Fundamentals are a must in someone’s strength training program. When I say “fundamentals”, I’m referring to fundamental movement patterns; the primary lifts that comprise the foundation of all of my programs. Squatting, hip hinging, lunging patterns for the lower body and pushing, pulling, and rotating for the upper body. Combine these movements with mobility work, proper conditioning, and clean eating, and you are on your way to a healthy lifestyle.
Having said that, I’ll be the first to admit that I get bored quickly…the fundamentals get monotonous month after month and session after session. You adjust your set/rep schemes, use dumbbells instead of bars on occasion, get stronger and more explosive; yet, you are still in need of more change.
Adjusting your fundamental movements from time to time is not only necessary, but fun too. To challenge your body in news ways will stimulate growth and ensure progress.
Fundamental – Begin in a staggered stance with your head and chest upright and your back in a tall neutral position. Keeping your chest up tall, lower your hips towards the floor by bending your knees. Do not let your back knee touch the floor. Return to the starting position by pushing through the heel/mid-foot of the front leg. Sets and rep schemes depend on your goals; for the majority of clients I use 3-4 sets and 8-10 reps.
The variations below will maintain the same movement pattern (for the most part) as the one described above.
1. Uneven Load
Adding weight to one side of the body with force more core engagement and an additional balance challenge. Typically, the weight is on the same side as the leg that is back.
2. Rear Foot Elevated
By elevating the back foot, we have increased the intensity of the exercise by testing balance and further lengthening the rear foot hip flexors. Add an unstable surface (Example: TRX), and things become more difficult…in a good way.
3. From Deficit
If you have good range of motion through the hips then this may be a variation for you. By elevating both feet, we now allow for a deeper hip drop as the floor is no longer impeding the back knee.
Turn this movement into a conditioning exercise by adding a jump. Remember quality over quantity; so don’t simply bang out 15 reps with bad form just because your program scheduled it for the day. 10 quality reps beats 15 poor reps every day of the week.
5. TRX Burpee
Not exactly a “split squat”, however, I like this unilateral exercise as it challenges balance, coordination, endurance, and will push your heart rate.
Split squats should be a staple in your training routine. The variations listed in this article are advanced and I always recommend safety and becoming competent in the basic movements before “experimenting” with advanced options. That being said, I would love some feedback on these and, if you have other challenging variations, please send me a clip! Squat away.
Doug Balzarini is currently the strength and conditioning coach for the Alliance MMA Fight Team in Chula Vista, CA. He is also the founder of DBStrength.com, which provides fitness-related articles and education. Previously, Doug worked at Fitness Quest 10 for 6 ½ years as a personal trainer, strength coach, and Operations Director for Todd Durkin Enterprises (TDE).
A Massachusetts native, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science with a minor in Business Management from Westfield State University. Since moving to San Diego he has completed some graduate work in Biomechanics at SDSU, obtained an ACE Personal Trainer certification, the NSCA-CSCS certification, TRX instructor training, EFI Gravity instructor training, LIFT Sandbag Certification, Spinning certification, FMS training, and received his CPR/AED instructor status. He has also appeared in dozens of fitness videos, written numerous fitness articles, completed a MMA Conditioning Coach certification program and has competed in multiple grappling tournaments.
Prior to working at Fitness Quest 10, Doug worked for the American Council on Exercise as the Continuing Education Coordinator where he was responsible for managing over 400 continuing education providers.
For more information please visit www.dbstrength.com.