The Dumbbell Split Squat is an excellent exercise to improve the strength of the quadriceps, medial hamstrings, and adductors. The exercise also helps to re-establish normative flexibility of the hip flexors, specifically the iliopsoas and the rectus femoris.
The hip flexor muscles become chronically shortened in populations who sit for a living. This adaptive shortening leads to dysfunction in the hips and the knees, and is a leading source of lower back pain. In sports that require sprinting ability, inadequate flexibility of the hip flexors inhibits the action of the glutes in hip extension, robbing you of power and ultimately, speed.
Split squats can be particularly challenging for the beginning exerciser, who may have neither the strength nor the flexibility to descend to the full depth of the range of motion. The answer to addressing this challenge lies in elevating the front foot on a step, as shown in the images that follow.
Though we shot the exercise with a minimum of elevation, you may elevate the front foot as high as the knee to perform the exercise if necessary. When higher than shown elevation of the front foot is necessary to perform the exercise, we recommend split squatting with body weight only, until strength improves sufficiently to decrease the height of the step as shown below – to about 4-6 inches.
To begin the exercise, start with bodyweight. Difficulty can be increased in subsequent sets with the use of dumbbells, as shown in Step 1.
At the beginning of the exercise, place the hands on the hips (or hold DB’s as shown), and place the front foot on an appropriate height step. Step backward with the support leg, and assume the starting position: front foot flat; rear foot articulated (on the ball of the foot), back leg as straight as possible.
Inhale as you descend into the range of motion. During the descent, keep the rear leg as straight as your flexibility will allow, and maintain an upright posture. Drive the front knee forward of the toes, until the hamstrings cover the calves.
At the bottom of the range of motion, begin exhaling, and reverse the movement. Keep the back leg straight, and push the front foot into the step until you are at the top of the movement.
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