1. Lower body training is inherently nasty, especially when trained passionately to the edge of failure multiple times during a single session and involving the Bulgarian Split Squat.
2. The addition of a final superset that manipulates both position and tempo to put the finishing touches on your legs before you call it a day can be hugely advantageous for muscle growth.
3. Placing a finisher into the tail end of your lower body emphasis day can be advantageous to amplify the overall metabolic stress throughout the lower body musculature, thus leading to enhanced hypertrophy and growth secondary to your training.
4. Don’t be fooled, this superset isn’t for the light of heart. It will have your quads burning, legs shaking and heart rate escalating like nothing you have ever felt before. Did I mention that it’s also safe on your lower back, knees and spine?
The Dreaded Bulgarian Split Squat
A few months ago I was turned onto a variation of the Bulgarian split squat (BSS) by legendary bodybuilding coach, John Meadows. In my previous programs I had always focused on bilateral loading of the Bulgarian Split Squat in the form of dumbbells in each hand or the occasional barbell across the back.
In this variation of the Bulgarian Split Squat, you hold one dumbbell in the opposite hand of the leg you are training (notice in the video I am training my left leg and have the dumbbell in my right hand), while the other hand is stabilizing you by grabbing onto the side of the power rack setup.
Looking back on it, balance was always my limiting factor in many movements executed out of the split stance. Depending on your goals, this can be either a very good or very bad thing. For athletic performance enhancement, you better damn well be able to balance, even under load. As for hypertrophy as a primary goal, eliminating the requisite balance component of the Bulgarian Split Squat really hammers the legs hard, especially through the quads and lower glutes.
Since switching over to this version of the Bulgarian Split Squat, I am always amazed how much less load it takes to fire my legs up and create a hugely stressful metabolic environment in just a set or two. Shit, I went from putting 90 pounds in both hands on the traditional Bulgarian Split Squat for sets of 12 to barely touching that 90 in a single hand using this new technique.
If you’re looking to turn up the heat on this movement after mastering the new form shown here, look no further than a drop set with iso-holds interspersed between rounds. Check out the video below:
As you can see, my loading is relatively low while competing rounds of eight reps with an eight second hold between each drop. If you can put your ego aside and challenge yourself both mentally and physically, this type of finisher can be a game changer for the growth and overall shape of your legs.
This can be punishing on the legs, so be sure to break a bit before you move onto the other leg for another drop set in the same fashion. For those of you who have identified a weak side, start there and move over to your strong side second. You will be amazed at how hard that second side is, and rightfully so!
Remember, this extended drop set is just the first component of the superset finisher. Now that we thrashed the quads and posterior chain from a primarily concentric and isometric standpoint, time to lengthen out the hamstrings!
The Constant Tension Romanian Deadlift
Like I described above, as soon as you finish up the second leg on the BSS, time to move onto the finisher set that will leave your legs shaking, your stomach turning and you holding your hands up to the Gods in thanks that this is over, well until next week!
The second movement in the finisher superset is another variation of an old favorite, the Romanian Deadlift. I know, I know, between the Bulgarians above and the Romanians right here, does nothing good come from the good ‘ole USA anymore?
We are not only going to manipulate the range of motion on this movement, but also the tension we are creating throughout the working set.
First, be sure to use small plates on the sides of the barbell. Using bigger plates like 45 pounders will limit your available range of motion by touching down at the ground as you start to lengthen our your hamstrings. I use 25’s, but for some smaller people, loading up with 10 pound plates should do the trick.
The goal here is to put a supramaximal stretch through the hamstrings while in the bottom portion of this movement. Feel the stretch, work slowly down into that stretch and get a bit deeper each rep if possible. You will see how quickly you start to fatigue when this kind of load is placed through a fully lengthened muscle!
Secondly, the tempo of the movement must be manipulated to get the most out of that end range stretch. Instead of coming all the way up in the top portion of this movement and squeezing the glutes and resetting the pelvic position between each rep, we are going to groove this pattern with constant tension.
Constant tension is achieved by getting to the end range position at the bottom of the movement and only coming up to the point where you don’t lose any tension in the hamstrings. For most people, anywhere short of lockout will achieve a constant tensioned environment necessary to get the most out of this movement. Think coming up 3/4 of the way and you should be golden.
Check out the video for a reference point:
By the time you roll around to getting your working set in here, remember, you had just absolutely punished yourself in the BSS. Because your legs are so shot at this point, spinal stiffness and positioning becomes the paramount point for this movement. Use a load that is enough to get into a deep stretch, but also something you can maintain pristine form with using constant tension. No shifting allowed here, stay pristine to stay healthy!
Here’s what I did in reference to the videos with exact sets, reps, loads and rest periods on the Bulgarian split squat paired with the RDL. Have fun with this superset!
1A. Bulgarian Split Squat (BSS)
Set 1- Bodyweight x 8 Reps @ 30sec rest
Set 2- 15 x 8 Reps @ 30sec rest
Set 3- 25 x 8 Reps @ 30sec rest
Set 4- 35 x 8 Reps @ 30sec rest
Set 5- 45 x 8 Reps @ 30sec rest
Set 6- FINISHER- 45×8+HOLD – 35×8+ HOLD – 25×8+HOLD- 15×8+HOLD @ 2min rest between sides
*NOTE: All holds are for 8 seconds in duration
1B. Constant Tension Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
Set 1- 45 x 12 Reps @ 30sec rest
Set 2- 95x 12 Reps @ 30sec rest
Set 3- 135 x 12 Reps @ 30sec rest
Set 4- 185 x 12 Reps @ 30sec rest
Set 5- 205x 12 Reps @ 30sec rest
Set 6- 225 x 12 Reps @ 30sec rest
About The Author
Meet Dr. John Rusin | The Strength Doc
Dr. John Rusin is an internationally recognized coach, physical therapist, speaker, and writer, whose published over 200 articles in some of the most widely regarded media outlets in the industry like Testosterone Nation, Mountain Dog Diet, Breaking Muscle, and Muscle and Strength, to name a few.
Along with an impressive laundry list of publications, Dr. John works with some of the world’s most elite athletes, including Gold Medalist Olympians, NFL All-Pro Quarterbacks, MLB All-Star Pitchers, Professional Bodybuilders and World Class IronMan Triathletes.
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