How to do Single Leg / Pistol Squats Correctly and Safely

 
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INTRODUCTION

Single leg training is one of the Big 6 functional exercise patterns that you need to train.  It has one of the highest carryovers to real-life application, as we spend the vast majority of our day on one leg.  Single Leg Squats are challenging!

Do not worry, we will show you some easy progressions that you can start right away, regardless of your experience.

 

SINGLE LEG PISTOL SQUAT FORM VIDEO

 

BENEFITS OF THE SINGLE LEG PISTOL SQUAT

  • Creates symmetry between both of your legs
  • Can be easily scaled to provide a challenge for less experienced lifters
  • Improves mobility of the hips, knees, and ankles
  • Requires minimal equipment
  • Improves balance and coordination

 

MUSCLES WORKED DURING THE PISTOL SQUAT

  • Quadriceps

  • Adductors

  • Glutes

 

PERFORMING THE PISTOL SQUAT WITH PROPER TECHNIQUE

  • Obtain a tall box that is approximately 2/3rds the height of your leg and a light dumbbell for counterbalance

  • Stand 6 inches in front of the box and bring the dumbbell up to your chest in the goblet position (holding onto one side of the dumbbell in a vertical orientation with your palms facing upwards)

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  • Take a breath, brace your core and lift the non-working leg into the air

  • Begin the squat by simultaneously bending at the hip and knee of the working leg

  • Sit back onto the box until you are sitting completely on the box

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  • Keep your core braced and ensure that you keep your knee in line with your toes

  • After a 1 count, drive your foot into the ground to extend at the hips and simultaneously

  • Squeeze your glute to finish the lift

 
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SINGLE LEG SQUAT PROGRESSIONS

  • Once this exercise becomes easier, begin using a smaller and smaller box
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  • Once you are advanced - you can perform the exercise without a box

  • First, perform assisted pistols holding onto an external source while you squat all the way down

 
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  • Once you master that, perform pistol squats from the bottom up - get comfortable holding the bottom position

 
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  • Once you master that, you should be ready to go all on your own!
 
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SUMMARY OF THE SINGLE LEG/PISTOL SQUAT TECHNIQUE

Click on each blue circle to view the key technical aspects of this exercise

 

COMMON MISTAKES

LETTING YOUR KNEE CAVE INWARDS (TRACK INSIDE OF YOUR KNEES)

This places excessive strain on your hips and knees.  Keep your glutes engaged and focus on keeping your knees inline or outside of your knees.  

 

LETTING YOUR SPINE ROUND

It's easy to let your spine round during this exercise. Do your best to keep your core engaged and your spine neutral - especially during the earlier progressions.

 

NOT WARMING UP

You can very easily pull a muscle or cause joint strain if you are not adequately warmed up. Always perform a dedicated warm-up routine first!

 

SINGLE LEG/PISTOL SQUAT ALTERNATIVES

 

Alex & Brittany Robles are the founders of The White Coat Trainer, a site dedicated to improving the health and wellness of busy individuals. Learn more about them here and connect with them on instagram and Twitter. Feel free to send them a message here