Pistol Squats are an advanced body weight exercise for the legs, particularly the quads. If you have one leg stronger than the other, then doing a one leg squat will help to even them out! Pistols are also a useful exercise if you don’t have access to a gym, or if you have lower back pain — making barbell squats too painful to do. Pistols are also great for improving your balance.
For a tutorial on the regular version, click here for Pistol Squats.
I’ve been doing regular pistol squats for some time now, but they’ve been getting too easy for me, as I can do 20 “ass to the grass” pistols at a time…it’s quite a burn. 😎 But how can we make them more difficult, without adding weight? By the way, if you hold a weight out in front of you, the exercise can get easier, rather than harder.
Stretching your arms out in front of your body, helps you to maintain balance; rather than falling over backwards. Changing that balance, makes the exercise a lot harder. Please check out the variations below, and watch the Advanced Pistol Squats video demo at the end.
Prisoner Pistol Squats
Clasp your hands behind your head. Initially, I’d suggest placing your fingertips by your temples — as the first time I did it, I found myself going down ok, but on the way up I’d occasionally need to extend my arms forward a little at the bottom, just to get going…particularly as I got tired through the set. Eventually you’ll nail it, and you won’t need to move your arms any more.
Arms Behind Your Back Pistol Squats
This increases the challenge again, putting more weight behind your body — you’ll have to really fight not to fall over. You also need to engage your hip flexors and abs a lot more, otherwise your extended leg will touch the floor.
Plyometric Pistol Squats
I’ve yet to try it, but once you can comfortably achieve all the above versions, you could start back at the regular pistol squat…then from the bottom position, jump onto an elevated surface, then drop back down. Repeat and progress to the hands behind your back version.
George D. Choy
Personal Trainer & Calisthenics Instructor
Gymnacity in Oxted, Surrey, United Kingdom