The Twenty Pistol Squat Challenge

Those of you who’ve been keeping up with me may recall the twenty pull-up challenge. Now I’m throwing down a twenty pistol squat challenge!

People often write to me wanting to know how to get better at pistols. The best way is simply to practice! Do this challenge as often as you can and you will quickly get better at them.

In the beginning, give yourself a rest day between efforts if your legs are sore afterwards. Over time you may build to practicing this routine daily. There is no trick – you just gotta keep working on it.

Ready, Aim, Fire!
The great thing about this challenge is that anyone strong enough to do just one pistol squat can participate. Even if you can’t do a single pistol yet, you can try the challenge with self-assisted pistols holding a pole, suspension trainer or other sturdy object for support.

There are three variations on the challenge; those of you starting with self assisted pistols should be able to perform an unassisted pistol by the time you’ve mastered the advanced version. Then you’re ready to go back to the start and do the challenge without assistance!

Alternating legs, perform 40 total pistol squats (20 each leg) in as little time as possible. Rest in between reps only for as long as you need to in order to maintain good form. This may be anywhere from a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes depending on your fitness level. You can break the reps up however you like. Do them one at at time with long breaks in between if you need to – however you do it is fine as long as you get your reps in. With enough practice you should be ready to move to the next step relatively quickly.

Perform 10 consecutive pistols on each leg in a single set with as little time between reps as possible. Don’t sacrifice good form to do them quickly – keep your reps clean. Rest for as long as you want and then do the other leg. Take another break and then do it all over again.

For the advanced version, the objective is to perform 20 consecutive clean reps on each leg without stopping. A true master of this challenge will be able to perform all 40 reps in less than two minutes. I’m still working on perfecting it, but I’m getting close.

Watch the video below to see me give it a shot:

For more information, check out my book, Pushing The Limits! – Total Body Strength With No Equipment.

24 thoughts on “The Twenty Pistol Squat Challenge

  • Pingback: Twenty Pistol Squat Challenge | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page

  • By Mallory -

    🙁 MY KNEEs pop out of socket when i bend that low. anything bent past 90 degrees and they dislocate. any idea on getting that worked out???

    • By Blair Norwood -

      An ER and a Dr. should be your first point of call on a dislocated knee. Then physio.

      • By Al Kavadlo -


    • By Al Kavadlo -

      You need to see an MD – this is way out of my jurisdiction!

  • By Marc B -

    The pistol squat is becoming my personal nemesis! I’m making some progress with other areas and I’ve even managed a single muscle up recently. I don’t know if its a balance, strength or flexibility issue but its a real struggle. Oh well I’ll carry on trying…

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Congrats on the muscle-up!  You should do this challenge with self assisted pistols.

  • By DaveMac -

    Your last squat looks like my first one!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Haha – keep practicing!  If you can do one rep – even one sloppy one – you’re ready for the twenty pistol squat challenge!

  • By Carlkavadlo -

    I like the music too.  Is that yours?

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      It sure is!  Thanks!

  • By Dale -

    Al, I can do a weighted pistol, but can’t come close to doing an unassisted unweighted pistol. I suppose the weighted version took my tight hamstrings out of the equation. To do a unweighted pistol, clearly I have to incline my torso forward. So, if I’m using a pole to work up to the unweighted version, should I think about leaning forward even as I’m using my hands for assistance ? I ask because it is my tendency to lean back a bit when holding onto the pole.

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Hey Dale – You definitely need to lean forward for balance when you do a pistol – even a self assisted pistol.  Go back and re-read my previous pistol squat articles if you need a brush up on how to train this movement pattern (the links are provided above.)

  • By Kane Augustus -

    Heh.  I’m not ready for this yet.  I’ll stick with basic squats until I’ve got some more strength in my legs.

    Still, that’s some impressive strength you’ve got there, Al.  I look forward to continuing to learn from your site.


    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks!  Keep training those two legged squats and eventually you’ll be ready for pistols.

  • Pingback: Are You Tough Enough For The Twenty Pistol Squat Challenge | Best Leg Exercises ★ [Best Leg Exercises Using Your BodyWeight]

  • By Tom -

    Thanks for quick reply in the Rest/Pause thread! Im taking you up on the pistol challenge 🙂 Did the intermediate version, but I think the advanced is within reach shortly. Thanks for your extremely inspirational articles!
    Rgds Tom from Norway

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Right on, Tom!  Keep training hard!

  • By Etienne -

    Hey Al,
    I am sold, I am ordering your book. I have always been a fan of body weight work outs, and staying in nature and out of gyms but now truly appreiate having the guidence of your site. I look forward to the insight your book will provide…. Question, when you started doing pistol sqauts did you notice that one leg (dominant) was significantly better at preforming? I am finding that there is a drastic difference between the two. one leg can easily do the 20 challenge, the other struggles doing 5….any suggestions other then constant pratice? which dont get me wrong I am fine with! Thanks Al

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks for your comment, Etienne.  It’s common to be stronger on one side than the other, though your disparity does seem significant.  Definitely give the weak leg a little extra attention and of course, KEEP PRACTICING!  🙂

  • By Ty -

    In addition to suspension trainer, the perfect pull up swing arm can also be used to spot your weight while doing the pistol, allows you to sit back more and deloads the leg a bit.

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Yeah you can use pretty much anything to spot yourself for an “assistol” as someone once called it.  Just make sure it’s not something that can come crashing down on you.

  • By Robby Taylor -

    i find that this exercise is much more difficult barefoot than with shoes on, which is great to see in this video! however, this exercise is notably more difficult if you work to keep your free leg horizontal as you come back up, as this puts a greater load on your working leg than if you let the free leg “trail” as you rise.

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Yep that’s definitely a harder variation.  I wouldn’t say it’s a requisite for proper pistol form though.

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