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I Discovered Bulgarian Squats #AtHome For Balance And Strength
When you're over 50 you need to pay attention to exercises which improve your (deteriorating) balance. It's time to forget the split training days and to concentrate on the split squats - in particular the Bulgarian Split Squat.
Some say that the Bulgarian Split Squat (BSS) is the King of single-leg exercises. That's a beautiful thing. All the more so during these #StayAtHome times because it's an exercise that you can easily do at home.
I have a confession to make. I've seen people doing the BSS at the gym for the last 20 years, but I've never picked up on them - until #StayAtHome.
At the gym, I've used kettlebell routines for the last twenty years to build functional body strength. They're the single best tool for over 50s. I include in my routine the kettlebell single leg deadlift, and its variations - to build strength and balance. As such, I didn't see any particular need to include BSS.
Since the gyms shut down, I no longer have access to kettlebells.
Last time I checked online scalpers were asking $999 for a set of three crummy old bells, and the sports stores' shelves are still empty. It seems that home sports equipment is rarer than toilet paper.
I wasn't able to buy any home equipment, so I decided to do more running. I've slowed my pace a little to avoid injuries, and I'm now running 5km every day.
Every second day I stop at the 3km mark and do three rounds of exercises at a "workstation". I call this my Fartlek run - mixing up exercise and intervals along with endurance running.
I include Bulgarian Split Squats in my Fartlek sequence. That has opened my eyes to their benefits. They are intense, and they develop strength and balance. I recommend them, especially since you can do them practically anywhere.
What are Bulgarian Split Squats?
The BSS is a variation of a regular squat, done on one leg, with the rear foot elevated on a bench. It's easy to see than describe. They build lower-body muscles without the additional stress on the back found with traditional squats (if you do them with proper form),
Heads-up: As with many exercises, it is easy to do them poorly. You need to avoid this with the BSS as you will strain your hip flexors and put too big a load on your lower back.
Watch this video for a complete explanation of the "how-to": Bulgarian Split Squat... You're Doing It Wrong
Although the BSS primarily targets the quadriceps muscles on the front of the thighs, it also works the hamstrings on the back of the thighs and the glutes.
For a start, to them unweighted, and 10 reps on each leg.
In addition to building strength, rear elevated split squats can also help improve your coordination and stability. And that's the point. You could do regular squats and add in lunges, and get similar benefits, except for the stability benefits of the BSS.
As you get older, the stability benefits of exercise are just as significant as the strength and endurance benefits. I've found that the BSS is an excellent stability exercise. Unless I concentrate, I wobble, and that's a good sign as the wobbles are telling me that I can do better.
In fact, sometimes people give up on BSSs because they find the balance to be a challenge. That is precisely the reason that you should persist. You'll find after a few weeks that you'll get the hang of it.
The balance issues are related to weakness in lots of stabilising muscles that aren't necessary for regular squats. You also need to focus on breathing and activating your core to aid your stability.
However, sometimes your poor balance may be more a result of your set-up, so here are some tips:
Finally, if you still find it too strenuous or straining your lower back too much, then go back to walking lunges and perfect your style and balance with those. Then come back to the split squats.
Get your Bulgarian Split Squats right and your stability will improve, which reduces the risk of falls. That will help you live longer better.
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Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter