Give the pistol squat a shot for lower body strength


You can probably leg press an impressive amount of weight on your leg day, but can you perform a pistol squat? If you can't, perhaps it's time to reevaluate your workouts and your definition of strength. Start working on refining and improving your pistol squat technique. Pistol squats are very challenging bodyweight exercises and they can help you improve your mobility and warm-up.

You may not be able to perform a pistol squat in your first attempt, but take your time with squat progressions. There are plenty pistol squat variations out there that you can start with in order to improve your mobility for a more advanced pistol squat. Besides improving your mobility, there are plenty of other reasons to incorporate this exercise into your training.





Build Strength

This awesome bodyweight exercise enables you to build strength not only in your legs but also your abs and lower back with absolutely no equipment. Furthermore, the pistol squat helps you enhance your flexibility and balance as well. They are awesome time efficient because they are quite intense. So you don't need to spend a lot of time performing pistol squat in order to reap the benefits.


Identify Imbalances

When you perform squats with both legs, your dominant side will compensate for your weak side. You will not notice your muscular imbalances this way, so you won't be able to fix them. There is no such thing as perfect body symmetry, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't improve your weaknesses. Single leg squats help you see the imbalances in your legs. To improve your balance and muscular strength, spot the weak side and then start training it first at the beginning of each of your workout sessions. You can also do more reps on that side to help strengthen it.


Achieve Muscle Harmony

You need proper strength, balance, and flexibility to properly perform a pistol squat. But coordination is also a very important factor that can make or break your performance. Most athletes can already say they have superior levels of strength and balance, but they are limited by poor coordination. Performing a pistol squat requires a high level of synergism between your various muscle groups. In order to maintain the one-legged stance, your muscles need to work in harmony, especially throughout your lower body and core.


Improve Your Focus

Like most calisthenics exercises, there is a lot of focus required in properly performing a pistol squat. During your performance, you need to solely focus on your balance and not get distracted. This improves the neural mind-muscle connectivity. As your muscle grow stronger, your body-awareness improves leading to a refined movement pattern.





Bench Assisted Pistol

If you're already comfortable with your two-legged squats, then you can safely proceed with your pistol squat with a slight adjustment. This adjustment will likely make your first attempt successful and help you improve your balance and lower body strength for more advanced variations. To make it all the way to a full pistol squat, simply lower the heights of your seat (bench, box, etc.) once you get the hang of it.

  • Sit on a flat bench or a box with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Make sure your back is neutral with a natural arch in your lower back.
  • Extend your arms out in front of you and keep them parallel to the floor.
  • Raise one of your legs off the ground so that your knee is locked.
  • Press your body straight up and off the bench with your other leg, until it is fully extended.
  • Hold the position and make sure you are not leaning forward.
  • Lower yourself back on the bench and repeat.


Partner Assisted Pistol

This variation helps both you and your exercise partner achieve increased stability and provides the counterbalance needed for a successful performance. So, take your gym body and do this pistol squat variation with them. Chances are they'll love it and feel challenged enough to start working on improving their lower body strength too.

  • Face your exercise partner and clasp your hands while you simultaneously lift one leg and extend it in front of you. Make sure you both lift the same leg, in order not to kick each other.
  • Descend at the same time into a deep squat keeping your leg extended. Lower yourselves as much as you can and use each other to maintain your stability and balance.
  • Hold for a few seconds and slowly return to the top.
  • Repeat!


Rolling Pistol Squat

This exercise teaches you the full range of motion of the pistol squat while promoting stability and body control. It is also a good cardio exercise that provides you with a full body workout.

  • Stand upright and squat down until your glutes are as close to the floor as possible and your back creates a comfortable curve.
  • Roll backward onto your back and raise both of your legs in the air.
  • Explosively throw your legs forward and place one of your feet on the ground, close to your glutes.
  • Extend the other leg out in front of you and stand up.
  • Hold at the top and then lower your raised leg to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat!


Pistol Squat

Time to drop it like a squat! Once you've mastered the previous pistol squat variations, you are ready to perform the pistol squat. This exercise will strengthen your lower body and core, increase your mental focus and improve your balance and coordination.

  • Stand upright and raise one foot off the floor. Keep your look forward, chest up, back straight, and allow a slight bend in your hips and knees.
  • Descend into a squat by flexing your knees and hips.
  • Extend the raised foot forward as you descend into your squat slowly. Focus on your balance and technique as you go down.
  • Descend as low as you can and hold the position when you reach the bottom of your movement.
  • Slowly return to your starting position by driving through your working foot to extend your knees and hips.
  • Switch sides and repeat!





Give them a shot! Pistol squats are amazing bodyweight exercises for lower body strength. They improve your coordination and promote mind and muscle harmony, so you definitely need to incorporate them into your workout. Just make sure you are comfortable with deep two-legged squats before you attempt your first assisted one-legged pistol squat progression. This way you won't cause excessive wear and tear on your knees, which can happen if you try this without any sort of preparation first.

Use the progressions described in this article to develop your range of motion, balance, and strength for the unilateral pistol squat and make this a regular part of your workout. This way you will be able to fix any sort of lower body imbalances and promote muscular symmetry. It requires time and dedicated training to achieve the perfect pistol squat technique, but take it easy and you’ll get there in no time!


Want to know more?

If you enjoyed reading our article, we've got more for you. Join our amazing team of active men and women who want to be the best version of themselves! Join us today!