The pistol squat is a unilateral lower body exercise where you perform a full squat on a single leg. You will require a high level of strength, balance, and flexibility. This exercise will help you to build unilateral strength, along with enhancing your balance and stability. Training this will prepare your body for physical activities such as running, jumping, and sudden changes in direction in sports. It is ideal that you master normal squats before you try this variation to ensure faster progression.
The primary muscles worked are the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip adductors. The secondary muscles worked are the abdominals and calves.
The pistol squat is an advanced-level exercise as your entire body weight will be rested on one leg whilst executing the movement. It requires balance and coordination, leg strength, and flexibility. But, it’s beginner-friendly as the progressions you will be practicing will include basic exercises.
It is important to stretch out your ankles and calves before you perform any squatting exercise and alleviate any stiffness or pain. Taking time to stretch before and after your workout will develop strength and flexibility which can reduce any discomfort and improve your range of motion. Perform each stretch one straight after the other for 3 sets.
These are the two best stretches that you should practice:
There are three best pistols squat progressions that you can practice today. These progressions are ranked from easy to hard, therefore you can assess where your current fitness level stands and implement them into your training regiment accordingly. Practice 1-2 exercises for 3 sessions a week.
A deep squat is s squat whereupon you squat your hips below the height of your knees. The goal is to be able to touch your glutes to your calves. This exercise increases the mobility in your calves and ankles, improving your range of motion for the pistol squat. You can also practice deep squat by holding onto a stable object in front for support. To perform this, you will:
Chair box squat has a reduced range of motion compared to the pistol squat as you will briefly set your body weight on the box as you lower down. This will help you to build up strength, endurance, and mobility to perform this exercise. You can reduce the height of the box as you get stronger. To perform this, you will:
This exercise is great for developing the full range of motion required for the pistol squat with the support of holding onto an object such as the TRX, gymnastic rings, a chair, or a rail. This will assist you with balance, along with supporting some of your weight by taking the load away from your leg, therefore you are lifting less. To perform this, you will:
Once the box pistol squat and the assisted pistol squat becomes easy, you can progress to the full pistol squat, which is a single-leg full squat. The goal is the lower down so that your glute touches your calve. To perform this, you will:
Training a single leg at a time will help to prevent overusing or overtraining on the dominant side, therefore it helps to isolate and improve any muscle imbalances, enhances balance, utilize abdominal muscles, helps in injury prevention, develop muscle mass, and connective tissue strength.
By training unilaterally, your core stabilizing muscles fire away to assist the loaded muscle imbalances to promote sound movement patterns. Anytime you load a single side of the body, it’s going to work and strengthen the core which will improve your balance and coordination.
Pistol squats will increase tension on your leg as your entire body weight will be carried on a single leg. The isolation of this individual movement can put more stress on your muscles which can lead to strength gains and muscular growth.
The split squat is a lunge variation that works on the same muscle groups as the pistol squat. This is a regression to the pistol squat as both feet will be on the floor whilst performing this movement, and it will assist you with balance. It is a great variation to build your unilateral strength. To do this, you will:
This is a progression to the pistol squat which makes it the ultimate unilateral leg exercise. It will build strong muscular legs that are equally balanced and better equipped for your everyday activities and sports. Moreover, it will require more balance and coordination as you will have to hold a weight at the centre of your chest. To perform this, you will:
My name is Pat Chadwick, I am a calisthenics coach with over 4 years of experience in helping people from all backgrounds to achieve their calisthenics goals. My goal is to become the number one calisthenics coach in the world as it is my passion to help people change their lives through inspiring bodyweight movements. I believe everyone deserves the right to feel good about their health, body, and be delighted inside and out.