The pistol squat (or one legged squat) is one of those beasty body-weight movements that can take some time to master, but once conquered, can become a weapon for lower body strength work. Even if you are not at pistol mastery just yet, there are a number of progressions you can consider to work towards a free-standing pistol squat. Firstly, let’s have a look at the pistol squat movement.
The objective of the pistol squat is to lower one’s body to the ground and back up, on one leg, with the other leg outstretched forward, parallel to the ground. Refer to the video below for a quick demo.
Whilst the athlete in the video above makes the movement look like an ice cream on a sunny day, it can be a difficult movement to master. But with any skill, there are a number of progressions to work through if you are not quite at pistol squat beast mode.
Pistol squat progressions
First up, grab yourself one of the following:
- A plyometric box (box-jump box) with multiple height options; or
- A chair with adjustable height; or
- A pile of bricks
What we need to determine is how far you can lower yourself down before your balance or strength fail. At this point, utilise one of the objects listed above. This is your progressive step. Rather than lowering all the way down like in the video demo, lower yourself down to your progressive step. Work to this level and gradually lower your progressive step over the course of a number of weeks. Be sure not to drop or fall down to your progressive step. Controlled movements build strength faster and lessens the likelihood of injury.
It is well within the rules to hold your non-grounded foot outwards with your hand on the same side if you find that helpful.
Some progressions include using a resistance band or pole to allow your upper body to support the movement, but this can encourage a greater use of the upper body rather than developing the lower body which the pistol is all about.
To strengthen your pistol squat, perform the movement frequently and consistently. For example, a simple schedule could follow this routine:
- 8 pistol squats per leg to your progressive step. Rest for two minutes and repeat. (16 pistol squats per leg in total).
Within a couple of weeks of sticking to a schedule, you will be ready to lower your progressive step, and eventually not require one at all. Once mastered, you will have a new tool to add to your routine that is an absolute weapon of a movement. Keep your movement steady and smooth and in no time you will pistol squatting with the best of them.