The one legged (also know as pistol) squat is a test of both leg strength and balance.


Every time I see someone doing a pistol squat I know they mean business. This isn’t an easy exercise you can pick up in 1-2-3.
You’ll have to work for it!

Pistol squat

It challenges your core strength, leg strength and flexibility.
Obviously you should first try to master the normal (2 legged) squat before you advance to harder exercises.

I should mention that when you’re going down your thigh should be parallel to the ground, or as close as possible. Try to hold this position for some time.
Try to grab the non working foot with the opposite hand (or the ankle). This makes it easier to maintain composure throughout the movement.

Flexibility :

Mobility in the hips and legs is vital to perform this skill Tightness in the muscles will prevent you from squatting all the way to the bottom, as well as make it harder (or even impossible) to keep yourself tucked in tight to maintain your balance.

If you’re not flexible enough you should work on that! One magic word for this : STRETCH

Progression :

You can first try to do it on a bench so you have support when going down and you don’t have to go so low. Or when you’re with a friend, they can help you by balancing and pulling you back up. This are great ways to progress.

When you finally can do the full movement a lot of people have problems with their balance and they fall when they’re trying to get back up.
You can over come this by doing an assisted pistol squat. For example by holding your hands on a TRX, a door post or just everything that’s heavy enough to hold you.

The next step is holding a counter weight when coming back up. Stretch your arms and hold a 5-10kg weight plate in front of you, this’ll help to keep your balance.
Remember it’s the same as real squats : don’t do half reps, half reps give you half results. Get your ass to the grass!

Another option is doing negatives. This means you should lower yourself as slow as possible multiple times throughout the day until you feel your legs are to tired to do it decent. You’ll notice a fast increase in strength.

Don’t forget to train both legs! It’s normal when your dominant leg can do it faster than the other one. Just keep practicing until both legs are equally strong before you push yourself to the advanced variations.

When this gets to easy you can start by holding your hands in front of you without a counter weight, this way you’ll have a bit more balance. Once this works you can hold your hands wherever you want.

Advanced :

When you mastered the pistol squat you should advance by holding your hands behind your back, doing them while holding weights or by doing a plyo pistol squat (jump when coming back up)

Or when you really want to push your luck, you can try to do it like in the picture below.

pistol squat

Pistol squat while balancing on a weight while holding a barbell.

 If you manage to do this, I promise you a place on this page!

So how is your pistol squat coming along??