The Pistol Squat: Develop Foundational Lower Body Strength

The Pistol Squat: Developing Fundamental Lifting Ability

by John Hagen

In the last few years I have been working with many individuals trying to develop their basic lifting ability. Some are interested in developing strength for sports like football or basketball; others just want to improve their general health and fitness level. One thing they all share is a desire to lift heavier weights than they could before, but not necessarily in a way that would make them stronger.

They want to build muscle mass without increasing their strength.

I’ve always believed that if someone wants to get strong, then they need to focus on building muscle mass instead of adding weight. If you’re going to add weight, then it’s better if you do so in a manner that increases your strength rather than making you bigger.

It’s true that adding weight will increase your strength, but it won’t make you any bigger. That extra poundage isn’t going to make you a little bit stronger. It’ll probably just make you bigger because your muscles aren’t getting used to the additional load.

So what does that mean?

Well, if you’re trying to build muscle mass without increasing your strength, then it means that you’re doing something wrong! You’re not doing something right!

If you really want to build muscle mass, then you need to lift heavy weights. You need to make sure that you’re putting in the work in the gym. Heavy weights are what makes your muscles get bigger.

If you’re trying to get big, but all you’re doing is using light weights with high reps, then you’re not going to get anywhere!

How do you know if you’re using heavy weights?

Simple! If you can’t do more than five reps, then the weight is probably too heavy. If you can do more than five reps, then the weight is too light and you need to add more weight to the bar.

If you need to build muscle mass without increasing your strength, then it means that you’re not lifting heavy enough weights.

You might be able to do a lot of reps, but what is that really going to help you?

NOTHING!

You need to start focusing your attention on lifting heavy weights if you want to build muscle mass. Make sure that you’re using heavy enough weight where you can only do between five and ten reps. If you can do more than ten reps, then the weight is too light.

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If you can only do five reps or less, then the weight is too heavy. You need to find that happy medium where you can do between five and ten reps.

The other thing you need to do is slow down the pace of your reps! Most people rush through their reps, but that doesn’t help you in the long run. If you’re lifting heavy, then take your time on each and every rep.

Don’t just go through the motions either. Take a moment to stop at the top and bottom of each rep. Pause at the top for a one count and then lower the weight for a three count.

Make sure that when you’re lifting heavy that you have a spotter. Most commercial gyms have them, so use them if you need to! If you don’t have a spotter, then maybe you should just stick with lighter weights until you can find someone willing to help you.

If you want to build muscle mass without increasing your strength, then you’re probably doing it wrong!

Muscle Building Without Weights

So you don’t have access to a gym or you just prefer to workout at home?

No problem! You can still build muscle mass without weights. It’ll just take a little more imagination and do-it-yourself attitude.

There are plenty of things around the house that you can use to workout with, but you have to think about safety first. Just because you found an old tire to use as a medicine ball doesn’t give you license to go crazy tossing it against the wall and smashing it into your chest. You need to make sure that whatever you’re using is going to be safe.

Not everything is going to be ideal either. You can’t build muscle mass with just your body weight alone, especially if you’re trying to target specific groups of muscles. However, you can use specific items to increase the challenge in your workouts and help to make sure that you’re using good form.

For example, if you want to work on your chest muscles, then you can place a broom stick between your door frames and then lay a pillowcase over it. This will allow you to do incline presses. You can do the same thing with a chair to do flies.

If you need to work on your triceps, then you can place two broomsticks in the door frame and then lay a pillow case over it. This will allow you to do dips. You can also place a pillow in between the door frames to set yourself at the perfect height for doing tricep press downs.

You can also use things like milk jugs with water in them to place on your wrists when you’re doing curls. You can also find small “dumbbells” at most sporting goods stores that are made out of plastic and filled with sand or stones. They even have handles on either end, all you need to do is find a way to hang on to them.

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As you can see, there are plenty of things around the house that you can use to help you build muscle mass. You just have to think outside of the box a little bit and come up with creative ways to use what’s available to you.

As long as you’re working out safely and effectively, then the sky’s the limit!

The Best Way to Tone Up

After you’ve spent some time building up your muscle mass, you’re going to want to find a way to tone it up a bit. This means that you’re going to want to start shrinking your muscles and getting that leaner, more defined look.

Now, unfortunately you’re not going to be able to achieve this over night. Building muscle is significantly harder than simply losing fat and most people never get around to trying to tone their muscles because they’re too busy focusing on building them in the first place.

The good news is that by following the tips in this article so far, you’ve already set yourself ahead of most people when it comes to getting into shape!

Now, if you really want to get that lean, defined look, then you’re going to have to do two things:

1. Follow A Cardio Regimen

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This is essentially going to involve doing some sort of activity that will cause you to burn a lot of calories during the course of your day.

modern renaissance woman

2. Eat A Clean Diet

This means cutting out most junk food and only eating healthy foods.

If you’re serious about losing weight, then you’re going to have to start doing some research and find out what the best way is for you to lose fat. There is no one size fits all solution. Some people do better with more calories and some do better with less.

Some people do better with intervals and some do better with long duration exercise. It just depends on your own personal makeup.

Now here comes the bad news: If you want to get in really good shape, you’re going to have to make a lifelong commitment to this. There is no magic pill or quick fix. If you want to be healthy and feel good about yourself, then you’re going to have to work at it for the rest of your life.

Fortunately, this isn’t as big of a hassle as it sounds. Once you’ve gotten into the habit of working out and eating healthy, most people tend to find that it’s quite easy to keep up. You’ll most likely find that you have more energy and feel better than you did before.

Now, if you’re really hardcore, you can try to pursue what’s called the body building lifestyle:

The Pistol Squat: Develop Foundational Lower Body Strength - gym fit workout

Bodybuilding is more than just a sport. It is a lifestyle. It is a passion.

It is a culture. Developing a muscular physique is not just about looking good, it’s about personal pride. It’s about walking into a room and commanding respect just by the way you carry yourself.

If you want to get really serious about bodybuilding, you’re going to need to start taking some anabolic steroids and other illegal substances known to increase muscle mass.

modern renaissance man

While there are a lot of downsides to taking these drugs (some of which are irreversible), there is no doubt that if you’re committed enough to your goals, you’ll be able to achieve them much quicker.

Now, let’s say you want to pursue another method for gaining muscle mass. Perhaps you don’t want to pursue the bodybuilding lifestyle, but you’re still interested in gaining muscle. Let’s take a look at another option.

Muscle Building Workout Routine

This is going to be slightly different from the traditional bodybuilding workout routine I outlined above as it’s going to be much simpler. The reason being is because building muscle mass is not your primary goal. Rather, building strength and endurance is.

Don’t get me wrong here, you’ll definitely put on some size and bulk over time, but that won’t be your main focus. If it is, then you’re going to have to eat a hell of a lot more food than what I’m going to outline below.

Also, remember that you will also be practicing calisthenics, so keep that in mind as well when it comes to how much weight you’ll be lifting. Your body will be working much harder than it’s used to, so it’s natural for you to get fatigued a lot quicker at first. Don’t overdo it; take frequent breaks and allow your muscles to recuperate.

So what is this muscle building routine that I’m referring to?

It’s actually a simplified version of the routine that I listed above. You’re going to have to perform each exercise slowly and with control. Don’t sacrifice form for weight. If you feel like you can’t lift a weight properly, then lower it until you find a suitable weight that you CAN lift with proper form.

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Before we begin, I highly recommend that you warm up for at least 5 minutes each time before starting the routine. The best way to do this is to jog lightly on the spot, or just slowly swing your arms in circles.

Here is the simplified routine:

3 sets of dumbbell squats – 3 minutes rest between sets

3 sets of dumbbell lunges – 3 minutes rest between sets

3 sets of incline bench presses – 3 minutes rest between sets

3 sets of standing barbell curls – 3 minutes rest between sets

3 sets of standing tricep extensions – 3 minutes rest between sets

That’s it. That’s your entire workout. Complete that routine every other day and after a couple weeks, increase the weight you’re lifting or the reps that you’re doing.

You should also do some cardio for 15-20 minutes at least 2 times per week if you’re able, but it isn’t necessary. Ideally, you can do interval training, but if you can’t then just do some steady paced cardio, like jogging or the elliptical.

The Pistol Squat: Develop Foundational Lower Body Strength - gym fit workout

Remember to stretch for 5-10 minutes at least once per day. Also, make sure to REST. Don’t overdo it, as this will cause more harm than good.

Take off days when you need them and get plenty of sleep every night.

Sources & references used in this article:

The association between motor skill competence and physical fitness in young adults by D Stodden, S Langendorfer… – … for exercise and …, 2009 – shapeamerica.tandfonline.com

ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: research & recommendations by CM Kerksick, CD Wilborn… – Journal of the …, 2018 – jissn.biomedcentral.com

Therapeutic exercise: foundations and techniques by C Kisner, LA Colby, J Borstad – 2017 – books.google.com

Advanced Bodyweight Strength Training: The Pistol Squat by J Ladon – Power, 2019 – generationiron.com

Training Macro Variables: The 3 Most Important Factors in Any Workout Plan by FT Series – myworkouts.io