The pistol squat is a very special strength and vertical jump training exercise if you ask me. It is not just one of the best bodyweight exercises, it is one of the best vertical jump exercises period. But it is also really, really hard to do. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make it a bit easier.
Well first off, it is an exercise you can pretty much do anywhere using no equipment. This makes it a fantastic choice for people without access to weight training equipment, or who are traveling or on holiday.
But the fact that it doesn't require equipment isn't all that makes it special. You see you also need to have quite a few other things going for you in order to do them properly. You need to have terrific balance for a start. Quite often you see people who fall over backwards when they first attempt one.
You also need very good ankle, hip and knee mobility. A deep pistol squat puts all three joints through quite a range of movement and if you lack that joint mobility then you won't be able to to them very well.
You also need a certain degree of flexibility, particularly in the glutes and hamstrings. The non working leg is essentially parallel to the ground in full extension at the bottom position, and if you are unable to straighten it well enough it will negatively effect your ability to balance and control the movement.
Finally, you also need a great deal of relative strength to not only actively control your descent, but to also overcome your bodyweight. Doing this using one leg only, and from a deep position of low leverage which makes it quite hard for weaker athletes to perform them is a real challenge.
f any one of these areas is lacking then you might not be able to perform even a single deep pistol squat. I know plenty of guys who can squat 2x bodyweight and can't do them. Often it is skinnier guys with good flexibility and mobility who are actually very good at them because their lack of bodyweight means that their lack of strength is less of a factor.
Another thing to consider when looking at introducing pistol squats is that if you do lack the strength and balance to be able to lower yourself into the bottom position of the pistol squat it can get quite painful on your knees. Whenever I have someone tell me it hurts their knees to perform pistol squats it is because they either haven't warmed up very thoroughly, or they just drop down too quickly.
So, with all that in mind the next question is what do you do if you can't perform them correctly? Do you just never do them? No. They are too good an exercise and they develop too many beneficial characteristics to ignore. The solution is progress using easier versions.
By starting off with some easier versions you will be able to build up your balance, mobility and flexibility, and all the while you are doing that you will be gradually increasing your leg strength as well. So what are some of these progressions? Watch the video below to find out.
The pistol squat isn't something that everybody can do straight away. However it is an exercise worth learning. The video shows some simple progressions you can use to master it. If you want to jump higher, it is a great choice to add to your vertical jump training.
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