How To Do a Pistol Squat (Single Leg Squat)

Seeing as how we just wrote an article on squats we thought it would be fitting to feature this month’s workout on an exercise that helps build leg strength. This month’s workout:

How To Do A Pistol Squat

You can also call it the single leg squat. When we wrote our article on squats we mentioned that it’s estimated that around 200 different muscles are recruited in your body in order to do that exercise. Any imbalance in those chain of muscles can hinder your squat performance and keep you from progressing with your squats. The pistol squat is a great exercise to throw in to your workout regimen to boost your weak muscles and give you added leg and core strength.

Here’s how to do it:
Pick one leg up off the floor and use both arms for balance. Extend one leg out forward and squat down as far as possible while keeping your other leg off the floor in front of you. The movement should make your body look somewhat like a…pistol. Keep your back arched and contract your core to help stabilize your body as it lowers down. As your core contracts and your body lowers, keep your knee straight. Now all you have to do is raise yourself back up! That’s one rep. Now do more! Then switch legs!

Why The Pistol Squat Is A Great Exercise

It recruits major stability muscles and it helps to train your legs as an individual unit making both stronger. The movement incorporates strength, flexibility, and hip mobility all in one. The major muscles target (kind of obvious here) are your quadriceps. Your helper muscles is your butt (glutes), your hip adductors (helps to bring your knees in), and your soleus (calf muscle used for pushing). As you lower your body your other calf muscles and your hamstrings kick in to help stabilize your body.

The Rest Of The Major Muscles:
Erector Spinae (lower back hip stabilizers)
Gluteus Medius (butt muscles that help stabilize your hips)
Gluteus Minimus (butt muscles that help stabilize your hips)
Quadratus Lumborum (lower back hip stabilizers)
Obliques (abs used for stabilization)
Rectus Abdominis (abs)
Iliopsoas (hip stabilizer)
Tensor Fasciae Latae (hip stabilizer on the outside of your leg)
Pectineus (hip flexor/brings your knees in/stabilizer)
Sartorius (longest muscle in the body, stabilizer, brings your leg inward)
Quadriceps (in addition to pushing it’s also stabilizing)

Can’t quite do this exercise yet?
Post up near a wall. Put one hand on the wall and put another on your waist. Instead of kicking your leg out like a pistol put your foot of the leg you’re not working out right behind the foot of the one you are working out for added stability.

Too strong for single leg squats?
Take your stability away by adding dumbells or use a barbell and hold it out in front of you as you lower yourself down.

Not sold on pistol squats?

Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., creator of the Spartacus 5.0 Workout states that, “no other exercise will work your legs as hard as the pistol squat.” (2)

This video sums up how to do a pistol squat quite nicely:

Notice the kind of shoes they’re using for their leg exercises? For more on that see our squats and reasons you can’t do them post.

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