The Dumbbell Split Squat looks almost exactly like an incomplete dumbbell lunge.
In fact, you may have even done it before thinking it WAS a Dumbbell Lunge.
The big difference is this...when you do a regular dumbbell lunge, you start in a standing position holding two dumbbells in your hands. You take a step forward with one leg then drop down into a lunge position. From there, you push yourself all the way back up to the standing position then repeat with the other leg (stepping forward then pushing all the way back up).
When you do a Dumbbell Split Squat, you START in the split position (which looks like the bottom of the lunge) and STAY there. You just move your body up and down, keeping your feet exactly where they are on the floor. No standing up, no stepping forward.
This is a key difference. It takes away many of the balance problems you find with lunges...it also takes away much of the knee stress that you might experience with lunges (when you step forward, your knee has to absorb all the momentum of not only your body but the weight of the dumbbells moving forward).
When you plant your feet, you can keep your balance MUCH better. When you don't step forward, your knees don't take that stress from the forward momentum.
The Dumbbell Split Squat is also ideal for home workout situations in that you only need a couple of dumbbells to get an AMAZING glute and leg workout.
How To Do Dumbbell Split Squats:
First, pick two light to moderate weight dumbbells (go light the first time you do the exercise). You can work up in weight as you work with the exercise more, though. It's important to learn the technique properly before moving on to more weight.
Set the two dumbbells on the ground about 6 inches apart. Set your left foot in between but a little forward of the two dumbbells. Now set your right foot back about two feet or so and assume a lunge position, kneeling on your right knee. Your right foot should NOT be directly in line with your left foot. When you place your right foot down, set it a little out to the side.
What this does is increase your base of support and make the exercise more stable and allowing you to generate more power. If you set your right foot directly in line with your left foot, you'll be spending most of the exercise trying not to fall over.
Keep your abs and lower back tight and make sure you keep an arch in your lower back here. Lean forward and reach down and grasp the two dumbbells. Bring your torso back to vertical, picking up the dumbbells off the ground.
Now straighten your back and push yourself up with your left thigh. You're now in the start position of the exercise.
Now come down in the lunge position (only without the lunging, since you're already in the split leg position).
Then push back up to the top position.
It's important to keep your upper body VERTICAL as you do this exercise. Don't allow your body to lean forward as you do the exercise. Imagine it as a straight up and down movement and that you're sitting back as you do it. This visualization will help keep you from leaning forward.
Also, to maximize work on the glutes, try to focus on pushing with your HEEL as you do the exercise. This will activate the glutes more effectively. If you push with the balls of your feet, the quads will get more work.
Be sure you don't utilize a forward and back, lunging type of movement, as may be the tendency if you're used to doing regular lunges. This is very much an up and down type of movement.
Perform your target number of reps with your left leg forward. Push yourself hard. If you have to bail out on the exercise, all you need to do is set the dumbbells on the ground at the bottom.
At this point, you can either take a rest period or immediately switch to the other leg in front - I prefer to go right to the other leg in front with no break. Do as many reps as you can with the other leg now.
Note that you most likely will not get as many reps with the other leg...no matter which leg is in front, the rear leg is also doing a lot of work. So if you start with the left leg in front, the right leg is still doing work. When you switch legs, the right leg will already be tired from the previous set.
Because of this, it's important to always switch which leg you start with on alternating sets. Start with your left foot forward on your first set, then on your next set, start with your right foot forward. This will ensure a balanced workload.
This exercise allows you to basically "leave it on the floor." Because you can just set the dumbbells on the floor, you can push your glutes and legs to the point where they can hardly keep you standing.
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