The pistol squat, it’s challenging both on mobility and strength.
You could argue that not everyone should be doing pistol squats. Mainly because a lot of people aren’t familiar with alternatives.
If the proper foundations and progression is built then you can have confidence of what to do if you see it in a crossfit workout.
Just like butterfly chest to bars for example.
Not everyone starts off flopping around the bar. You build strength first, master the technique then progress with the skills by taking baby steps.
In today’s blog post I’ll cover:
- Top 10 pistol squat progressions
- Why you can’t get into the bottom of your pistol squat (and fall backwards)
- Pistol squat benefits
Want to improve in all gymnastics related training? Pistol squats, mobility, handstand walk, muscle ups, core strength, etc. Check out my gymnastics training program here.
Pistol Squat Progression | Top 10 Alternatives
Pistol squats are extremely demanding on your mobility (ankle dorsiflexion), stability and strength.
Check out this video below to see each pistol squat progression step by step.
What was your biggest take away from the video?
- Were you falling backwards each time you tried to go into the squat?
- Knee collapsing in?
- Able to get into position but couldn’t stand up?
Why You Can’t Get Into The Bottom Of The Pistol Squat (And Fall Backwards)
Like I talked about in the video above ankle mobility is priority number one.
Having good ankle dorsiflexion is not just going to help you with pistol squats but as an athlete in general.
Better ankle mobility leads to a more upright torso when you front squat, better sprint mechanics, and improved performance.
This style of mobility training “PAILs and RAILs” is from my experience the most effective way to not only improve your mobility but strengthen your end range of motion.
Without your knee being able to travel forward you simply won’t be able to get into position.
Visit my blog on exercises for ankle mobility to get the full run down.
But in general you should think like this when you are wanting to practice and learn new skills.
- Spend 5-10 minutes on mobility (incorporating pails and rails) so you can work on strength as well
- Choose 1-2 progressions for today (I gave you 10 in the video above)
- Continue to work on single leg strength
We talked a lot about the mobility demands of the pistol squat but the strength/stability to stand up on leg is an entire different beast.
Pistol Squat Benefits
Well for starters it’s a unilateral (single leg) exercise.
And we are huge fans of single leg exercises.
Single leg work requires balance, stability, and strength.
It takes a potential compensation out of the equation (hips shifting, knee collapsing, etc)
In fact when we work with athletes or anyone for that matter we demand the control of single leg work.
You need to be able to “feel” your foot grounded.
What does it feel like to push your big toe into the ground?
Your feet control everything.
Stable feet–> lead to strong hips and back.
What am I getting at?
Well, single leg strength is essential to strength and stability.
Pistol squats are hard.
Very hard and mostly because people lack the mobility so we often times prescribe athletes:
- to work on mobility (always a priority)
- help them find a progression that is best suited for them and gradually challenge the skills and level of intensity/progression.
You might add into one of the progressions we gave you and spend 5-10 minutes just practicing the different drills to get comfortable and strong with those new exercises.
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Pistol squats are hard.
But most of the time because athletes just aren't confident or don't "own" the bottom of their squat.
Mobility and ankle dorsiflexion is priority number one.
If you lack ankle mobility you are just going to compensate probably by your knee going in (no good) or your back being really rounded like a dog pooping.
Also not great.
...there are a ton of great drills, alternatives and progressions that you can do.
I linked that video above but in case you missed it here it is again.
If you really want to master the pistol squat and move better as an athlete you have to take your mobility serious. Join my free 3 day mobility workshop and I'll teach you the best techniques.