T Nation

One-Legged Squats

quick question, how do you guys perform your one legged squats?

i do them two ways: 1) the bulgarian split squat way, where you put your unused leg on a bench behind you

and 2) free standing (using more balance)

and when defranco / t-mag articles refer to one legged squats, i am assuming free standing? or am i wrong is it the bulgarian split squat way?

he also mentions some 17? year old (i forget) doing one legged squats in his skinny bastard article with 100lbs dumbbells, just curious is that ‘free standing’, that is quite impressive and strong!


Nuthin’ says you can’t do them both!
One thing we’ve all learned is you need to change your routine often. So do them with the foot up for a month, then change.
The one-legged type are sometimes called “pistol” when the free leg sticks out straight. Mike Mahler has a photo where he is doing a 1-leg, pistol squat while holding a kettlebell… that’s strength!
T-mag articles have shown 1-leg with the foot behind where the person is holding dumbbells at their side. You could add a variation where you hold a single dumbbell overhead!

I do one-legged squats with the unused leg elevated on a bench. I just feel I need more stability while holding onto heavy dumbbells and performing sets, I would probably fall over a lot easier while doing ‘free’ sets.

The pic you saw on DeFranco’s site is of John Iannuzzi and he shows himself doing the squat with the unused leg on a bench. It’s hard to balance well while holding onto so much weight, but if you have great balance go for it!

If I want to add weight to the movement I will put my foot up on a bench behind me, which gives me better balance. The free standing version I have to use my arms to balance myself so it would be extremely difficult to hold weight and maintain good balance.

I believe I have seen a pic of Mike Mahler doing a free standing one leg squat holding a kettlebell up against his torso. So maybe holding a weight that way would allow for balance to be maintained, or Mikes just a freak…

The one coach Defranco mentions is the split style. Go to his site and look under the pics heading. It is still pretty impressive. I use 50’s and by the end of the set I am toast.


I think the kid was using the bench to support his free leg…but still! I like throwing them both in there, though not on the same day of course. If I do free standing, I usually start with them, as opposed to the bulgarian split, which I throw in at various times, since I can control the weight more…and there is slightly less of a chance of me falling on my ass mid-squat. : )

I put my foot up on a bench behind me

I think whenever Joe uses the term “one-legged squat” it’s always the Bulgarian split squat. But like someone mentioned, nothing says you can’t do them both.

I have very tight hip flexors so the Bulgarian split squat is uncomfortable. My two favorite one-legged squat variations are the the free-standing down to the bench (aka “box pistols”) and the step up.

thanks guys. ya the free standing one with heavy dumbbells is very difficult, that is why i was wondering what people were mostly referring to when just saying ‘one legged squats’…

also i viewed defrancos site again right after posting this and saw that one legged squat, then i felt stupid :), and yes that is impressive also!

also the dumbbells seem to make the free standing one alot “easier” as opposed to the one with just “bodyweight”… the eccentric phase seems to be the most difficult anyway onthose free ones…

ok thanks for replies! peace

I do one legged squats in which I hold one leg in front and squat all the way down on the other. Awesome drill! Using a light weight 10-20lbs makes the exercise easier. However, once you work up to 70-90lbs it becomes much harder than with just your bodweight. My friend Steve Cotter can do a one legged squat with 140lbs of resistance. He can knock off 15 reps with each leg with 70lbs of resistance. The guy is a freak and has tree trunk legs as a result of his one legged squatting.

Mike Mahler

that is nuts mike!

What Mike Mahler described is the pistol which is what I do, except I need the bench behind me or else I’ll fall on my ass. It’s still a very good drill even if you need a bench/box. I feel muscles working in my legs that I don’t feel doing anything else.

I started doing step ups because Joe DeFranco uses them. If they’re good enough for Joe, they’re good enough for me!

If you want to know the best way to do legs, get a ‘BOSU’ ball and flip it over so you can stand on the platform side. I’ve been doing all kinds of squat variations since last September. Now, I’m up to 205 (olympic bar) 1 legged suats, with my foot in the middle of the platform. But my absolute favorite exercise is the 1 legged goodmorning squat. This is performed with my foot in the middle of the platform with the other knee bent and raised, then lean foreward while squatting, basically touching my chest to my thigh with about 105-115lbs. That is by far the best leg exercise! And I challenge anyone to try it, because once you do, there is no turning back to conventional squats!