The pistol squat is one of my favorite bodyweight exercises. Pistols are challenging on many levels, requiring core strength, leg strength and flexibility. I often get asked about this exercise, so I decided a formal tutorial was in order. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with two-legged squats, you’re ready to learn the pistol. I like to break it down into three phases.
Pistol Squat – Phase One
Begin by sitting on a bench with one foot flat on the ground and the other extended out in front of you. Reach your arms forward and simultaneously press your foot into the ground while tightening your abs. Don’t let your heel come off the ground. If you’re strong enough, you should be able to lift yourself off the bench. Once you get to a standing position, try to lower yourself slowly and repeat. You will likely lose control during the lowering phase and wind up plopping down onto the bench at the bottom. That’s fine for now. In time your control will improve to the point where you no longer need to sit on the bench.
Stand on a bench with one foot hanging off the edge. Squat down so that the opposite leg drops below the level of the bench. Make sure you stick out your hips and butt, and lean forward a bit. If you are having a hard time balancing, hold onto something to guide you. A broom handle works well if you are doing these at home. If you have a training partner, have them assist you by either holding your hand or standing near you so you can grab them if you lose your balance. This is an exercise where I will literally hold my client’s hand through the first time they try it!
Pistol Squat – Phase Three
Get down into a deep squat with both feet flat on the ground. Try to reach one leg out in front of you while balancing on the other. You’re now at the bottom position of a pistol squat. Get comfortable with your balance here; it will come easier to some than to others. Once you can balance in the bottom position, try to stand up. It’s okay to use assistance until you can perform the move independently. With practice, you will build the necessary strength and stability to perform the pistol with confidence – then you can move onto advanced pistol squats!
Editors Note: Make sure to check out the new tutorial on pistol squats for more info on this exercise.
Watch the video below for more:
For more information, check out my book, Pushing The Limits! – Total Body Strength With No Equipment.