The 30-year-old actress and model makes the tough exercise look easy.
Kate Upton just did a harder version of "the most hated exercise in existence," according to her longtime trainer Ben Bruno. Yes, he's talking about Bulgarian split squats.
Bruno shared a video of Upton working out in green leggings, black sneakers, and a white tank top on Instagram. She begins with her right foot on the ground tracking directly beneath her right knee, which is bent at a 90-degree angle. The top of her left foot is resting on a bench behind her and her left knee is sharply bent, kneeling on top of a pad on the ground.
The 30-year-old actress and model is holding two heavy kettlebells totaling 50 pounds in the front rack position as she straightens her right leg to come to standing position on an exhale. She does seven reps of the challenging exercise before releasing the weights to her sides.
"Rear foot elevated split squats are probably the most hated exercise in existence because they’re so hard," writes Bruno in the caption of his post. "The only thing worse is rear foot elevated split squats holding two heavy kettlebells in the front-rack position. But the hard exercises you hate doing are generally the ones that work the best, so we’ve been doing them almost every week for the last year."
Bruno also acknowledges that Upton makes the tough exercise look way easier than it actually is. "Kate is making 50 pounds look easy, but anyone who has ever tried this knows it’s NOT easy," he writes. "She’s found 'the secret' in the gym: consistent hard work over time."
Bulgarian split squats target your entire lower body, including the quads, inner and outer thighs, hamstrings, calves, hips, and butt, Cat Kom, founder of Studio SWEAT OnDemand, previously told Shape. "Nothing makes me feel so satisfyingly sore the next day."
The exercise is a great example of unilateral training, meaning the move uses muscles on one side of the body at a time. This helps build more symmetrical muscular strength in the body, prevent injury, and improve stability.
"I love the rear-foot elevated split squat because we all have imbalances, so it's important to train one side at a time," Stan Dutton, Head Coach for Ladder, previously told Shape. "During this movement, while the front leg is working, your rear leg quad and hip flexor will experience a fantastic stretch."
By adding weights, Upton makes the difficult move even more challenging. Not only is she working her lower body, but she's also engaging her core and upper body to keep the kettlebells at her chest. Plus, by adding weight, she's doing what's known as progressive overload (aka increasing the load to make the movement more challenging).
"Progressive overload can help increase results in a shorter period of time, train the body to adapt to different training environments quicker, and more importantly, help to increase lean muscle mass," CJ Hammond, XPS-certified trainer with RSP Nutrition, previously told Shape.
If you want to take a page from Upton's book, start by nailing your Bulgarian split squat form using only bodyweight, then slowly incorporate weight for an extra challenge when you're ready.