The pistol squat progression is the ladder you need to climb to be able to pull off pistol squats. Start putting in the work today with this helpful guide!
In this article:
- Before Doing the Pistol Squat, Do a Pistol Squat Progression
- Pistol Squat Progression Guide
- Don’t Forget Nutrition and Recovery
Step-by-Step Guide to Doing a Pistol Squat Progression
Before Doing the Pistol Squat, Do a Pistol Squat Progression
Pistol squats are the ultimate form of squats. Unlike regular bodyweight squats, pistol squats demand a high amount of ankle, knee, and hip flexibility.
On top of that, pistol squats also demand the optimal mix of flexibility, stability, and strength. It does takes time to learn.
This is exactly why one has to start with a pistol squat progression. Consider it as the training phase to be able to do a pistol squat later on.
Pistol Squat Progression Guide
Step 1: Work on Ankle Mobility
The most challenging part of the pistol squat is squatting all the way down. And if a person’s ankles aren’t flexible enough, that person won’t be able to hold the position and they may fall.
To test ankle flexibility for pistol squatting, here’s a simple test:
- Stand in front of a wall, with the toes five inches away from it and feet close together.
- With the hands on the wall and heels flat on the ground, bend the knees until they touch the wall.
- If the knees touch the wall without lifting the heels off the floor, it means the ankles are flexible enough. If not, the ankles need more flexibility.
If the ankles need more flexibility, here’s an exercise that can help:
- Stand in front of a phone book, a weight plate, or an elevated platform.
- Place the toes of one foot at the edge of the elevated platform and the heel on the floor.
- With toes pointed forward and the heel planted, bring the knee forward as far as possible.
- Hold the position for a second or two.
- Go back to the starting position and repeat 14 to 19 more times per ankle every day.
Step 2: Perform Full-Range, Two-Legged Bodyweight Squats
This exercise helps the legs become familiar with the feeling of a full range squat, especially for newbie pistol squatters.
Start by assuming a shoulder-width stance when doing full-range squats. By full-range, it means letting the butt go as low as possible, touching the back of the heels when possible.
Do at least 20 reps in a clean and controlled manner. Over time, perform this squat with a hip-width stance and with feet together for more challenge.
Step 3: Perform Assisted Pistol Squats at the Bottom Position
After the full-range squats, it’s time to get familiar with squatting with just one leg.
Hold on to something very stable, like a railing or a squat rack pole, and squat all the way to the bottom. While at the bottom and holding on the railing or pole, stick out one leg and maintain the position.
When going down, always remember that the heel of the balancing leg should be touching the ground and the raised leg should never touch the ground.
After a couple of seconds, switch to the other leg. Repeat this several times.
Step 4: Perform Assisted, One-Legged Eccentric Squats
The next step in the progression is performing the eccentric or negative portion of the squat with assistance.
With this one, position a bench or stool behind the body for support. Before going down, lift one leg up.
Then slowly lower the body until seated on the bench and then put the feet together on the floor before standing up. Repeat with the other leg.
Eccentric or Negative Portion Definition: This refers to the reverse part of an exercise’s movement. For example, the eccentric or negative portion of the barbell bench press is the gradual descent of the barbell to or near the chest. The concentric or positive portion is pushing the barbell up from the chest.
RELATED: Squatting – Do It Right!
Step 5: Perform Box or Bench Pistol Squats
The next step is to get familiar with un-assisted, partial pistol squats.
Perform pistol squats and let the box, bench, or stool support the butt while going down. Over time and as strength develops, use a lower box, bench, or stool.
Step 6: Perform Resistance Band-Assisted Pistol Squats
Resistance Band-Assisted Pistol Squats GIF by Giphy
Once the box or bench pistol squats have reached their lowest points, it’s time to go lower. An excellent way to do it is with the assistance of resistance bands.
With a resistance band tied between two poles or beams, perform full-range pistols squats. The resistance band should support the glutes when going down.
Transition by using bands with less resistance over time as strength develops.
Step 7: Perform Weight-Balanced Pistol Squats
This step in the pistol squat progression routine involves using weights for learning how to maintain balance.
Ditch the bands and use a 10 to 20-pound dumbbell, kettlebell, or weight plate for balance instead. Hold the weight in front of the body while doing full pistols to help counterbalance the hips.
As strength and balance improve, reduce the amount of weight used for counterbalance.
Step 8: Perform Vertical Free Leg Pistol Squats
Perform pistol squats on a box or stool that’s high enough to let the free leg stay vertical throughout the movement. Stand on the stool and lower the body down, keeping the squatting leg bent while the other leg hangs free.
Over time, use lower boxes to improve the free leg’s hip flexion.
Step 9: Perform Elevated-Heel Pistol Squats
When attempting to do a full pistol squat, put a small weight plate or two beneath the squatting leg’s heel. Doing this reduces the required amount of dorsiflexion in the ankles for squatting all the way down.
What is dorsiflexion? It is the act of stretching one’s foot upward toward the shin. It is the opposite of plantar flexion where the foot stretches downwards
Step 10: Perform Full Pistol Squats
By now, the legs, hips, and ankles are most likely ready to do pistol squats. Here’s how:
- Stand with the feet hip-width apart and then raise one leg. Straighten both arms in front of the body with the palms facing the ground.
- Do the squat until the glutes are resting on the balancing leg’s calf.
- Once the body has reached its lowest point, go up again and do as many reps on one leg as you can. Switch legs and repeat the movement.
Tip: If full, un-assisted single-leg pistol squats still prove to be very challenging, just continue practicing this pistol squat progression.
Don’t Forget Nutrition and Recovery
At the end of the day, the ability to perform pistol squats perfectly is highly dependent on strength. And strength development is a three-legged endeavor that involves physical training, nutrition, and recovery.
Apart from the training, one cannot just ignore the need for proper nutrition and recovery. Performance-enhancing nutritional supplements can help provide optimal strength development.
Go for legal and safe steroid alternatives that offer huge muscle gains, fast recovery, and improved strength and stamina.
Check out this video from FitnessFAQs and learn how to do the pistol squat:
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were busy laying bricks every hour, so the saying goes. Learning how to properly execute a pistol squat progression and be able to do unassisted pistol squats just like that — it takes time but you should always be putting in the work!
Have you ever tried doing a pistol squat progression? How did that help you perform pistol squats perfectly? Let us know in the comments section below!