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Why and how to master the Pistol Squat

What is a Pistol Squat?

Also known as the one-legged squat, the pistol squat is so called, we suppose, because the athlete tends to hold their hand out forward and hold their foot, making the shape of a pistol with the body. Perhaps not the nicest image but these will definitely shoot your fitness right up and leave your butt and leg muscles wounded in a good way…


Why Pistol Squat?

It’s single leg work on fast-forward! We all love lunges and there’s no doubt that they are very good for redressing imbalances and getting those glutes and hamstrings (as well as calves and quads) strong BUT…  Pistol squats are harder than most lunges and require an awful lot more balance and core strength. They work the deep butt muscles and force you to develop full range of motion so that your bottom comes all the way down to your heel, thus making that pistol shape! You’ll inevitably increase ankle and hip mobility by practising this exercise. One word of warning however: if you’ve got problematic knees, definitely consult a medical expert and your CrossFit coach before attempting this exercise as it places a lot of weight on that area.

Four steps to a Pistol Squat.

DO try these at home, and tweet us @progenexeurope to let us know how you got on

i)If pistols squats are currently beyond you entirely, then the likelihood is that your glutes aren’t strong enough. Yes, it’s a little unfair, since one reason we do pistols in the first place is to strengthen the glutes (rather than to humiliate rookie CrossFitters), but hey, you can still get there. The best way to start training your legs for pistols is by doing a seated one legged squat, also known as a seated pistol. Simply squat down onto a bench or step (behind you) on one leg with your other leg stretched out in front. Your arms should also come out in front on the downward phase of the movement and then move in towards your body on the upward phase. Top tip: You'll need to lean forwards as you come up or you'll fall on your bottom! Try to imagine that you're grabbing something in front of you, shift your weight forward and roll up.

ii) Once you’ve conquered that, it’s time to take that bench a little lower. Find a surface that is far enough off the ground that you don’t have to literally fall onto it but low enough that it really challenges you. Put disc weights onto a low step perhaps and then take one off as you improve / warm up. Try just to touch the surface with your bottom - don’t wait there - before going back up.

iii) Ok, so you’re nearly there now but still struggle right at the bottom of that pistol squat. It’s time to take away any kind of support behind you but find something to hold on to. So set up a handle from a cable machine or suspension trainer, or find a partner who can give you a hand, and use it to help get yourself out of the bottom of the movement back into a standing position. Whether it’s a person or a handle though, try to gradually work up to hardly using them / it at all and hold the end of your outstretched foot with the hand of that same side.

iv) Time for the real deal: a full pistol squat. You need no kit whatsoever for this - another reason why it’s such a fantastic exercise and can be done at home, outdoors or whilst travelling - so just find your focus, switch on your abdominals and begin. You’ll probably find you are instinctively better on one side than the other. If this is the case it’s definitely worth practising a little more on your bad side but don’t overdo it or you might risk overuse injuries. It’s good to do this exercise in bare feet rather than supportive shoes too as that will hopefully force you to better control any heel drop and / or rolling-in motion of the knee whilst you are pistol squatting. If you find yourself falling down, unable to get out of the very bottom of the movement, try holding a light weight out in front of you as a counterbalance and then work up to discarding it. 

Tagged with: Crossfit Progenex Nutrition Health

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