The Bulgarian Deadlift is a variation of the conventional deadlift, with the distinction that it is performed with one leg at a time. Because it's a single-leg exercise, it can resolve weaknesses and muscular imbalances. This compound exercise is based on triple extension movement (hip, knee, ankle) and it involves moving from a bent position to an extended position.
This Deadlift variation combines one of the most difficult lifts with a slightly uncomfortable body position because it requires you to balance on a single leg. But mastering this lift will help you gain more muscle mass and strengthen your lower body. Additionally, it is a great exercise for progressive overload training.
Because this deadlift variation is a focus leg exercise it requires a lot of balance, proprioception, and it's great for strengthening your lower back isometrically. And because it is performed with just one leg at a time, the weight you lift should be lighter than the weight you lift in your conventional deadlift, in order to reduce the stress on your lower back.
Bulgarian Deadlift Benefits
- It helps your recruit a higher amount of stabilizing muscles.
- It increases overall strength and stability, and it enhances your core and grip strength.
- Performing it helps you develop functional strength.
- It strengthens your back, lowers the risk of back injury, and helps correct bad posture.
- It helps correct muscular imbalances, and enhances your balance.
- Back muscles: erector spinae, iliocostalis, longissimus, spinalis
- Glute muscles: gluteus maximus
- Leg muscles: quadriceps, hamstrings
How To Do the Bulgarian Deadlift
- Stand in front of a bench that is knee-high and place your barbell on the ground in front of your toes.
- Position one of your feet on the bench behind you.
- Bend the knee of your other foot and lower you body to grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip, you can also use an overhand or mixed grip if you are able to.
- Lift the bar and make sure that your lower back arches naturally by straightening your knee until you are in a standing position.
- Lower your body again until your knee is bent and you can place the bar on the ground again.
- Repeat with the other leg!
Perform 4 sets of 8 reps on each leg and rest 90 seconds in between your sets. You can use a barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells.
This one-legged deadlift is a more advanced deadlift variation, but it's excellent for enhancing your balance. Because you need to stabilize while you lift with only one leg, you hit your core at the same time you work your glutes, quads and hams. So this is a full-body workout in one exercise. Make sure that you master the Romanian Deadlift before attempting do to the Bulgarian Deadlift.
Another very similar exercise to the Bulgarian Deadlift is the Bulgarian Split Squat. And while they make look the same, they feel very different. The same load will feel a lot heavier with the Bulgarian Deadlift, because the hip extensors are a lot more engaged in the deadlift than in the split squat.
If your goal is to attain overall functional strength that the Bulgarian Deadlift is a great exercise for you. But if you particularly want to strengthen your lower back and train your lower body chain, than this exercise is more than excellent to help you achieve those goals! Just remember that load should by lighter than in your conventional deadlift, and that’s not because you may be a ‘beginner’ to the exercise, but because this variation already combines 2 exercises into one and because it puts a lot of pressure on your lower back, and when performed with a single leg, things can get pretty difficult.
If you are new to lifting, that it’s better to start with the Romanian Deadlift and work your way up through the conventional deadlift until you attempt to perform the Bulgarian Deadlift. But if you’ve been lifting for a while and want to fix some muscular imbalances and strengthen your body, then this is the right deadlift for you! If you switch to the Bulgarian Deadlift, you’ll notice some HUGE improvements in no time!
So, this is the best deadlift to help you break through a plateau, and add a lot of muscle mass to your lower body in not time. Just keep in mind that balancing on one leg while lifting iron can get a little bit tricky, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t perform it perfectly the first time you try it out. Give yourself some time – practice makes perfect!