The pistol squat is one of those “party trick” fitness movements. Is it something most coaches program for their clients? No. There are simply far more bang for your buck exercises that require far less balance for the goal of gains. However, the pistol squat is a rather advanced movement.
Pistol squats – What’s the deal? How can you get better at them if that’s a goal of yours?
Essentially, it’s a TRUE single leg ass to grass squat. Can you take the weight of your body on one leg, drop it to your end range of ankle, knee and hip flexion (with lumbar flexion as well), and stand ‘er back up? I call them a party trick because there’s just a lot more exercises I choose before the pistol squat when programming for strength and hypertrophy – but it’s a fun skill to know you “have” in the bag. Let’s get into some progressions…
Elevated pistol squat with press
🤷🏻♀️Why it’s easier: Non working leg – less demand on hip flexion = less demand on quads (mainly rectus femoris), iliopsoas, sartorius, gracilis (two of my fav muscles) and other hip flexors. Pressing the weight out front counter balances your weight as you lower – allowing you to more comfortably sink into your hip.
🤷🏻♀️Why it’s easier: Same as above but without the press (takes the demand off the straight leg)
🤷🏻♀️Why it’s easier: Where the demand of the hip flexors on the straight leg are in full effect here, you’re making the load lighter by holding onto the rig (or TRX, or band, or door frame). There are many other regressions or tools but these are some to play/start with. If you lack ankle dorsiflexion or not, elevating the heel would also help.
Can you pistol squat? Do you know where you’re limited? (ankle mobility, overall strength?) – generally working on improving ankle dorsiflexion and hip mobility + flexion of non-working leg will help.
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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