Pistol Squat: A Good Exercise?
The pistol squat is one of the most popular exercises used in strength training programs. There are many reasons why it’s so popular, but the main reason is its simplicity. Most people have no problem performing a single-leg squat with good technique, while they struggle with performing a full-body squat without any support (or even worse, using a chair).
However, the pistol squat is not perfect. For example, some people experience pain when performing a full-body squat without a seat or support. And while there are other exercises that improve balance and mobility, such as the plank and step up, these exercises require much more time than doing just one leg squats.
Another drawback of the pistol squat is that it requires you to stand up straight at all times during your set. If you’re short or have a tendency to slump forward, then this may cause injury.
So what can you do instead?
Well, if you want to increase your flexibility and mobility, then the pistol squat might be just the thing for you. However, if you’re looking for something that will make your body stronger and give it better performance in sports like football or basketball, then a different option is probably needed.
Fortunately, there are many different exercises to increase one’s core strength and balance, so you don’t have to limit yourself to just one or two. In fact, you can do many types of exercises that aren’t just limited to your own body weight. For example, you can:
Perform a dumbbell squat or barbell front squat (or use resistance bands) without placing any weight on your shoulders.
Perform a barbell or dumbbell overhead squat.
Dumbbell or kettlebell sumo deadlift high pulls.
For one, these exercises allow you to engage more muscle groups at the same time. This means you can perform these moves with heavier weight and still maintain proper form. It will also allow you to perform explosive moves that will also challenge your fast-twitch muscle fibers for a more anabolic effect.
And while these exercises are great for building strength and power, they’re usually not enough to give you the flexibility and mobility of a full-body squat or lunge. In some cases, these exercises may actually limit your range of motion if you try to go too deep or let your form deteriorate.
What this means is if you want to have a well-rounded total body strength and conditioning program, then you need to perform exercises that target all of your major muscle groups. This will challenge every aspect of your physical strength and endurance.
However, if you just wanted to work on your flexibility and mobility (or lack thereof), then these exercises may be better for you. They allow you to put less stress on your body by lifting with just one or two legs instead of four.
Do You Incorporate the Pistol Squat Into Your Workouts?
The pistol squat may seem like a complicated exercise that only an elite few have the skill and fortitude to perform, but in reality, it’s not that difficult to do. It just takes some practice and dedication to get good at it.
Like any other exercise, you should start off with lower weight and higher reps when first learning how to do a pistol squat. In fact, you may want to start off by simply practicing the motion with just your own body weight. Once you get that down, then you can start adding weight using a dumbbell or kettlebell.
The best way to include this exercise into your program is to perform it at the very end of your workout. This is because it will already have worked most of your major muscle groups by the time you get to it, and it will also help you prevent any lower-back pain that may come from hinging backwards.
So if you were to perform a total-body workout, then you would do your heavy compound exercises first. Follow this up with some isolation and accessory work targeting your smaller stabilizing muscles. Then, finish off with your pistol squats once you’re tired out.
If you were to only focus on the major muscle groups that the pistol squat targets, your workout would look a little different. Since this is a lower-body dominant movement, you would probably start off with one of the leg exercises mentioned in question #2, and then follow it up with the pistol squats.
Can I Incorporate the Pistol Squat into My Workouts?
Performing a pistol squat is definitely an advanced exercise. You may not be ready for it if you’re experiencing any lower-back pain when performing other squats. Instead, you may want to try the goblet or dumbbell squat variations, as they will place less strain on your back.
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with those, then you can start working your way into the kettlebell front squat. As mentioned earlier, these shouldn’t cause any back pain and will get you ready for the next step, which is the bodyweight squat.
As you begin to fatigue from all of these exercises, you should start practicing the bodyweight squat, or just going up and down on one leg.
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the pistol squat’s movement pattern, it’s time to start adding resistance. You can do this using a weight belt to add extra weight, or by holding a dumbbell between your ankles.
Lastly, once you have all that down, you can perform the full pistol squat. The most important thing to remember is to focus on keeping your back straight and not rounding it. This is especially true as the weight gets heavier and your legs begin to fatigue.
Should I Do Pistol Squats?
Pistol squats will help strengthen your legs in general, as well as your core. The reason being is that it involves your entire body, from your ankles to your abdomen.
While the squat in general is considered one of the “king” exercises of weight lifting, the pistol squat takes this to a whole new level.
As far as specific benefits go, this exercise will help to build up your hip and knee joint strength, as well as your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. Let’s not forget that it will also work your core, as you have to brace yourself while keeping a straight back.
As mentioned earlier, this move will help improve your balance and coordination as well.
Along with all of these benefits, the pistol squat is also one of the most aesthetically pleasing exercises. You’ll look like a professional bodybuilder when you can bust out a couple of flawless reps.
Should Not Do Pistol Squats?
If you have any prior knee, hip, or back injuries then you should not perform the pistol squat or any of its variations. If you have any pain when performing other types of squats then you should definitely not perform this exercise.
Do I Need to Know Before Performing Pistol Squats?
The biggest thing that you should remember before performing this exercise is to keep your back straight and brace yourself before starting the movement. This is especially true as the weight gets heavier and your legs get tired.
It also wouldn’t hurt to have a spotter around if you’re lifting heavy. The pistol squat is a notoriously dangerous exercise, so it would be best to have someone around in case you fall backwards and they can help catch you.
If you feel any pain when performing this exercise, then you should stop immediately.
The Pistol Squat Good For Beginners?
The pistol squat, in any of its variations, is not a good exercise for beginners. You need to have at least a year of experience lifting before you should even attempt this exercise.
The Pistol Squat Good For Intermediates?
The pistol squat is not recommended for intermediates unless you’ve built up your foundation first. You need to have at least a year of experience before you should be attempting this exercise.
The Pistol Squat Good For Advanced Lifters?
The pistol squat is an amazing exercise for advanced lifters. However, it’s still not recommended to perform this exercise if you haven’t built up your foundation first.
Types Of Equipment Do I Need To Perfrom Pistol Squats?
You won’t need any special equipment in order to perform the pistol squat. However, it would help to have a squat rack or something similar to safely drop the weight in case you get fatigued and can’t support it anymore.
Sources & references used in this article:
Inter-and intra-individual analysis in elite sport: Pistol shooting by KA Ball, RJ Best, TV Wrigley – Journal of Applied …, 2003 – journals.humankinetics.com
Walking ability is a major contributor to fear of falling in people with Parkinson’s disease: implications for rehabilitation by MH Nilsson, GM Hariz, S Iwarsson, P Hagell – Parkinson’s disease, 2012 – hindawi.com
Predictors of falls in the elderly by location by A Bergland, GB Jarnlo, K Laake – Aging clinical and experimental …, 2003 – Springer
Equilibrium distribution of polysulfide ions in aqueous solutions at different temperatures by rapid single phase derivatization by A Kamyshny, J Gun, D Rizkov… – … science & technology, 2007 – ACS Publications
Relationships between postural balance, rifle stability and shooting accuracy among novice rifle shooters by K Mononen, N Konttinen, J Viitasalo… – Scandinavian journal of …, 2007 – Wiley Online Library
Advanced Bodyweight Strength Training: The Pistol Squat by J Ladon – Power, 2019 – generationiron.com
Health, balance, and walking as correlates of climbing steps by A Bergland, H Sylliaas… – Journal of aging and …, 2008 – journals.humankinetics.com