T Nation

Pistols: Can't Do 'Em

So I was reading about pistols (one-legged squats) and decided to give them a shot the other day. I was able to get down all the way on my right leg (dominant side). However, when I tried my left leg I started to go up onto my toes and fell over. I can barely even get to the halfway point on my left leg.

Was wondering if anyone knew why this was and/or how to correct it? Is it a strength imbalance? Lack of flexibility on one side? Both?

Could be all or none of the above. If you were up on your toes it sounds like flexibility. Can you get into the bottom position without actually trying to preform the first half of the rep?

Ya, I can get into the bottom position on my left leg with assistance (like holding onto something), but my back is definitly much more rounded at the bottom on my left leg then on my right.

You just gotta practice. I practiced for a while trying to go all the way down while holding onto something, but never seemed to get much better at them. Then I just practiced going down as far as I could stay in control, pausing for a full second at the bottom, then coming back up. Gradually, I was able to go lower and lower.

It might sound weird, but I would actually do 5 on each leg every time I took a shower. The constant repetition helped; chances are you are strong enough to do pistols, you just have shitty balance, flexibility, and/or technique. It will come with practice.

Can you perform a correct Full (Rock Bottom) Squat? With both of your heels firmly on the floor through out the movement; especially as you rise up? Can you hold the bottom position for more than 20-seconds without leaning too far forward and/or coming up on the balls/toes of your feet? If not practice this first.

Wall Squats… both dynamic (full movement) all the way up and down as well as the Iso-Extreme Support (Wall) Squat (static isometric holds) holding the parallel position with good form for time. Once you feel strong on the double leg try the single leg variation… not easy at all!!!

Heel drive is the key here; you are not trying to stand up in so much as you are trying to push down driving your heels into the floor.

Use stairs (typically, starting with the second stair from the bottom), box, or a low stool to assist in the movement… that is until you can grunt your way out of the hole on your own… as in from the rock bottom position. If you are still a little bit shacky use a doorway to hold onto.

Believe it or not a counter weight may help you… hold a 10, 25, or even 35-pound dumbbell or plate out in front of you using both hands; keep the arms straight.

Good luck.

Practice man.

I was squatting over double my bodyweight and could not perform 1 rep the first time I tried. After a couple practice sessions I was belting out 15 reps. Mobility was an issue for me, but it quickly fixed itself. Also learn to use your glutes.

I actually saw an increase in my jumping ability off 1 leg after doing them. But they are not a staple in my training.

you need a progression

and some mobility work on your hip and ankles…

does your left knee track differently then your right?
sometimes that will happen on unilateral exercises.

work on
glute activation
hip and ankle mobility

then work the pistols as a progression

try doing them while standing on a bench-
do them to a box

work towards a full pistol

[quote]kmcnyc wrote:

…try doing them while standing on a bench-
do them to a box…

[/quote]

try doing them while screwing a wench
do them on top of a fox

try them while speaking French
do them in your socks

but whatever you do… do them like the Grinch
do them down to your cocks

Sorry couldn’t resist…

Agreed with kmcnyc. You don’t just drop into single leg squats. I had to get my max squat to body weight before I could pull this off. Even now, I can only do them standing on a box or bench because I can’t hold my non-working leg up, probably due to weak hip flexors and the lack of full proprioception on the movement. I can do 8-10 standing on something, though.

You’ll get there but you need to work up to it. Use squats, front squats and reverse lunges off a aerobic step. Get your weight up on those and then work your way into them.

Try them holding a 25lb plate in front. It really helps with the balancing aspect. I have trouble doing them without the weight, and can do multiple with the weight. You can also just try one legged squats into a seated position (weight bench). Couple of ideas to try. Good luck

[quote]Ricochet wrote:

[quote]kmcnyc wrote:

…try doing them while standing on a bench-
do them to a box…

[/quote]

try doing them while screwing a wench
do them on top of a fox

try them while speaking French
do them in your socks

but whatever you do… do them like the Grinch
do them down to your cocks

Sorry couldn’t resist…[/quote]

sace bleu!! nice.

using a counterweight is a good idea-
I can do plenty on the right leg and still stagger through 8 or so on the left
counterweights can help.

I have sprained my SI joint doing them before. I was wondering why it is so much easier for me to do single leg squats off of a high box with the non-working leg just hanging there instead of out in front like a pistol. Anyone have a clue, other than possible weakness of the ‘non-working’ leg’s hip flexor(s)? Thanks.

Nick

Why are you trying to do pistol squats? Balance?
If you want to do “functional” training do some split squats man. with your rear leg elevated or not. When will you ever get into a position like a pistol squat? Try doing a 1-leg squat with your elevated foot behind you, that is much more natural of a motion.

The pistol squat is used by trainers that don’t have a good plan and want to do something that is hard, and useless to make them seem like less shitty trainers… Start split squatting at a squat or power rack with half of your squat and you will get some awesome balance, core strength and unilateral POWER. Try it out man…

I actually do split squats. I was just curious to try them and found out I couldn’t on one leg. Not saying there is or isn’t value in them.

EDIT: And also, I’ve seen some highly respected trainers use them as an assessment test for hip/ankle mobility.

[quote]Ricochet wrote:

[quote]kmcnyc wrote:

…try doing them while standing on a bench-
do them to a box…

[/quote]

try doing them while screwing a wench
do them on top of a fox

try them while speaking French
do them in your socks

but whatever you do… do them like the Grinch
do them down to your cocks

Sorry couldn’t resist…[/quote]

LOL…nice