ATG Split Squat: A Full Tutorial

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The ATG (“ass to grass”) split squat, also known as the deep split squat, is a variation of the traditional split squat that emphasizes a deep range of motion. This exercise offers numerous benefits, including improved leg strength, balance, and flexibility.

This exercise was made viral by influencers such as the “Knees Over Toes Guy”, Ben Patrick. If you have poor ankle mobility and knee pains then this exercise should be in your workout routine. 

In this tutorial, we’ll explore what ATG split squats are, the muscles they engage, their difficulty level, step-by-step guidance on how to perform them, their progression, benefits, and compare them with the Bulgarian split squat.

What Are ATG Split Squats?

ATG split squats are a challenging variation of the split squat in which you lower your back knee nearly to the ground, achieving a deep range of motion. This exercise primarily targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and stabilizer muscles.

Traditionally, bilateral exercises are selected as the primary exercises for athletic development, due to their effects on enhancing strength and power. In contrast, unilateral exercises have been commonly considered to be ‘more supplementary’ for injury prevention.

ATG Split Squat Muscles Worked

  • Quadriceps: The front thigh muscles are heavily engaged during the lowering and pushing phases of the squat.
  • Hamstrings: These muscles support movement and contribute to hip stability.
  • Glutes: Both the gluteus maximus and medius are activated for stability and strength.
  • Calves: The calf muscles assist in maintaining balance.
  • Core: The core muscles stabilize the torso throughout the movement.

Difficulty Level of ATG Split Squats

ATG split squats are considered intermediate to advanced exercises due to the demands they place on mobility, balance, and strength. Beginners should start with regular split squats before progressing to the deep range of motion required in ATG split squats.

How to Perform ATG Split Squats

  1. Starting Position: Stand in a split stance with one foot forward and the other foot positioned back.
  2. Lowering Phase: Bend both knees to lower your back knee toward the ground, ensuring your front knee doesn’t extend past your toes.
  3. Deep Range of Motion: Aim to lower your back knee as close to the ground as possible without touching.
  4. Pushing Phase: Push through your front heel to return to the starting position.
  5. Reps and Sets: Perform the desired number of reps on one leg before switching to another.

ATG Split Squat Progression

Before you try the ATG split squat, we suggest you try the progressions first so that you’ll be able to perform it safely with lower risks of injuries. There are three progressions that we’d like you to try first.

1. Regular Split Squats:

Before attempting ATG split squats, make sure you’re comfortable with regular split squats. This will help you establish a strong foundation and work on your balance and stability.

2. Bulgarian Split Squats:

Start with an elevated backfoot split squat. This means placing your back foot on a step or bench, creating a slight incline. This reduces the demand for hip flexibility and allows you to focus on building strength and balance.

3. Controlled Deepening:

As you become more comfortable with the elevated version, work on gradually deepening the range of motion. Focus on keeping proper form and control as you lower your back knee closer to the ground.

4. Bodyweight ATG Split Squats:

When you’re ready, begin attempting the ATG split squat without any additional weight. The goal is to achieve a deep range of motion while maintaining balance and stability.

ATG Split Squat Benefits

  1. Enhanced Ankle Mobility 

ATG split squats work to significantly improve flexibility not only in the hip flexors and quads but also in the ankles. During an ATG split squat, your front heel remains firmly planted on the ground as your knees move past your toes in the flexed position. 

This deliberate movement effectively stretches both the calf muscles and the Achilles tendon, contributing to enhanced ankle mobility over time.

  1. Lower Body Strength 

The ATG split squat engages key lower body muscle groups—quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. This promotes balanced strength development, preventing muscle imbalances. The comprehensive muscle activation not only builds a well-rounded physique but also boosts functional strength for daily activities and sports performance.

  1. Enhanced Balance and Stability 

The split stance of the ATG split squat challenges and improves balance, enhancing overall stability. This unique position demands coordination and engages and stabilizes muscles. 

As you descend, you engage your core, which supports an upright posture and steady center of gravity. Regular practice refines proprioception, boosting balance control in various activities and sports. This stability transcends into daily life, minimizing injury risks and optimizing movement effectiveness.

  1. Improve Functional Strength 

ATG split squats mimic real-world movements and contribute to functional strength. For example, actions like walking and bending, translate to smoother, more effective daily movements. The core engagement involved reinforces stability and posture for lifting, turning, and sports.

As you advance, adding weights enhances practical muscle engagement. ATG split squats offer a bridge between gym training and everyday tasks, empowering you with a resilient body ready to tackle life’s physical demands with ease.

Due to the unilateral natural characteristics of sports events, for example, sprinting and change of direction, studies have suggested that unilateral training is deemed more in line with specific characteristics 

ATG Split Squat vs. Bulgarian Split Squat

While similar, the ATG and Bulgarian split squats have distinct differences. The ATG version emphasizes depth, working on flexibility and balance. With the back foot elevated, the Bulgarian version focuses on strength and stability. 

We believe that the ATG split squat is more challenging than the Bulgarian split squat for most people due to the mobility requirements in the ankle and hips, but trust us guys both exercises are great and complement each other well. Incorporate both into your routine for 3-5 sets with 5-12 reps on each side. 

ATG Split Squat Variations 

  1. Elevated Back Foot ATG Split Squat:
  • Elevate the back foot on a step or platform.
  • This variation further deepens the range of motion and intensifies the stretch in the hip flexors.
  1. Pulse ATG Split Squat:
  • Perform a regular ATG split squat, but instead of rising fully, pulse slightly up and down in the bottom position.
  • This adds a dynamic element, enhancing muscular endurance.
  1. Dumbbell or Kettlebell Goblet ATG Split Squat:
  • Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell close to your chest during the squat.
  • The added weight challenges your core stability and overall strength.
  1. Jumping ATG Split Squat:
  • Perform an explosive jump from the bottom position of the ATG split squat.
  • This plyometric variation enhances power and adds a cardiovascular component.
  1. Isometric Hold ATG Split Squat:
  • Lower into the ATG split squat position and hold it isometrically (statically) for an extended period.
  • This builds muscular endurance and mental resilience.

Lower Body and Core Workout Special

On your next leg day, we challenge you to try our Gymless Special leg workout. This should take around 30-45 mins! Rest 90 seconds inbetween sets. 

Let us know how you found this workout in the comments section below. Was it too easy for you, or maybe too hard?

ATG Split Squat: The Takeaways

So there you have it, Gymless heroes. By now you should understand how transformative it can be when you incorporate ATG split squats into your training routine. 

This exercise will develop your lower body strength, flexibility, and functional fitness. As you progress through the various stages of the exercise, you’ll not only reap physical benefits but also cultivate a deeper connection with your body’s capabilities.

Remember, patience and consistency are key. Listen to your body, give it the time it needs to adapt, and celebrate each milestone you achieve along the way. 

On that note, if you need extra support with accountability to keep you pushing forward on those tough days when you don’t feel like working out, we got you! Book a free consultation and see how our coaches can help you stay on top of your game. 

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