How To: Perform A Pistol Squat

March 3, 2015
how to, pistol squat, one legged squat

If you’re looking for something to amp up your workout, or you’re just looking for a new and impressive skill to show off at the gym, the pistol squat is for you! What is a pistol squat you ask? While it sounds like something really difficult that only fitness models and navy personnel can do, it’s really just a one legged squat.

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Ah, just a one legged squat? That’s not so hard – until you try it. Some people can bust out a pistol squat and succeed on their first try, and those people are freaks of nature. For those of us less blessed in the coordination, balance, flexibility and strength department, a pistol squat can be worked up to, performing variations of this bad boy until you are confident enough to get your butt almost to the floor while lifting your straight leg above the ground.

Let’s not sugar coat it – this move is hard. It takes practice, dedication and determination, but once you have it, it’s pretty cool to whip out on leg day. The pistol squat targets your legs and butt and is a great lower body exercise to really strengthen those areas of your body, but does require flexibility in your hamstrings and hip flexors to perform the move properly, so get stretching!

Before you even try to perform a pistol squat, you should ensure that you are strong enough to do sets of weighted squats, ass to grass style. You should also be able to do 40-50 body weight squats and body weight ski squats (feet together), ass to grass style. You should always check to make sure you have great form in your squats to avoid injury, even if you have been squatting for a while. The best way to do this is to check with a professional, as they have all the knowledge and training to help you get your squats right.

While the first step of pistol squats may have both feet on the ground, you better believe that leg is coming up in the second drill. Start with a high box, bench or chair as a guide, and try the one legged squat with your weightless leg lifted and straight, but try not to sit on the box. The box is used as a guide for the depth of your squat, hence you start with a high box for a shallow squat. As you get more confident, you can reduce the size of your box, which makes your squat deeper and harder. If you lose control and have to sit on the box, that’s fine, but try to train yourself to stay tight and perform the exercise without that interruption.

The next step is an assisted pistol squat, which uses a pole to help you lower yourself down. Try to rely on your legs to do most of the work and use your arms for a little assistance by holding onto the pole – remember to squeeze your abs. You will soon have minimal help from your arms, and your legs will be much stronger.

The elevated pistol squat is the next step. Perform the one legged pistol squat on an elevated surface, like a plyometrics box. The leverage from your lifted leg dropped next to the box will make the movement easier, and then you can move onto a counterweight pistol squat. Arms straight out in front of you, hold a dumbbell, plate or kettlebell in front of you to counteract the weight offset by your hips. As your squat improves, you can lighten the weight.

When you’ve moved through the progression of drills, hopefully you’re able to perform a pistol squat, keeping your weightless leg straight and elevated and standing up with power. After you’ve mastered the pistol squat, you can move on to adding weight, by holding it close to your chest or if you’re brave, working up to the plyometric pistol squat.

Body weight training expert Al Kavadlo has a great video, which you can see below, that shows you an example of each movement.


Video via bodybuilding.com Images via pinterest.com

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