5-steps to a pistol squat

pistol squat progression

successfully performing a pistol squat takes quite a bit of mobility, balance, and strength that doesn't generally come naturally to the average person. but there are so many exercises and ways to gradually progress to being able to do a pistol squat, so i am going to share a few of my favorites. 

1. master the squat

mastering the basic air squat with proper form is going to be a very important first step in progressing to the pistol squat.  the squat is a functional movement that we all do every day, but doing it with proper form is key!  after perfecting a squat with feet shoulder width apart, practice squatting with feet closer together as well as squatting as deep as possible, until your hamstrings are touching your calves. 

2. stretch

sufficient ankle mobility is imperative to being able to perform a pistol squat. the ankle needs to be able to flex enough to allow the knees to go over the toes.

3. bulgarian split squat

the bulgarian split squat is a single-leg exercise that strengthens the quads, glutes and hamstrings, which will help create a strong base for a pistol squat.

4. single leg squat on a step (with vertical hanging leg)

standing on a box, perform a single leg squat, letting your free leg hang vertically.  Start with a tall box and progress to a lower box, thus increasing the amount of hip flexion in the free leg.

5. assisted pistol squat

perform a pistol squat while holding onto something sturdy, such as a squat rack, door frame or a strong husband or workout partner.

pistol squat!

once you have practiced and can do each of these drills, you should be able to successfully perform a pistol squat.  like you see here, try holding your foot to help counterbalance your body.  they may not be pretty at first, but with regular practice this movement will soon become possible.

10 years ago i had major hip surgery leaving me with a permanent 20% loss of hip-flexor strength, so i am still working to be able to perform a pistol squat without holding my foot and free leg parallel to the ground. 

Bethany DavisComment