Split Squats – Only Feeling the Back Leg (FIX)

Troubleshooting when you don’t feel the front leg working

Split squats are an awesome exercise to build the legs, but not if you are ONLY feeling the back leg working.

Why is it that the back leg is working so hard? Is there any way to fix this common issue on split squats?


In this post, you’ll learn why the back leg often gets overworked on split squats and what you can do about it!

Watch the video and read the blog below to learn!

Basic split squat biomechanics

During the split squat, the following describes the start position:

  1. Sacrum faces away from the front leg
  2. External rotation is occurring on the ipsilateral (front) side pelvis

As one descends into the split squat, the following changes happen:

  1. The sacrum turns more toward the front leg
  2. Increased internal rotation occurs on both sides of the pelvis
  3. Weight distribution shifts more toward the front leg

As you can see, the #majorkey to loading the front leg is rotating the pelvis towards it.

But what if the pelvis lacks the ability to fully rotate to the front leg?

Why the back leg gets overloaded

If the pelvis can’t rotate toward the lead leg, then the pelvis will stay more rotated towards the back leg. Guess what muscles help turn the pelvis right?

Stuff on the front–quads, hip flexors, etc.

Aka these bad boys (photo credit: Wikimedia Common)

It is this reason why your back quad can feel like it’s ripping off the bone. It’s overworked and underpaid!

Other indicators would include both knees sweeping away from the lead leg:

Notice how the knees sweep away from the lead leg

Or you see A TON of back hip flexion:

The back leg is WAY too flexed

3 easy ways to stop the back leg overloading

To offload the back leg, we must encourage pelvic rotation towards the front leg. There are a few things that can help us reach this goal:

Learn to push off the back leg

Pushing off the back leg often reduces backside quad activity. Here’s how I coach it:

  1. Keep back knee bent
  2. Push off big toe while maintaining back knee bend
  3. Body should shift forward
  4. Keep front foot flat

Usually, these cues fix this issue.

That is unless that person cannot adequately load the front leg.

Reduce load demands on the front leg

The other option could be finding ways to reduce front leg loading.

The easiest would be elevating the front leg.

When you elevate the front leg, this shifts weight toward the back leg.

Now you might be thinking why in the heck would that help excessive back leg loading? Wouldn’t that make it worse?

Here’s the deal.

When I have less load going through the front leg, I am putting less force into the ground. Force production is associated with internal rotation, which produces contralateral rotation.

If the front leg internally rotates excessively, it’ll cause the pelvis to turn away from the lead leg.

Conversely, less front leg load allows for more external rotation. This action causes ipsilateral rotation; making rotating towards the lead leg easier.

That, coupled with the pushing cues can make a world of difference!

Back knee is too bent

This issue can be fixed by taking a slightly longer stance and using the above cues.

Knee sweep

Weight can be added to the exercise to aid in rotating towards the lead leg. I would implement a contralateral load in this case:

Sum up

Those would be the reasons why the back leg gets overloaded and how to fix it.

To recap:

  • Back leg loading occurs when the pelvis can’t rotate toward the front leg
  • Encouraging pushing off the back leg and loading into the front leg can rectify this.

What struggles have you had on the split squat? Comment below and let me know!