Pistol Squats: How to Master the One-Legged Squat

Pistol squats are the advanced version of regular squats. In contrast to the usual squats, the pistol squats are performed on one leg.

This requires:

  • Leg strength in the active leg
  • Mobility and holding power in the passive leg
  • Ankle mobility
  • Stability in the hips and at foot level
  • We’ll show you various exercises that will make your pistol squats easier.

1. Pistol Squats with Reduced Leg Strength

The pistol squat is designed to have only one leg lifting your entire body weight. If that’s still too difficult at first, you can simply shorten the squats:

Instead of squatting down, only do the squats up to yoga blocks, a step stool or chair. You should not drop your body weight. With each repetition you gain muscle strength and you can gradually do the squats a little deeper.

Alternatively, you can do the pistol squats down to a crouch and support yourself with your arms. You can use the doorknobs for this, for example.

2. Pistol Squats with Low Holding Power

In the pistol squat, the passive leg is held straight forward while you bend your knees in a controlled manner with the active leg. This can be challenging.

To perform the pistol squat without a straight passive leg, you can also stand on an elevated surface, such as yoga blocks or stools. If you don’t have a secure elevation, you can also simply bend the passive leg and hold the foot with your hand.

3. Mobilize your ankles for a pistol squat

The pistol squat involves bending one leg low while your foot is flat on the floor. So you need a flexible Achilles’ heel and ankle.

To mobilize these, you can stand in front of a wall or a cupboard and place your left foot flat against it. Your right foot is about 40 centimeters behind. Now slowly move your left knee towards the wall/closet without lifting your heel.

The pulling in your foot shows you the limits of your mobility, which you are now working on step by step can. Don’t forget to alternate feet!

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4. Pistol Squat with Poor Hip and Foot Stability

If you squat while doing a pistol squat and your knee falls in or your active leg wobbles, you still lack stability in your hips and feet. To train them, you can squat with both legs and then lift one leg straight forward and switch.

With practice, you’ll gain more stability and strength in the passive leg. Make sure your leg stays directly over your standing foot so you don’t injure yourself.

You should also correct an outward tilting leg with your foot: To do this, press with the joint below your big toe (Big toe metatarsophalangeal joint) on the floor – it should always be in contact with the floor.

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