The Bulgarian Deadlift: Exercise guide, Benefits, and Tips

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the bulgarian deadlift

At first sight, the Bulgarian deadlift is a strange and a very awkward variation of the conventional deadlift. But in reality, this DL variation is a “beast” of an exercise. It might be a little challenging to master at first, but when you do, it will quickly become one of your favorites lifts to do at the gym. 

What makes this unconventional exercise so hard and challenging to do? Well, first of all, the Bulgarian deadlift is performed on a single leg. Making it a real balancing act (and a killer workout for your core and stabilizer muscles). Secondly, even on two legs, the barbell deadlift is considered to be one of the most difficult lifts you can perform. The combination of the two is taking it to a whole new level. 

This lift is a great compound full-body exercise that mainly focuses on your lower back, core muscles, and glutes. Overall it will work your:

  • Back muscles: your erector spinae, iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis muscles.
  • Glute muscles: your gluteus maximus
  • Leg muscles: quadriceps and your hamstrings

The exercise will also train your forearms and your grip strength.

Benefits of the Bulgarian deadlift:

  1. It will help you correct any muscle imbalances you might have. Doing this exercise will help you fight and overcome any muscle imbalances you might have in your back and legs. Fixing your muscle imbalances will be beneficial both to your posture and to your other lifts. It can help you overcome any strength plateau that might be related to it.
  2. It works your core and stabilizer muscles. Because this exercise is performed in a little unnatural position and on a single leg, your body and especially your core and stabilizing muscles, have to work overtime to help you maintain your balance. That makes this lift an excellent core exercise. 
  3. It increases your strength and especially your functional strength. This DL variation will increase your overall strength. It’s a full-body movement that targets your legs, core, stabilizers, lower back, upper back, and even your forearms. Also, thanks to the high core involvement, it will indirectly have a positive effect on all your other lifts. Also, it’s an excellent lift for progressive overload training.  
  4. This DL will increase your stability and balance. The Bulgarian deadlift is an amazing balance and stabilization exercise. It will directly improve your balance and strengthen your stabilizer muscles. 
  5. It’s an awesome lower back exercise. Just like the conventional deadlift, this variation is a good lower back exercise. It will help you strengthen your lower back and all the small muscles in your posterior chain. 

How to do the Bulgarian deadlift:

Bulgarian deadlift

To perform the Bulgarian deadlift, you are going to need a knee height bench to rest your leg on. Or something at approximately the same height as a gym bench. And either a barbell, kettlebells or two dumbbells as weights. 

  1. Start by standing in front of the bench. There should be a few feet between you and the bench.
  2. Place the barbell in front of your toes on the ground. 
  3. Place one of your legs on the bench behind you. 
  4. Next, grip the weight. To do so, you have to bend your other knee (the one that isn’t on the bench) and lower your body down, until you can grip the bar.
  5. You should grab the bar at about shoulder-width with an overhand grip.
  6. While keeping your lower back in a natural arch and your core activated start lifting the barbell off the ground by using your leg. 
  7. Straighten your knee until you are in a standing position.
  8. Lock the weight.
  9. Now, slowly and in a controlled manner, lower the barbell back to the floor.
  10. Continue for however many reps you wish to perform this exercise. 

Tips and recommendations:

  1. Always do a proper warmup before starting the lift.
  2. Make sure the bench is stable. 
  3. Use lighter weights to perform this exercise. You want to start out with extra light weights and gradually move up. But keep in mind that the Bulgarian deadlift should never be done with heavy weights. Because this exercise is quite difficult to master, and you have to keep your balance throughout this lift, the risk of injury is quite high. 
  4. Keep your core activated and your lower back in a natural arch throughout the exercise.
  5. I recommend learning how to perform the conventional deadlift properly and with good form before adding this variation to your workout routine.
  6. Keep your movement slow and steady, don’t make any sudden and fast movements. Because it’s very easy to lose your balance and risk injuring yourself. 
  7. Keep the Bulgarian deadlift repetition range at about 6 to 10, and your sets at 3 to 4.

In conclusion, the Bulgarian deadlift is a great variation of the classical DL, and anyone who wants to challenge themselves more and place a greater focus on their core and stabilizer muscles should add it to their workout routine, or at least try it out.

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