Knee Strengthening 2. Cable Split Squats.

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So here we have the front foot elevated split squat.

How to perform.

  1. Start with a step about 6″ high set up facing a cable machine.
  2. Start with no added weight.
  3. Step the weaker leg onto the step and very slightly turn the foot out about 5°.  For simplicity, lets assume this is the left leg.Take a reasonably large step back with the right leg and lift its heel.
  4. Check the right foot is straight.  Tight hip flexors turn it out1.
  5. Hands on the hips.  Look straight forwards.
  6. Lift the toes of the foot on the step and keep them up.
  7. Now move the left knee strongly forwards whilst moving down.  The knee will go ahead of the ankle.  BUT do keep the toes up or the heel of the left foot will lift. Weight is kept in the heel and the forefoot2.
  8. Allow the right foot to roll forwards onto the toes.  Let the right knee bend as much as it needs to to keep the hips pointing forwards and level.
  9. If done correctly, all but the hyper-flexible will feel a considerable stretch in the rear leg hip flexor.
  10. Sink down for a count of at least 2 secs – the longer the better3.
  11. Then push back for a count of 1.  Do this 3 – 4 times if weight is going to be added.  Remember to switch legs and warm up the other one.
  12. There is no wobble in the working leg.  This really, really matters.  Watch carefully for even the slightest tremor.  Plus the knee does not deviate nor the body side bend.
  13. To add weight:  grab the cable with the opposite hand to the working foot – in this case the right hand for a working left leg.  If you are new to this exercise be sensible about how much weight you add.
  • Done well, this exercise strengthens the quads and will help strengthen the Vastus Medialis, the inner knee muscle. This muscle is weak in most of us, particularly on one leg.  The Vastus Medialis helps get us out of the bottom position.  A strong sense of moving forwards – pushing into the knee – helps activate it.  Using a cable helps as well because of the pull from the other side of the body.
  • The exercise can be done holding dumbbells or a barbell, but for maximum knee strengthening, cables are  best.
  • It can be done on the floor or with the rear foot elevated – the latter called a Bulgarian Split squat and is especially evil.  But I would only recommend doing the latter if absolutely certain that both knees are well balanced or great problems will  be caused.
The difference between a Split Squat and a Lunge:
Split Squat:  The feet stay in the same place.
Lunge: the feet move.  So you could step forwards and back or you could do a walking lunge.  When doing a walking lunge, the knee will land naturally over the ankle.    I have seen a great deal of appallingly executed walking lunges.  Knees wobbling about, bottoms side slipping.  A badly done walking lunge causes damage.
  1. in the video I think the man’s rear foot is slightly turned out. Tut. []
  2. again I have suspicions that the man’s heel is lifting slightly.  Were I training him, I would be checking that out. []
  3. Yup, he’s speeding on through the exercise []

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