T Nation

Pistol Squat with Straight Back?


Can anyone point me to a video of a guy doing a pistol squat ass to grass with a neutral (non-rounded) spine?

That's obviously the way people tell you to do it, but hardly anyone does it.

What mobility drills or exercises do you suggest doing to build up to an ass to grass pistol with a neutral spine?

(I can do sets of 40 reps if I let my back round)


How much size have you added to your legs since you started doing those?


Dunno if you will believe me since common wisdom is that you can only grow big legs by squatting and dl'ing, but I am not joking over the space of 2 years, only pistol squatting (haven't touched a weight) I put some serious size onto my legs to the point I now have difficulty buying trousers because the waist has to be way too big in order to accommodate the thighs.

Having said that, my legs were never really small even untrained, so maybe I have easy genetics for leg growth.

Wish the same was true for upper body.


dude, i am a strong believer of bw exercise but in this "you will have a hard time", for that last reply. i hope you can bring imn some evidence, before after photos.


You don't sound a big believer in bw exercise if you refuse to believe someone can grow from them...

But wot reason do I have to lie? I'm not selling you a workout program or a supplement, am I? It doesn't effect me if you decide to do pistols or not.

I didn't even provide an objective measurement of my thighs - just suffice it to say that I had quite large thighs to begin with for an untrained guy, and they definitely got bigger to the point of being, I dunno - rugby forward player sized, for a person of my height when my only leg exercise was pistols - that is the truth. I'm not sure why you want confirmation!

It makes sense - if you progress from being able to do 3 reps of pistols in a set to 40 - some growth probably occurred to facilitate that.

Now I need to progress them, however, which is why I need to learn to do them with a neutral spine before I load them, and I'd still like videos of someone doing them ass to grass with a neutral spine if you've got any...?


i dont see many ppl ATG squatting with a perfect neutral spine, single leg or two.


If your legs get bigger and stronger from doing pistols, power to you.

Here's the thing, though:
Screw a straight back.

When the spine is not under load, why is this even important?


Can we see a pic of the big legs built from only pistol squatting for 2 years?


But as was said, in an unweighted pistol, there's minimal stress to the spine so a neutral back isn't a must.

So you were just asking entirely rhetorical questions about sumo deads, trap bar deads, and good mornings? Weird, but okay.

In the same sense that going from 3 pull-ups to a set of 40 pull-ups causes some back growth, yes.


This is the closest to the form you describe I have ever seen.


hehe, both have great form...but still round their backs. Particularly this Steve Cotter fellow looks rather superfit.

It might just be that rounding your back -however slightly- could be the most natural motor pattern with this movement.

Just make sure you're also barbell squatting with excellent form.


Steve Cotter is actually a mutant.


Of course not...

There's no camera lens in existence wide enough to capture the absurd level of leg muscle growth from two years of doing pistol squats.


Godamn, this motherfucker is skilled

I can't do any of those things

Squatting so deep while remaining so upright without raised heels
I don't think I can even stretch out my leg in front of me like that
Much less pistol squat

Not that I care to do any of these things, but damn, still impressive


Not posting a pic, guys, so feel free to not believe me

those questions about deads were sort of hypothetical, but I am looking to get into them now.

Is Steve Cotter's back still rounded though? It looks only just rounded. But it also looks like he is significantly shifting all the emphasis to his quads with that form - he's obviously highly skilled so no dissing him - but I'd like to sit really far back on the heels and still maintain a neutral spine.

What about doing them from a high box so the non-working leg can dangle all the way down - it is easier to keep a neutral spine then - does anyone have a vid of someone doing it with a neutral spine?

Is it actually physically possible to do? And if it is, what mobility drills should you work on to achieve it?


I've never heard anyone say to do pistol squats with a neutral spine. Every example I've seen of the pistol squat has had a very rounded back for balance. Under load is the only time when a straight spine matters, and even then (in the case of squatting at least) there's room for a little rounding at the bottom.


The weight held in front helps a lot with staying more upright, for example front squats vs back squats.


At a certain point physics goes into play, if your going to be doing pistols sitting back on your heel with a neutral spine, either your range of motion will be very small or you will fall backwards, your knee will shift forward even with a weight held in front of you if you do not want to fall backwards and get decent range of motion meaning you can't de-emphasize the quads.

Since this is the bodybuilding forum do this for your legs.



Does this only apply to unilateral squats (ie. pistols, though) - or do bilateral squats enable you to sit MUCH further back and still squat ass to grass with a neutral spine?

Is it actually physically possible to lean really far forwards with a neutral spine (to prevent falling over backwards) when your hip is flexed ass to grass in a pistol squat - and all the weight is on your heel? If so, I guess it's a mobility issue holding everyone back. (Since no-one seems to be able to use this form). What mobility drills would correct this?

What about doing pistols the TRX way, where you hold onto the rope so you can lean way back without falling over backwards. When weighted would that be a good exercise, or completely useless?


A lot of it has to do with your center of mass over your base of support(either feet or foot) for the same person a front squat and back squat done to the same ass to grass depth using the same weight; in the back squat ones torso and/or shins will lean more forward than the front squat to keep the center of mass over the base of support making both ass to grass styles place more emphasis on the quads.

If your sitting back like in a power lifting squat and involve the hamstrings more in the movement you really can't squat ass to grass and at best are able to hit parallel or a bit lower.

Similar mechanics occur for the pistol squat