T Nation

Trouble Keeping Balance W/ Pistols

I’m having a hard time keeping my balance whenever I do pistols. My body tends to lean forward as I go lower but I can’t get my thigh to touch my calve without leaning further back.

Right now I just do it in front of a wall/door and use my hands to keep myself from falling backwards and allowing me to get the full ROM while putting as little weight on them as I can. Can anyone else doing/have done pistols give some advice to keep myself steady?

Pistols are one-legged bodyweight squats and are one of the exercises in Pavel’s book The Naked Warrior.

Has no one ever done pistols? If you are reading this and have never done it try it right now for the hell of it. Here’s a link to show you how it’s done.


At least you have the strength to do them. :stuck_out_tongue: I can’t even lower myself.

I used to do them. Unfortunately I can’t think of a single regular poster here that could effectively coach you over the internet. Dan John might be able to help, if you can get him to.

I know that I’m strong enough. I do a lot of sports and the majority require me to use my quads so I’m sure I have strong enough quads. How might I reach Dan John? I assume he has an account here and that I can just pm him requesting a bit of advice but other than that is there any info that I might need to know involved in contacting him? Also are there any tips that you have about keeping balance? I tried following the site but it hasn’t helped much. I can get to the bottom but my heel raises several inches off the floor on my right foot and I can reach the bottom but I topple on my left (I’m left handed but since I snowboard goofy/right foot forward I’m not sure which leg is stronger).

I can do them, bodyweight, weighted, and even jumping.

There are a couple of exercises that you can use to help you achieve a bodyweight pistol.

In no specific order several are:

  1. Negatives. I honestly believe that negatives were the single most effective and beneficial exercise that I used in developing the pistol.

First try lowering a little at a time, trying to hold different positions along the way down.

Once you can stop yourself at any point along the descent try lowering yourself as slowly as possible under complete control the whole way.

Once you can do a very slow, completely controlled negative, try doing a regular rep.

  1. The exercise that you are currently performing, also make sure to stand back up using the hands on the doorway for assistance.

  2. Attach a single handle (the type used during cross overs) to a high cable. Do free standing pistols using the handle for assistance. This is much more challenging in terms of balance than the doorway exercise, while also having the benefit of allowing you to know exactly how much assistance you require to perform the exercise.

Over time slowly reduce the amount of assistance until you are performing reps with minimal assistance (depending on the cable stack it might be around 10 lbs of assistance). When you can do that try doing an unassisted pistol.

Other tips that can help in terms of balance are to try the above mentioned exercises barefoot and/or on a soft surface (like a stretching mat). The added instability will force your ankle and knee stabilizers to work over time thus improving your balance.

Also don’t forget to do regular barbell squats to continue to increase maximal strength.

Hope this helps.

Good training,


Thanks Sento. I’m not worried about the strength requirement for the squat as I’m sure I can do them. Rather it’s just keeping my balance that I am having problems with. Currently I do them barefoot on carpet with my hands against a door or a wall and lower myself slowly. The only time I put some pressure on my hands is when I feel myself tipping back and that’s just to straighten myself. After getting to the bottom of the pistol (thigh to calf) I push myself up without applying any pressure onto my hands. It really is only the lowering part that I have issues with. Thanks for the advice though!

It’s really just a coordination issue for most folks since just about everybody has the requisite strength to do pistols. The only way to overcome the problem is to keep trying to do them. Starting high and lowering oneself to successively shorter boxes or surfaces helps with that substantially.

Oh the irony. I have to ‘GreaseTheGroove’ to learn how to do a pistol before I can ‘GTG’ with pistols for exercise like I was supposed to originally. Thanks for the advice everyone but the more the merrier!

Hold weight in your arms.
I couldn’t balance going down, but when I grabbed a pair of dumbbells I balanced easily and did them just fine.