The pistol squat is one of my favorite bodyweight exercises. Pistols are challenging on many levels, requiring core strength, leg strength, balance and flexibility. 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.
Pistol Squat – Phase Two
Stand on a bench with one foot hanging off the edge, then squat down so that the opposite leg drops below the level of the bench. You’ll be aiming for a larger range of motion than you did during Phase One, so make sure you lower all the way to the bottom. Sit back from your hips, reach your arms in front and lean forward from your waist in order to maintain your balance.
If you’re having a hard time with the balance, you can hold onto something to guide yourself at first. A broom handle works well if you are doing these at home. If you have a training partner, you can have them assist you by either holding your hand or standing near you so you can grab them if you lose your balance. Take it slowly with one and be patient.
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!
Watch the video below for more: