In my box, we often substitute the traditional back squat for the rear-elevated split squat (RFESS or Bulgarian split squat) for those that need to amend some movement pathways. We do this in particular for those that struggle to hit depth/good form in the back squat due to a number of reasons. These can be things such as acetabular impingement, hip osteoarthritis or simply poor ankle dorsiflexion preventing a shift of their centre of gravity and therefore poor movement pattern. We do this because we believe this has a similar carryover for its effectiveness.
However, if there is no problem with the back squat, is it necessary to choose between these two perfectly good exercises? Does it provide the same improvements in leg strength and transfer to sports performance when using the RFESS?
Unilateral vs Bilateral Squat training for Strength, Sprints and Agility in Academy Rugby Players. by Speirs, Bennett, Finn, & Turner, Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2015)
What did the researchers do?
The researchers compared the effects of two resistance training programs (one using the back squat and one using the RFESS) on measures of strength, sprint running ability and agility (change of direction speed) in rugby athletes.
- Population: 18 academy rugby players, aged 18 ± 1 years
- Intervention: All subjects trained for 5 weeks, using either the back squat or the RFESS
- Comparison: The two groups were compared with each other and with baseline measures
- Outcomes: 1RM back squat, 1RM RFESS, 10m sprint, 40m sprint, pro agility test