The pistol squat, or single-legged squat, is one of the most beneficial body-weight moves out there. It requires balance, flexibility and a relative amount of strength in order to perform. And when done correctly, the pistol squat helps boost your lower-body strength, coordination, mobility, power and overall athletic ability.
Unfortunately, far too many either perform the pistol squat with terrible form or don’t have the necessary strength to execute it.
So how do you improve your pistol squat?
Absolutely! It just takes practice and proper progression. Let’s go over some simple ways you can improve your pistol squat and discuss some basic progressions to help you along the way. (*These are just suggestions and might not work perfectly for everyone.) The most important things to remember are to safely progress your movement, to practice and to be patient!
- First off, you must be able to perform bilateral body-weight squats with feet hip-width apart and then in a narrow stance before working on pistol squats.
- Build unilateral leg strength: It’s important to build up your unilateral strength base with somewhat easier unilateral exercises like step-ups, Bulgarian split squats, the single-leg press, and single-leg Romanian dead lifts.
- Use a pole: You can progressively improve your pistol squats by holding on to a pole to assist you on your way up from a squat. You simply hold onto the pole in front of you, squat (bilaterally) as you lower down and then perform a pistol squat to standing. You advance this movement by performing a full pistol squat while still holding onto the pole.
- Use a box: Once you master the pole-assisted pistol squat, work on single-leg squats to boxes of various heights. Start with higher boxes and control the lowering phase of this movement.
- Use a TRX: The TRX allows you to perform pistol squats with upper-body support.
- Stand on an elevated surface: This helps you lift the opposite foot to hip height or, at the very least, in front of your body.
- Use a counterweight: Grab a plate or kettlebell to help provide a counterweight. You’ll progress this by gradually decreasing the weight of the counterweight.