Pistol Squat Progressions
Below are some pistol squat progressions you can try if you are yet to achieve your pistol squat!
(1 Being the easiest, modified version and 5 being the hardest version)
1. Decreased Range
If your knees are unable to go over your toes when squatting you will struggle to go down all the way in a pistol squat. This is because your calves and achilles tendon is tight. Work on mobilizing your ankle and increasing your dorsiflexion flexibility. In the meantime, you can go ahead and out a small plate under your heel to help elevate yourself to keep you upright and not collapse back.
2. Counterbalanced weight It may seem as though the additional weight will make the movement harder but it will actually prevent you from falling backwards if you are unable to stay in an upright position in your squat.
Using assistance to lower yourself down can allow you to perform the exercise effectively and efficiently until you are able to pistol squat without assistance.
4. Increasing range
Increasing the range in which your spare leg can move can help you counter balance the pistol squat. Many people lack the strength to lift the spare leg or the floor gets in the way when lowering into the squat, therefore, allowing the range to be increased by standing on a higher surface helps give you a larger area in which you can move and you can concentrate on the leg that is squatting.
5. Hawaiian squats
This is a great exercise to mobilize and stretch your piriformis. This exercise will help you concentrate on staying upright and help to improve your single leg stability.
6. Overhead pistol Squat
Once comfortable with your pistol squat you may start to place your hands over your head and repeat the exercise, when ready ou will be able to hold a barbell above your head and perform a pistol squat.
The main reason why people are unable to perform a pistol squat (other than their lack in strength) is due to their ankle mobility. The pistol squats requires a large amount of dorsiflexion in the ankle. Below is an images of a position you can try and hold in order to help increase it's flexibility. I would recommend holding each movement 30-60s. You can also youse bands and weights for additional resistance.
Benefits of single leg work
- Can help to pinpoint muscle imbalances. - Improve balance and stability.
- Increase proprioception.
- Helps to activate stabilizing muscles such as the glutes and core.
It is important for us to keep our glutes and core strong and the surrounding stabilizing muscles in order to protect our joints and prevent ourselves from getting injured. However these stabilising muscles generally only fire when our bodies feel its center of gravity is shifting and falling over.
If you would like to find out more about hip and core stability with some examples of single leg exercises. Check out my Blog on how to increase hip stability!