It is testament to the squat’s effectiveness that there are so many widely practised variations of the exercise. Of all those variations, the pistol squat stands out as the toughest unweighted squat exercise, testing your strength, stability and mobility to the max.
If you’re not already an accomplished single-leg or split squatter, then it’s best to start with those exercises rather than go straight into a full pistol squat. Along with building up your leg strength it’s worth working on your hip and ankle mobility before you try the full pistol squat, because no matter how powerful your legs are, you won’t be able to adopt the pistol position without flexibility in those areas.
Sporty types in particular will benefit from adding the pistol squat to their fitness routine, assuming the sport involved requires a lot of running (darts players don’t really need to bother). Working on one leg in this way mimics the movement of running and will both increase your power and help make you more resistant to injuries.
How To Do A Pistol Squat
Stand on one leg with the other held straight out in front of you. Slowly lower into a deep squat, keeping the airborne leg straight. In the bottom position of the exercise the hamstring on your standing leg should be touching your calf, with the other leg extended parallel to the ground. Once you’ve reached the pistol position, pause for a second, and then push back up by driving through your heel. What you do with your arms during the exercise is up to you, but it’s wise to hold them out in front of you to help you balance when you are new to the exercise. Once you become a pistol master you can keep your arms against your chest or even hold a weight of some kind.
If you find you’re toppling over every time you try a pistol squat or that you can’t get sufficiently deep, try holding a suspension trainer or an anchored resistance band while doing the exercise. This will help with your balance on the way down and assist with pushing back up from the pistol position.