Pistol Squats are a challenging single leg exercise — great if you can’t get to the gym, or if you suffer from lower-back pain and can’t do weighted squats. They also look cool!
There are many advantages of including single leg squats in your workouts…
You should already be able to do full-depth bodyweight squats using both legs, without your heels lifting off the ground. I find that many training clients are initially unable to this, so don’t be disheartened if you’re one of them.
IMPORTANT — If you can’t do bodyweight squats with both legs, then you shouldn’t even attempt a pistol squat, otherwise you could damage yourself.
A useful mobility exercise is to squat to the floor, and whilst keeping both of your heels down (and holding onto something), rock forward and backward to loosen up the hips and ankles. Do this for a minute, and repeat daily.
Doing calf raises on a block, can also help to stretch the calves and provide more movement.
Don’t forget to warm up before starting any exercise routine. Click here for a dynamic warm up.
Aside from the balance issues, pistol squats feel a lot different to squatting with both legs. You’ll find that you need to make minute adjustments in your hips and ankles, to get into a position where you are sitting on your calf at the bottom of the movement, without falling over backwards.
If you have lack of hamstring flexibility or ab strength to keep your raised leg straight and high enough, you can sometimes get a few inches higher, if you point your toes on the elevated straight leg.
Unless you can do about 40 bodyweight squats or weighted squats with at least half your bodyweight on the bar, at full-depth, then pistol squats will be extremely challenging for you at the beginning.
Aim to achieve 10-12 reps of 3-5 sets at each stage, before moving to the next level.
If you’re still struggling to keep your elevated leg from touching the floor, then in the beginning you can stand on a step, to give you some additional ground clearance.
Also remember to always work your weakest leg first, and perform the same number of reps on each leg.
Okay. So now you can do pistol squats. Congratulations!! How do you make them harder?
Take your time to learn the pistol squat, and keep challenging yourself to improve at each workout — eventually you’ll get there.
George Choy (Certified Calisthenics Instructor)
For more information on George Choy or to visit his excellent website for more workouts and healthy eating tips and recipes, please visit www.busyparentfitness.com
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