How to do pistol squat: Techniques, muscles worked and benefits

Pistol Squat

The pistol squat or postol squat is to perform a squat with one leg while the other is stretched forward. It is a very important exercise in Calisthenics since it is one of the ways to increase the complexity of leg exercises -in this case, the squat-, and to be able to perform it, you do not need any type of equipment.

However, although it may sound like an easy exercise from the description, it requires many qualities to be able to complete and master it. Thus, it is necessary to have strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and ability to concentrate. If one of these skills fails, you will not be able to progress through the pistol squat progressions.

Pistol Squat Technique

Pistol Squat

The technique is the same as for the traditional squat, however, in this unilateral exercise, it will be much more difficult to keep the back straight, so be careful when performing pistol squats.

It is important to contract the abdomen as much as possible throughout the entire squat in order to protect the spine. The arms can be raised to help keep the back straighter. Finally, the other leg must be fully stretched so that it does not hit the ground, so you must have good flexibility in hamstrings.

I leave you a super complete tutorial on my YouTube channel regarding the One Leg Squat:

Pistol squat benefits

Finally, we review the many benefits of the pistol squat. Benefits that, logically, are greater the more difficult the exercise is. Therefore, even if it is hard, you should learn how to do the pistol squat.

  • Strength – In the end, we are moving our own body weight with one leg. Both the glute and thigh use their muscles to execute the movement, while looking elsewhere for support to complete the exercise.
  • Coordination – The neuromuscular system is at its best during a pistol squat.
  • Flexibility – Lower back, hips and ankles will gain a good deal of flexibility.
  • Balance – The up and down exercise relies on balancing on one leg, so we must direct our weight to the heel of the supported foot at all times.
  • Concentration – We must be attentive to what we do, how we do it and thus avoid falls, injuries and any problems.
  • Stabilization of hip and pelvis
  • It also helps to know if there are deficiencies in any leg.
  • Improved overall hip control

Progressions to achieve the Pistol Squat

Pistol Squat

Let’s take a look at the progressions to achieve the postol squat:

1. Master deep squats

To be able to perform pistol squats it is essential to know how to do basic squats correctly, as they are the basis of the exercise. Once you have mastered the exercise, a good idea would be to perform weighted squats (although this is not strictly necessary to achieve pistol squats, but it can help you in the process).

2. Build isometric strength

To build isometric strength, first place yourself directly in the deepest phase of a basic squat and try to hold it as long as possible, always looking for the position in which you are most comfortable and do not feel any discomfort. When you have found balance and stability in this phase of isometric strength, move on to the next phase, which is the same but lifting one foot off the ground. This can be done with a stool underneath to sit on immediately if strength falters or balance is lost.

pistol squat

If you do not find the posture in which there is no discomfort, perhaps the problem is a lack of elasticity in the ankles, which is compensated with ankle stretches.

3. Perform negatives of pistol squats

Just as we often suggest doing the negative (eccentric) part of the pull-ups to gain strength, the same strategy can be applied here.

4. Exercise with one support

Practice pistol squats with a support. That is to say, using a door frame or a post or also an elastic band, TRX, rings, etc. The pistol squat is performed with the arms always supported and following the path of the body.

4.1. Door support

pistol squat

This is one of the easiest ways to continue progressing in pistol squats, as you can practice the entire movement pattern by decreasing the intensity of the exercise. You can also perform it with a pole, and go along the path as you descend and ascend.

4.2. Support with elastic bands

pistol squat

Here we would be increasing the intensity a little bit more, since the elastic bands will not be as stable as a door frame or a post. In this case, you could also try TRX or rings.

5. Exercises without support

Progressively, use less and less support. When you no longer need the support to perform the exercise, you will have succeeded in performing the postol squat.

Tips to do pistol squats

  • Constantly keep your body weight toward the heel of the supporting leg. To do this, imagine the knee pushing forward as you begin the exercise.
  • You need to have two body areas as compressed as you can – the abdomen to the top of the thigh and the tibialis to the top of the foot. If either area is not properly compressed, the weight will shift to your glutes and fall backwards.
  • More tension = more balance.
  • Try to keep tension on the quadriceps, as you descend, of the straight leg so that it does not touch the ground and destabilize you.
  • If you feel discomfort or pain in your knees, it means you are performing the wrong technique, or you may be skipping progressions and are not strong enough. If this happens, recheck your technique and go back one progression.
  • Avoid shoes with too much cushioning, as these encourage uncontrolled weight shifting.
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