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A Case for the Split Squat Part 3: Bilateral Deficit


No one seems to have a problem with agreeing that split squats offer a safer approach to lower body strength training, but whenever you suggest that a person will be relatively stronger on one leg compared to two, that’s when you lose people. However, I’ve seen this theory proven across 100% of the clients and athletes that I’ve worked with. It’s funny, I never thought the problem I would run into with training split squats would be running out of weights to load it with, but that is in fact the case.

To give an example, my back squat one rep max is 405lbs. If we divide that weight between each leg, that’s 202.5lbs of resistance per leg. Divide that again between each hand that will be holding a dumbbell, and that’s 101.25lbs per hand. Therefore, if the two exercises are equal in strength, my one rep max split squat would be a little more and a 100lb dumbbell in each hand. However, that weight happens to be my 15 rep max for each leg. When I first started testing this, I couldn’t believe the difference! I was squatting relatively the same weight as my one rep max back squat for 15 reps! Naturally, my next thought went to, “well how much can I do for 1 rep on each leg?” With that method of loading I ended up working up to a pair of 100lb dumbbells and 100lbs of weighted vests for a single rep on each leg. That’s 300lbs of resistance on each leg or 600lbs together. Sufficient to say unilateral strength training offers an opportunity to train with significantly heavier weights relative to bilateral strength training


What does that mean? Well, Training is all about balancing stress and recovery. Exercise is a form of physical stress on the body. If followed by sufficient recovery (food and sleep) then your body will adapt to that stress to be capable of handling it next time, and you improve (GAINZ). Therefore, implementing greater levels of stress in training can influence greater progress, if aided by adequate recovery. I could either train the back squat and give my body/legs 405lbs of stress to adapt to, or I could train the rear foot elevated split squat and give my body/legs 600lbs of stress to adapt to. Training the split squat offers 150% greater of a stimulus as compared to back squat, which would allow for significantly greater of an adaptation or improvement from training.

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