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ATG Split Squat: How To, Pro Tips, Benefits & Muscles Worked

ATG Split squat


You’ve probably heard of ATG split squats. But are they worth the hype or just a passing exercise trend?

The short answer: ATG split squats are the real deal. Not only are they incredibly effective for building stronger knees, hips, and ankles–but they’re also hard as hell to perform. Have you ever tried one? They’re NO JOKE. 

Today we’ll cover: 

ATG Split Squat How To

ATG Split Squat Muscles Worked 

ATG Split Squat Pro Tips 

ATG Split Squat Benefits 

ATG Split Squat Progression & ATG Split Squat Variations

ATG Split Squat Resources 

ATG Split Squat FAQs 

If you’ve ever had a personal trainer, then they’ve probably cued you during split squats to keep your knees stacked JUST above your toes and to not let them get any farther. 

This is pretty standard form for a split squat. 

Unless you’re Ben Patrick–fondly known as the “Knees Over Toes Guy.” Ben Patrick is the founder of the Athletic Truth Group and the Knees Over Toes Program, a gym training service. And he's famous for his YouTube content on fitness. 

His most famous exercise? 

The ATG split squat. 

As his nickname implies, Ben Patrick is a big advocate for going a little deeper in those squats. Getting the knees WAY over the toes. 

And that's exactly what he advocates in his “ass to grass” split squats. He believes that ATG split squats help build stronger knees, hips, and ankles. So, let’s dive in to why ATG split squats are worth the hype

ATG Split Squat How To 

When you perform an ATg split squat, you have a few decisions to consider: 

- Will you use weight?

- Will you elevate your front foot? 

I’ll cover these details in the pro tips section, but for now, let’s go over ATG split squat basic form. 

ATG Split squat
ATG Split squat
  1. Get into a regular split squat position–but now, bring your front foot even further forward (about 2 feet in front of your body). 

  1. Now, lean forward, slowly descending as you bend your front leg. Go down as far as you can go, fully covering your calf with your hamstring if possible. 

  1. Keep your back leg as straight as possible, and let your knee hover just above the floor. 

  1. Now, slowly raise yourself back up to the top of the pose. 

  1. Repeated for your desired amount of reps.

  1. Take a brief pause before you switch legs. 

  1. Repeat on the other side. 

ATG Split Squat Muscles Worked 

When I say you’ll feel it during an ATG split squat, trust me. You’ll feel it

Especially in your: 

- Quads

- Adductors 

- And your glutes

BUT this will also work your core, tibialis, and hamstrings


ATG Split Squat: 9 Pro Tips


ATG Split Squat Pro Tip #1: Use a Slant Board for Your Front Foot

While you can do an ATG split squat with your heels flat on the floor, I recommend starting by elevating your front foot with a slant board or a wedge

Here’s why. When you elevate your front heel, it helps you get: 

- Better balance: Especially if you add weight (more about that in the next tip), this extra support under your heel (instead of it being up in the air) will help you have more stability under a heavier load. 

- Better range of motion (ROM): You won’t be limited by your ankle flexibility during this motion when you use a wedge. It works as an extra support to help you drive your knee further forward. 

For beginners, this is a great way to make sure you're going super deep in that ATG split squat. If you’re struggling to go deep enough with just your foot flat on the floor, definitely add in some front foot elevation. 


ATG Split Squat Pro Tip #2: Level Up With Dumbbells or a Barbell 

I’ve seen people use dumbbells OR a barbell to take their ATG split squats to the next level, and how you do this is totally up to you! 

- With a barbell: You’ll want to load it up on your neck and traps. Barbells are great because you can go a bit heavier. Balancing the barbell during the ATG split squat can be great for balance, but if you find it too challenging, try dumbbells instead. 

- With dumbbells: With dumbbells, you’ll select your desired weight, and hold them at your sides during the ATG split squat. Dumbbells are great for just beginning to add weight to the mix. 

Keep in mind that this is a more difficult exercise, and you may find that it takes a little bit of time to work up to performing the ATG split squat in a full ROM. If that’s the case, that’s totally fine. 

But I definitely recommend taking it slow and mastering form BEFORE adding weight in. 

Don’t go too hard too fast or skimp on your form just because you’re trying to lift crazy amounts of weight during this exercise. 

ATG Split Squat Pro Tip #3: Pause at the Bottom 

When it comes to ATG split squats, pausing at the bottom will make you hate everything. Because it’ll hurt like hell. But at the end of the day, this pause will stop you from using momentum instead of your muscles to raise up out of that squat


You can get some explosiveness on the way up BUT NOT without settling into that pause at the bottom first. The entire exercise is better completed in a slooow manner. This is because you're really working muscles on the way up AND down, so you want to take it nice and easy to really feel that burn. 


ATG Split Squat Pro Tip #4: Take a Break Between Each Leg 

This is technically a unilateral exercise, which means you’re working one leg at a time. Unilateral moves are great for weeding out any muscular imbalance between your legs. 

But with an ATG split squat–although you focus more on the front leg–you actually end up getting muscle work in BOTH legs, so it’s a bit more complicated. 

Lots of times when completing a unilateral exercise, it’s easy to jump from working one side right to the other with no rest. And usually, that’s not a big deal. 

But with ATG split squats, you’re gonna want to take a good rest between working out each leg: I recommend 1-2 minutes. 

This is because BOTH LEGS are working during the movement–the front leg and the back leg. So, they’re gonna need a break before you dive right in to switching sides. 

When you take this break, it can also help reduce any knee pain or lower back pain you might feel during the exercise. 

ATG Split Squat Pro Tip #5: Keep the Weight on Your Front Leg 

Weight distribution between the front and back leg should be about 90% on the front leg or more and 10% on the back leg or less. 

Because both legs are engaged and working together during the ATG split squat, you’ll still keep that back leg active but really–most of your weight should be right in that front foot. 

If you end up shifting too much of your weight onto that back leg, it could throw off your balance and your ability to maintain an upright posture during the movement. 

ATG Split Squat Pro Tip #6: Cover Those Calves With Your Hamstrings 

ATG Split squat


The best way to tell if you’re getting deep enough into the ATG split squat with every rep is to check to see if your hamstring is covering the same-leg calf at the bottom of the motion. 

Remember that adding in a wedge or slant board for your front foot could help with this if you’re struggling with the ROM. 

One way to evaluate how deep you’re going in the squat and compare it to your past performance is to have someone place their hand at the back of your knee as you descend into the squat. 

Count the fingers that get covered by your hamstring when you squat down. We’re aiming for your pointer through your pinky for optimal ROM. 


ATG Split Squat Pro Tip #7: Straighten Your Back Leg

ATG Split squat


It’ll feel different than a regular split squat because your back leg won’t come down in a right angle. 

Instead, with an ATG split squat, you’re gonna want to keep your back leg as straight as possible. 

When you lower to the floor, your knee should hover just above the floor–not touching the floor. 

ATG Split Squat Pro Tip #8: Think “Glute to Heel”

One other tip to increase your ROM is to think about driving your glute or hip flexor down into your front heel. 

It’s okay if you can’t do this right away, but this could be a goal to help you stay motivated in push further. 

The goal is, after all, to get that ass to the grass. 


ATG Split Squat Pro Tip #9: Take a Wide Stance 

Before you start the exercise, focus on taking a wide stance as you bring one foot forward and the other back. I like to picture bringing your front foot forward by at least 2 feet or so. 

It may feel weird going into such a wide stance, but with a regular stance, you’ll end up just doing a regular split squat. 


ATG Split Squat Benefits 

ATG Split squat Benefits


So, what’s so special about the ATG split squat? Oh…enough to get our attention. Let’s explore the ATG split squat benefits. 

ATG Split Squat Benefit #1: Better Mobility

The full-leg movement happening here provides loads of benefits for your overall leg mobility–from your hips to your knees to your ankles. 

ATG Split Squat Benefit #2: Helps With Lower Back Pain 

Whenever you massage, stretch, or strengthen those hip flexor muscles, your lower back is impacted. The two are directly linked. 

That’s why when you strengthen your hip flexors during an ATG split squat, lower back pain reduction can be a very natural benefit. 

ATG Split Squat Benefit #3: Helps With Knee Pain 

Knee pain can really take you out, and the motion of the ATG split squat is supposed to be great for sore knees–due to the increased blood flow that the movement encourages in your knees. 

ATG Split Squat Benefit #4: Promotes Leg Hypertrophy 

Because you can load up more weight by following the suggested ATG split squat progression, you can really make some great quad and glute gains by adding the ATG split squat into your leg day routine. 

ATG Split Squat Progression & ATG Split Squat Variations 

ATG Split squat Progression


If this all sounds like it’ll be a little too complicated, fear not, my friend. 

If you’re a beginner, I recommend using an ATG split squat progression to get you started with easier ATG split squat variations. 

Then, you can go on to master the actual ATG split squat

And after that, if you wanna get crazy–you can use the ATG split squat progression to make the exercise even *gasp* harder! 

ATG Split Squat Progression: Easier ATG Split Squat Variations

Front Foot Elevated: To make the ATG split squat easier, you can start with your front foot elevated. Like I mentioned earlier, you can just use a wedge for your heel–but to make it even easier–you can elevate it higher. 

For this, I recommend using a box or stacked weight plates. 

Stability Support: If balance is an issue, you can use a stable surface to hang on to for support during the ATG split squat. I recommend placing a foam roller vertically on the ground in front of your and using your hand on it for support. 


ATG Split Squat Progression: Harder ATG Split Squat Variations

And then once you get SO good at ATG split squats, that they’re a bore to you and your chiseled body, you may want to consider the harder ATG split squat variations. 

This means adding dumbbells or a barbell to intensify the amount of weight you’re able to squat. 

I recommend starting with dumbbells first and taking it lighter. Then, you can eventually work up to the barbell. 

ATG Split Squat Resources 

We respect the Knees Over Toes Program because Ben Patrick’s unique training style has been backed by tons of success stories of people who he’s helped out of knee pain. 

At Back Muscle Solutions, we’re all about helping people out of pain–especially lower back pain

Check out Back of Steel 2.0–our lower back strengthening program. For less than $30, you can get a program designed for people working to stay out of long-term lower back pain by building up durability in their lower backs. 

This is a 3-week, 15-minute-a-day program. 

Check it out HERE. 

You can also check out some of our other resources on the Knees Over Toes Program: 

Article: “Knees Over Toes Program - The Best Exercises For Lower Back Pain”


ATG Split Squat FAQs


What is the ATG split squat for?

The ATG Split Squat is great for hip, knee, and ankle mobility as well as building your quads and your glutes. 

How often should I ATG split squat?

Ben Patrick says he does ATG split squats once a week with a goal of really perfect reps, but you can do this more frequently if you want to add it in to your leg day more regularly. For muscle growth, go with fewer reps and heavier weight. For flexibility, stick with body weight and more reps. 

What does ATG stand for knees over toes?

ATG stands for “ass to grass,” meaning you want to go as low as you can in your split squat. 

Can you build muscle with ATG?

ATG split squats are great for building those quads and glutes! 






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