How to Do a Split Squat: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a split squat to build lower body strength and resilience, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

One of the best ways to keep getting results from a movement and exercise routine is to regularly shake things up a bit. If you do the same exercises over and over again, your muscles can adapt and progress may slow. Plus, doing the same thing day in and day out is really, well, boring — for your mind, as well as your body. 

If regular squats (or mini squats) are already part of your exercise regimen, consider trying split squats. Split squats challenge your muscles in a slightly different way than traditional lunges and squats, so you can add variety to your workouts and continue to build on your strength, balance and mobility.

Our Hinge Health Experts

Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

What Is a Split Squat?

A split squat is a unilateral movement, which means that it works one side of your body at a time. It’s sort of a hybrid between a squat and a lunge that targets your lower body. It also requires stability and balance, which engages your core muscles.

What Muscles Do Split Squats Work? 

  • Quadriceps: Located on the front of the thighs, the quads are heavily engaged during the split squat. They work to extend the knee joint as you push up from the bottom position. Strengthening your quads helps increase knee joint stability and reduces pressure on your knees during activities like walking

  • Hamstrings: This group of muscles, located on the back of your thighs, is crucial for activities like brisk walking, running, climbing stairs, sitting down, and bending forward at the hips. Strong and flexible hamstrings make all of these movements easier and less painful. 

  • Glutes: The gluteal muscles play a significant role in extending the hip joint and maintaining stability when performing a split squat. Strong glutes allow you to do things such as get up from a sitting position and go up stairs.

  • Calves: The calf muscles, specifically the gastrocnemius and soleus, assist in maintaining balance and providing stability during this exercise.

  • Core: Your core muscles include your abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles. They are important for stability and balance during everyday activities — everything from putting groceries on a high shelf to plucking weeds in your garden.

Benefits of Split Squats

  • Improved lower body strength. Split squats mainly target your quads and glutes. Because they work one side of your body at a time, they challenge your muscles differently than a regular squat. 

  • Better range of motion. The up-and-down movement of this exercise can help with knee and hip mobility. 

  • Less back pain. There’s good evidence linking a strong lower body with reduced back pain. By working your core, split squats may also promote less strain on your spine.

Split Squats: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Split Squats

Split Squats

Split Squats

Split Squats

To do split squats:

  • From a standing position, take a large step forward with one foot, allowing your back heel to rise up off the floor.

  • Hold this split stance and bend both knees, lowering your back knee toward the floor. Your front knee should be aligned over your ankle.

  • Focus on your balance as you hold this position.

  • Push through both feet and return to the starting position.

  • Repeat on the opposite side.

  • As you do each rep, you might feel your thigh, leg, and hip muscles working.

Everyone is different, which is why you may need to modify this exercise to meet your needs. 

Tap into pain relief. Anytime, anywhere with our app.

Get exercises from a licensed physical therapist and more to relieve your pain. All right from your phone. At $0 cost to you.
Start your app tour

Split Squats Modifications

Split Squats Modifications

Split Squats Modifications

Split Squats Modifications

To make split squats easier:  

  • Take a smaller step forward, or place a hand on a table or countertop for support to help your balance.

To make split squats harder: 

  • Bend your knees more deeply as you come into the lunge position. Or hold a weighted object, like a laundry detergent jug or free weights, in both hands near your chest as you perform the split squat, to challenge your strength.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

Looking for pain relief? Check if your employer or health plan covers our program

Hinge Health is available to over 1,600 companies and benefit plans!

References

  1. Liao, K. F., et al. (2022). Effects of Unilateral vs. Bilateral Resistance Training Interventions on Measures of Strength, Jump, Linear and Change of Direction Speed: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Biology of Sport, vol. 39, no. 3. doi:10.5114/biolsport.2022.107024

  2. Twu, A. (2022). How to Do Split Squats. WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/how-to-do-split-squats

  3. de Sousa, C. S., et al. (2019).“Lower Limb Muscle Strength in Patients with Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Musculoskeletal & Neuronal Interactions, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 69–78. PMC6454257/

How to Do a Split Squat: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a split squat to build lower body strength and resilience, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Dec 12, 2023

One of the best ways to keep getting results from a movement and exercise routine is to regularly shake things up a bit. If you do the same exercises over and over again, your muscles can adapt and progress may slow. Plus, doing the same thing day in and day out is really, well, boring — for your mind, as well as your body. 

If regular squats (or mini squats) are already part of your exercise regimen, consider trying split squats. Split squats challenge your muscles in a slightly different way than traditional lunges and squats, so you can add variety to your workouts and continue to build on your strength, balance and mobility.

Our Hinge Health Experts

Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

What Is a Split Squat?

A split squat is a unilateral movement, which means that it works one side of your body at a time. It’s sort of a hybrid between a squat and a lunge that targets your lower body. It also requires stability and balance, which engages your core muscles.

What Muscles Do Split Squats Work? 

  • Quadriceps: Located on the front of the thighs, the quads are heavily engaged during the split squat. They work to extend the knee joint as you push up from the bottom position. Strengthening your quads helps increase knee joint stability and reduces pressure on your knees during activities like walking

  • Hamstrings: This group of muscles, located on the back of your thighs, is crucial for activities like brisk walking, running, climbing stairs, sitting down, and bending forward at the hips. Strong and flexible hamstrings make all of these movements easier and less painful. 

  • Glutes: The gluteal muscles play a significant role in extending the hip joint and maintaining stability when performing a split squat. Strong glutes allow you to do things such as get up from a sitting position and go up stairs.

  • Calves: The calf muscles, specifically the gastrocnemius and soleus, assist in maintaining balance and providing stability during this exercise.

  • Core: Your core muscles include your abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles. They are important for stability and balance during everyday activities — everything from putting groceries on a high shelf to plucking weeds in your garden.

Benefits of Split Squats

  • Improved lower body strength. Split squats mainly target your quads and glutes. Because they work one side of your body at a time, they challenge your muscles differently than a regular squat. 

  • Better range of motion. The up-and-down movement of this exercise can help with knee and hip mobility. 

  • Less back pain. There’s good evidence linking a strong lower body with reduced back pain. By working your core, split squats may also promote less strain on your spine.

Split Squats: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Split Squats

Split Squats

Split Squats

Split Squats

To do split squats:

  • From a standing position, take a large step forward with one foot, allowing your back heel to rise up off the floor.

  • Hold this split stance and bend both knees, lowering your back knee toward the floor. Your front knee should be aligned over your ankle.

  • Focus on your balance as you hold this position.

  • Push through both feet and return to the starting position.

  • Repeat on the opposite side.

  • As you do each rep, you might feel your thigh, leg, and hip muscles working.

Everyone is different, which is why you may need to modify this exercise to meet your needs. 

Tap into pain relief. Anytime, anywhere with our app.

Get exercises from a licensed physical therapist and more to relieve your pain. All right from your phone. At $0 cost to you.
Start your app tour

Split Squats Modifications

Split Squats Modifications

Split Squats Modifications

Split Squats Modifications

To make split squats easier:  

  • Take a smaller step forward, or place a hand on a table or countertop for support to help your balance.

To make split squats harder: 

  • Bend your knees more deeply as you come into the lunge position. Or hold a weighted object, like a laundry detergent jug or free weights, in both hands near your chest as you perform the split squat, to challenge your strength.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

Looking for pain relief? Check if your employer or health plan covers our program

Hinge Health is available to over 1,600 companies and benefit plans!

References

  1. Liao, K. F., et al. (2022). Effects of Unilateral vs. Bilateral Resistance Training Interventions on Measures of Strength, Jump, Linear and Change of Direction Speed: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Biology of Sport, vol. 39, no. 3. doi:10.5114/biolsport.2022.107024

  2. Twu, A. (2022). How to Do Split Squats. WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/how-to-do-split-squats

  3. de Sousa, C. S., et al. (2019).“Lower Limb Muscle Strength in Patients with Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Musculoskeletal & Neuronal Interactions, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 69–78. PMC6454257/