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Based on my observations, when I do Bulgarian split squats, they hit the glutes really nicely. In fact, even if I do the Bulgarian squat without doing regular squats, my glutes are very sore the next day. My regular squats are deep (butt to the ground), but if I do regular squats alone in a workout, the next day my glutes aren't sore. I use the same weight for both type, except for the Bulgarian split squats I use a smith machine (so that my shoulders doesn't fatigue as quickly) while for the normal squats I use a barbell in a squat rack.

Does this make it a better choice if a person wants to build the glutes?

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Thanks Lauren for the edit, :) Comparing your edit with my old writeup, I found mine funny and odd, you made it more readable :) – Carlos Jaime C. De Leon Feb 21 '12 at 9:30
up vote 9 down vote accepted

According to the barbell split squat primarily targets the glutes and utilizes other hip and leg muscles as synergists. They show that the common form of the back squat, using a high-bar placement, targets the quads primarily, using the glutes as synergists. However, using a powerlifting-style low-bar just-past-parallel back squat targets the glutes. Mark Rippetoe espouses this version of the technique in his Starting Strength lifting program because it allows the lifter to put more weight on the bar.

Since you say you're going "butt to the ground" in your squat, so it's possible that you are using a variation of an Olympic-style squat (you could also be doing this with a high-bar back-squat variation with the same effect) and thereby avoiding some of the glute activation.

If you're looking for the exercise that most efficiently works the glutes, see this list and consider the Barbell Hip Thrust (aka Barbell Hip Heist).

As an aside, I also must recommend reading about the drawbacks and potential pitfalls of using the Smith machine instead of free weights.

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Thanks for the list of exercise on the glutes. On the smith machine, I only use it for Bulgarian split squats so that I can put heavier weights because using dumbbells with heavy weights will fatigue my arms first before my legs. But that's the only time I use it as I agree that smith machines has drawbacks. – Carlos Jaime C. De Leon Sep 2 '11 at 5:11

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