Pistol Squats offer several benefits for the body. They’re ideal for increasing ankle mobility because your ankle needs to flex enough to let your knee come forward over your toes. Doing this will allow you to properly distribute your weight over your foot, which will be your main base of support.
What are Pistol Squats?
When completing a Pistol Squat, your weight-bearing squatting leg’s hamstring needs to be lowered right down until it is touching your calf, all while your non-squatting leg is straight out in front of you hovering above the ground.
What muscles do Pistol Squats target?
The Pistol Squat is a great, difficult to master exercise and it works almost all your leg muscles including, quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings. They even engage the assisting muscles, which include your abdominals.
How do I properly perform Pistol Squats?
To master the movement and execute it correctly, start by standing fully upright, taking care to keep your hands off the body and the ground.
Bend one knee to lower yourself down, keeping the opposite leg straight and off the ground, squatting until your hips are below your knee. When in the upright position, alternate the squatting leg, and count one rep when you return to a standing position, with one side counting as one repetition.
Remember that you can always check the tutorial videos in the Freeletics app to see Pistol Squats demonstrated at full speed, half-speed, and from multiple angles.
Additional things to keep in mind when training
This Pistol Squat is largely done for high reps to build strength and endurance. But it is also a great exercise for flexibility due to the hip and ankle mobility needed in the Pistol Squat combined with performing this movement using more and more of your body weight over a single leg.
For some, the most challenging factors of Pistol Squats may well be your flexibility and/or mobility, while for others it is your glute strength (or lack thereof).
If you are having some trouble with your mobility, try performing a Pistol Squat while holding a 5kg weight straight out in front of you. If it’s the leg strength that you’re lacking, try these Pistol Squat variations:
Assisted Pistol Squats
The Pistol Squat is a complex movement, so it is advisable if you are a beginner to try assisted versions, holding onto a stable object like a bench or wall to stabilize yourself and unload some of your body weight to make the exercise easier.
As you get stronger and more comfortable with the movement, slightly decrease the amount you use the stable object for assistance.
The Cossack Squat is a Squat variation where you lower yourself with most of your weight onto one leg while the other leg is kept out straight and to the side. Thus, the other foot will typically have the heel on the ground but the rest of the foot up in the air.
If you’re not yet comfortable trying a Pistol Squat, first use a bench, sofa, or stable sturdy object to sit down on. This is a great way to teach yourself the movement of a Pistol Squat before attempting one unaided too quickly.
Using the same movement as a regular Pistol Squat, place the bench or sturdy object behind you to allow you to control the lowered movement safely. You can then progressively use a lower object as you become more confident with the movement.
Pistol Squats are effective when it comes to toning and building the glute and leg muscles as both need to be fairly strong to support your body as you lower yourself towards the ground. You will also need to have strong hip and thigh muscles to stabilize your knees, core, and spine so you do not tip over.
Exercise overview by David Weiner, Training and Nutrition Specialist