National Council on Strength & Fitness
Shopping Basket0 item(s) $0.00
Setting Standards, Developing Professionals, and Serving the Public through Education and Certification
Personal Trainer & Health Fitness News

Single-arm Overhead DB Bulgarian Squat


Single-arm Overhead DB Bulgarian Squat
  Apr. 27, 2016


There are numerous squatting activities a personal trainer can choose from to help their client develop lower body strength and movement competence. The Bulgarian squat is an excellent choice for establishing foundational proficiency due to the fact that it compensates for many of the issues seen with fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike. Due to the fact that the exercise requires a split stance it accounts for pelvic instability and incorrect trunk stabilizing common of a traditional squat. The split stance places a significant stretch upon the hip flexors while activation patterns promote strength similar to a full-ROM lunge. The single forward leg also experiences improved medial lateral sway proficiency with added focus on heel loading, which reduces knee stress.

Due to the split stance position, loading and movement sequences can be somewhat diverse. The split stance reduces the tension applied to the latissimus dorsi and therefore makes for an ideal press or swing position. This also provides benefit to ROM in the fascia that crosses the hip. The exercise can be side-loaded, front-loaded, back loaded, or loaded overhead and also provides for asymmetrical and unfamiliar loading positions.

One exercise variation that provides numerous benefits from a functional perspective is the overhead position as it naturally increases core requirements. When a single-arm overhead position is used this challenge can be further exploited. The question begs what side should be loaded; the answer depends on the goal.

Single arm OH ipsilateral loadSingle arm OH contralateral load
Increased trunk stabilizationIncreased trunk fascia ROM
Increased glute/hamstring activationIncreased stability/load potential
Increased challenge to medial lateral swayIncreased anterior sling recruitment

The example shown in the image demonstrates the application of contralateral loading, which is the precursor to ipsilateral loading and also alters the musculoskeletal challenges.


The single-arm overhead dumbbell Bulgarian squat is useful for a variety of reasons. Clearly, the movement pattern is not well-suited for maximal loading - but the combination of joint positioning provides for mobility, activation, connectivity, balance, and coordination-related benefits.

Upcoming Workshops
Certification Exam Locator
Credential Verification
Request an Info Brochure
Need Help? Our team is ready to assist: 1 800 772 NCSF(6273)
NCSF Certified Personal Trainer
NCCA Accredited Program