Squats

How To: Perform A Pistol 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

5 Squats You Should Be Doing

Upgrade your everyday squat routine by adding some of these variations that could improve the appearance of your legs and buttocks. Not only does this mean that workouts are easier, but there’s also a lot to gain by switching up the same-old workout routine which can get tiresome and repetitive. Incorporate the five following squats to make your workout more enjoyable, and get a bikini body in no-time!

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Narrow squat

Start off in a standing position, with feet close together. Squat down slowly into a sitting position, but remember to keep your legs and feet pressed together for maximum results.

5 Squats You Should Be Doing

Narrow squat with back kick

Follow this after the narrow squat by remaining the in last position. Squat down into a slight sitting position, push upwards and kick your leg back after each rep. Follow the same step on the other leg, and remember to keep arms at your hips.

5 Squats You Should Be Doing

Basic squat with side leg lift

Alternate the basic squat by incorporating a little bit of leg action to this classic technique. Squat down with your legs a hip-length apart, then push upwards and extend your leg outwards. Repeat this step on the other leg.

5 Squats You Should Be Doing

Sumo squat

This squat is perfect for working out that hard-to-reach inner thigh area, so don’t forget this technique! Stand with your feet pointing outwards, then push down into a squatting position.

At this point your legs should look like they’re at a 90º angle.

5 Squats You Should Be Doing

Body-weight jump squat

Position your fingers at the back of your head, and make sure your arms are aligned with the rest of your body. Push down with your knees in a squatting position, then jump as high as you can, before squatting down immediately.

You should be able to feel the burn in your upper thighs almost straight away.

5 Squats You Should Be Doing

Images via Swell Fitness, The Fitspo Project, Fit Sugar, Wtf Is That Girl Doing, Pop Sugar

Train Your Legs At Home

If you’re looking to build some muscle or simply tone your legs before the summer season, odds are you’ve probably thought about joining a local gym. Whether you work at home or simply can’t find the time for a proper workout routine, try some of these simple exercises at home. This way, you can work at your own pace and fit in an exercise when you have the time.

Squats

Quads are located on the upper half of the leg, and can often be the most difficult part of the body to tone. Simple but effective quad exercises include squats and lunges. To perform a proper squat, stand with feet shoulder-width apart and extend the arms. Squat as if you’re about to sit on a chair, using the muscles from your upper thighs and keep your weight in your heels.

Lunges

Lunge exercises generally target the upper thighs and buttocks, by strengthening core muscles and using the entire body as resistance. Include lunges in your warm-up exercise if you are preparing an extended workout. Stand up straight with your legs hip-width apart, and hands on your hips. Extend your left foot forward and raise your heel, before bending both knees at a 90º angle.

Toe touch

Not only will toe touches help to increase flexibility in the body, but are a great warm-up exercise if you’re incorporating this routine into your workout. Simply put your feet together then bend at the waist and allow arms and hands to hang naturally. Then stretch as far as you can by keeping your legs straight.

Wall sit

This exercise is typically used to build isometric strength and target the core muscles, glutes and calves. Push your back firmly against a wall, then slide down into a sitting position. Extend the arms out for extra stability and make sure the knees and feet are aligned for a perfect technique.

Jumping jacks

Yes, jumping jacks are very effective to warm-up the entire body and tone legs without much endurance. Think about the amount of times you have to jump up and down before getting tired.

Image via Worth A Share

5 Secrets of Ageing Gracefully

Most of us worry about ageing by focusing on how our face will look. But as we age, so does your body – your muscles shorten, your bones weaken and you repair from injury more slowly. It is important to not only look after your skin, but your body as well. The healthier you are on the inside, the healthier and more youthful you will look on the outside.

Jason T Smith, renowned physiotherapist, founder of the Back In Motion Health Group and author of Get Yourself Back In Motion shares his five secrets to help you age gracefully.

1. Walk everyday
Walking every day is one of the easiest ways to maintain fitness and keep you looking and feeling younger. The motion your body goes through when walking is similar to the motion you go through as when you run; your arms and legs move simultaneously together. The benefit of walking over running is that you’re not putting as much stress on your joints and therefore minimising the risk of damage.

You can walk for much longer periods of time than you can run (unless you are super fit!), and it is easy to incorporate into your everyday activities as incidental exercise. Walk up the stairs, walk to the train station or even walk to work if you live close enough.

2. Focus on your abs
As we age, that fit toned tummy seems to almost disappear. Sagging stomach muscles are one of the first signs of ageing. A strong core helps your posture and balance, which can make you look and feel younger. One of the main reasons for back pain is bad posture. If you strengthen your stomach muscles, your posture will improve and back pain can be better managed. Your abs are also important for your balance as they are the centre of your core. I would recommend exercising your core 2-3 times per week. Sit on a physio ball and see how well you can balance by drawing your stomach in and moving your pelvis side to side.

3. Eat healthily
A diet that lacks in nutrition will age you both internally and externally, with obesity proven to accelerate the process of ageing. Eating a healthy, balanced diet low in sugar is the best anti-ageing medicine! Eat plenty of whole foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables and lean meat. Avoid highly processed foods as these are high in fats, sugars, salts and plenty of other nasties that may accelerate the ageing process. Drinking 1-2 litres of water a day is beneficial to help eliminate the toxins in your body.

4. Squats
Squatting isn’t just a great thigh and buttock toner; it’s one of the most natural human movements – think of how many times a day you stand up from a seated position. If done properly, squats help stimulate muscle growth and develop muscle mass throughout your whole body. This movement also spreads nutrition from foods your body has processed into your organs and glands. Squats help to keep your body healthy on the inside, whilst keeping your youthful look on the outside. Start with 10 squats a day, and increase over time, for health and body benefits.

5. Moving regularly
Consistency is key! Start small and increase your exercise weekly as your fitness levels improve. However many times you exercise per week, keep it consistent. You won’t see results if your exercise regime is irregular.

Jason Smith is the founder of Back In Motion Health Group, Australia’s leading provider of physiotherapy and related services. Jason’s new book Get Yourself Back In Motion is available at Back In Motion practices around Australia, major book retailers and online bookstores, RRP $34.95.

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