One of the biggest complaints I have gotten from my clients when I choose to make a pistol squat a part of their fitness regimine, is “But I cannot do a pistol squat!”
Fair enough. Pistol squats are one of the most difficult squats to perform because not only are you adding in the factor of balancing your entire body from falling, you are also using your entire (insert your body weight here) pounds of bodyweight.
What is a pistol squat?
A pistol squat is basically a one-legged variation of your normal squat exercise that involves balancing your body weight onto one leg as you squat downward. (pistol not included)
Some people enjoy this difficult feat by taking a step further, like this gal. Holy shit! Do not try this at home.. or gym!
Why do a pistol squat?
- Improve strength and flexibility.
- Eradicates imbalances between the two sides of the body.
- Improve mobility in the knee, ankle, and hip joints
- Pistols build monstrously strong legs without needing to go to the gym.
- Pistols simultaneously train strength, balance, and mobility with just one exercise.
- Promote good barbell squat technique because they force you to sit back, maintain good posture, and keep the whole body tight
- Reduce the stress on the lower back making them great for those with back problems
How to do a standard pistol squat?
Photo: Women’s Health Mag
- Stand with arms extended out in front.
- Balance on one leg with opposite leg extended straight leg forward as high as possible.
- Squat down as far as possible while keeping leg elevated off of floor.
- Keep back straight and supporting knee pointed same direction as foot supporting.
- Raise body back up to original position until knee and hip of supporting leg is straight.
- Repeat and continue with opposite leg.
How to master the pistol squat?
Try a variation or modification of the pistol squat. Just like yoga, this move takes time to work your way into- especially if you are a beginner.
Here are 3 great variations or modifications to practice with that will help you to build strength to do the real thing:
1. Bench or Chair Variation
Photo: Fitness Mag
Using a bench or a chair, you can get your technique just right by squatting down as low as you can, barely touching the chair or bench. If you lose your balance or fall, you will have the bench right there to catch you. This is a great way to help build strength and practice the pistol squat.
2. Assisted Variation
Using a pole or even a wall is my favorite way of easing into the pistol squat. It sort of gives you the idea of what to expect without the risk of possibly hurting yourself if you weren’t to use the pole or wall. Think of it as leverage.
3. Counterbalance Variation using Weights
Photo: Bret Contreras
Using a weight plate, doubell, or even a medicine ball, you can counterbalance your body while performing the pistol squat. Keep it mind that this may work against you as you will then be adding even more weight to your squat. But, when done correctly, this can help build your strength and balance tremendously.