 


Unilateral Training is often overlooked at times, and by doing so there is potential leg development that is being missed out on. 


If you are a lover of movements such as the Back Squat or leg press, do not worry as a split stance movement does not have to be the sole focus of the training session but could simply be complementing bilateral (both legs or arms) movements during a session. 


So where to start? 


Step 1 - Split Squat



 The Split Squat is a great 1st step when introducing split stance movements into your training routine. The Split Squat is a stationary exercise with an up and down movement caused by bending at the knees. Due to the simplicity of the Split Squat, less stabilisation is needed which makes a solid choice for being the introductory exercise for the 4 step progression for bigger stronger legs. 


Step 2 Reverse Lunge



The Reverse Lunge is also a relatively simple exercise, but with the movement being initiated through one leg moving backwards which requires more stability compared to the stationary Split Squat. The Reverse Lunge is a great stepping stone before executing step 3!


Step 3 Walking Lunge



The walking lunge is a great option when space is available, however, time and time again the lunge is used before mastering the previous two exercises. This 4 step process is not compulsory, but if one can not perform a reverse lunge then reality is they should not be performing a moving Lunge. The Lunge requires more stability than the previous two exercises due to the impact forces during the movement of the front foot. As a result, the Glute Medius has higher activity during EMG (Electromyography) data (1) as a function of the Glute Medius is to stabilise hips (2).


Step 4 Elevated Split Squat 



The Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat also known as the Bulgarian Split Squat is a popular exercise when it comes down to lower body development. Ground reaction force during the upward part of the movement (concentric) during a Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat has shown to have similarities to bilateral squats when performing a 5 repetition max (3). Additionally, individuals who generate greater peak power and peak force during a 5 repetition max of the Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat showed improvement in their 20 meter sprint performance (4). 

The foundation of having unilateral strength could be the reason for the improvement athletically, as the use of one side of the body is common during athletic movements. Therefore, if the goal is bigger or stronger legs for the benefit of aesthetics or performance then the Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat must be considered. 


Last but not least!


The above exercises are chosen in a progressive manner, nevertheless, that does not mean you can't perform an exercise once you think you have surpassed it. Furthermore, all these exercises can be loaded or made more demanding in some capacity to increase the challenge for the individual thus making potential progression always possible. 





  1. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.co.uk/&httpsredir=1&article=2275&context=ecuworkspost2013
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1256751/
  3. http://eprints.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/6000/
  4. http://casopisi.junis.ni.ac.rs/index.php/FUPhysEdSport/article/view/3470