Exercise of the month:
Rear Foot-Elevated Split Squat
February marks our first installment of the Exercise of the Month series which will be featured on our blog and monthly newsletter. Each month, we will break down a particular exercise, complete with video demonstration. We hope to use this series to gradually expand your exercise repertoire and show you some things you may not be doing in your current fitness program. Always keep this general disclaimer in mind: This post, the video that accompanies it, and any similar follow-up posts are meant to be informational only. It is highly recommended that you check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine, and as important- get yourself a thorough evaluation by a fitness professional before throwing any particular exercise into your regimen. This month’s exercise of the month is the Rear Foot-Elevated Split Squat.
What are the benefits of the Rear Foot-Elevated Split Squat (RFESS for short)?
- Improve the shape and strength of lower body musculature including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
- Improve balance and stability by providing a significant stimulus to the muscles of the feet and ankles.
- Isolate one leg at a time to help improve muscular asymmetries between your left and right sides.
- Several ways to make the exercise harder to accommodate various body types, injury history, etc.
How do you do it?
- Set-up: Using a pillow or pad under one knee for cushioning, assume a “lunge” position- one foot in front of the pad (referred to as the front foot), one foot behind the pad (referred to as the rear foot), elevated slightly. Notice in the video below that Megan’s rear foot is not high in the air. In our video, we use a rolling pad to elevate the rear foot, which is set to approximately mid-shin height for Megan. If you don’t have this type of pad, you can use a stair, an aerobic step, or any other stable object to elevate your foot. The front foot should be far enough forward so that from the “down” position, your front shin is approximately perpendicular to the floor.
- Execution: Focus on your front foot. Push your front foot down into the floor to raise your body all the way into a standing position, keeping your back foot resting on the elevation. Your front leg should completely straighten as you get to the top of this squat. Keeping as much of your weight into your front foot, slowly lower your back knee down to the starting position.
- Sets and Reps: Feel free to vary the number of repetitions and sets you use with this exercise, anywhere from 5-12 reps per leg per set. Because it is a balance-intensive drill for most people, we will generally stick with 12 reps or fewer per leg per set, as after this point, the balance tends to deteriorate to the point where the exercise loses its’ effectiveness.
- How to make it harder: Is a body weight RFESS too easy? A huge benefit to the RFESS is the variety of ways you can load it to make it more difficult. The video below gives a few good options as you start to make progress:
-Add a kettlebell in a goblet position, which simply means holding it in line with your chest.
-Adding a dumbbell in a suitcase position, which means down at your side, and we will typically place the weight on the side of the leg that is back.
- Important Considerations:
-The placement of your front foot is crucial to proper execution of this exercise, and is going to vary slightly from person to person. During the exercise, you should feel your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, etc. working on your front leg. You should NOT feel any pain in the knee or ankle of your front leg. If you feel pain in either of these spots, try adjusting your front foot further ahead of your body, spreading your stance out.
-Your focus should always be on your front leg. If the overwhelming feeling here is a big stretch or pressure on your back foot, adjust by shifting your weight forward and emphasize pushing through the ball of your front foot. If you still don’t feel anything other than a stretch in your back hip, try making your elevation lower, and if this doesn’t work, lose the elevation all together and perform a simple split squat.
Enjoy the video below!