T Nation

Truth About Single Legged Squats


I say single legged squats are another trend that will pass. Thoughts?


I don't know many people who do pistols at all, certainly not enough to call a trend...

I started doing pistols because it looked hard and it was. IMO, it's a great exercise.


I think pistols are hear to stay, but I do think they are way overated.

I know more unathletic people that do pistols than I do unathletic people who can perform a proper bodyweight squat.


They're too hard to ever be a trend. I need a purple band for assistance when I do pistols, and I've never seen anyone do them in any gym I've been to.


Are you serious? In most gyms, most people I see don't know how to squat properly and almost zero can do pistols at all.


I think they are a great exercise, but I don't see the point in doing them at a gym. They are mostly a bodyweight exercise, and can be done anywhere. I use them on my Bodyweight/conditioning/GPP days. The gym is for when you want to pile on the "Big Girl Plates".


I watched one of the trainers at NYSC do a pistol on top of a bosu ball(I think its that, it looks like a swizz ball cut in half?). To be honest I'm only guessing that I can kick his ass based on how he looks and acts but he can't play one sport, or even fool around in the gym. His punches look barely stronger then the females he trains.

And sorry I didn't mean bodyweight squat I meant squat with at least as much as they weigh on their back.


Airtruth You must be pretty damn strong to think Pistols are so useless.

Im pretty good at them and i still give respect to people who can do them.


Yea, they're overrated.....when you can't even do them. Very few people can do one at all, let alone correctly ATG.


Pistols are great. Though they can be a bit hard on the knees.
Also, pistols are not the only single leg exercise out there. You can do a lot of other one leg squats and exercises, which are just as nice.


Personally, I've never seen any person do pistols at the gym where I train.

Sadly, I've never done one. A few years back I partially tore a tendon in my left knee and "sprained my patella." In addition, I'm slightly bow-legged! (ack!) Thus, I've never tried pistols, but once. As I lowered I could feel the approach of a stinging sensation in my wounded knee. I immediately backed-off.

I'd love to do them, though. I just don't want to have to go through three more months of rehab....

For now, I'm stickng with the leg press and deadlifts.


Pistols are mostly a coordination exercise unless you add weight or jump. Have done them in the past, but I get more from lunges or split squats.

Fad. If that.


They're good for coordination, balance and flexibility but almost nonexistent for strength. If you have the coordination to do them try going down on two legs and up with one and you'll see how difficult the strength portion is. For a quad dominant individual like myself I consider them useless. I get more out of a bodyweight parallel box step up.


To be honest I think they're amazing in their own category. I have a close friend who can do a couple of pistols on each leg but never trains. He's on his feet all day though, walking to/fro school and at work. This guy runs incredibly fast although he never trains to run, or runs, has extremely coordinated and flexible legs (just watch him walking down a flight of stairs). He weighs 160ish.
He also jumps insanely high.

Myself I can back squat a good 2.5 plates at 180lbs, olympic depth and speed. Due to some mobility stuff that I do, and the fact that all summer long i was on my feet, I can be pretty limber at times too. But no way can I run as fast as he can, or jump as high as he can.

Pretty interesting stuff mind you.

Plus a lot of the old timer strongmen used to do pistols.

And I think there is a reason gymnasts do tons of them.


I bet doing single leg squats will make you very strong at doing single leg squats. I can't say that I have seen a lot else come out of single leg lifting.


They are a great exercise... one of the best you can do with very little equipment, but def not as good as back or front squats or even dumbell squats. I would say the lack of being able to do them is more telling and useful than doing them to strengthen.


Just because something doesn't increase another lift, by no means is it useless. Yes, for a powerlifter who is only concerned with raising his total, they are useless. For almost any other person who strength trains, the training is a means to an end, not the end itself. That being said, pistols may not make your back squat numbers shoot through the roof. But for an athlete, or anyone else who uses strength training to improve in other areas, they can be of huge value. I'll take a football player that can squat 500 and crank out pistols all day long over another player who can squat 800 but can't even do a pistol.


I like how you first said squat 500.

No my legs are not that strong at least right now after a few years of knee pain. But I would never rate an exercise by me alone I am one person. Thats why I said athletes, when looking at the best athletes train specially in highschool when they build their base squatting has done more for their athletecism then pistols. Even when looking at elite athlete routines VERY FEW will have a routine of pistols. With that being the case I see more trainers, and internet bodyweight routine salesmen who can do pistols then million dollar athletes.

Increase your 5 second 5 rep squat by 100lbs or increase your pistols from 0 to 10 and I'm sure your vertical or 40 speed will increase from the first challenge(given you don't gain a 100lbs to do it).

Thats not to say they are useless. As someone said they do help with coordination and ninja tactics. They also seem to be good for rehabilitation. Just for athletic performance athletes have been tremendously successful for years without them.


+1. I want to see a non-athletic person doing > 12 ATG free pistols. It's a great way to load legs when there is not heavy stuff around. Surprisingly, slightly weighted pistols are easier than unweighted due to easier balancing.


Since you know so much about how elite athletes train, why don't you read a few articles by Mike Boyle. I think he's trained a few more elite athletes than you and guess what he has his athletes do? You guessed it, he bases routines off of single leg squat variations. He doesn't even have his athletes do back squats (GASP!).

I love how you mentioned how high school athletes train. We all know high school coaches are the top of the line strength coaches, right? Hell, my high school coach had us bench and back squat three times a week, every week. You would think with all that back squatting, we'd be great. Instead, we had an entire team with kyphosis from so much benching and an average of 3 acl tears every year. Yup, that's a top of the line routine we were doing back in high school.

I'm not saying pistols are the best exercise by any means. I would never base a program around just pistols, the same way I would never base a program around just back squats. My point is that they help provide variation and are very challenging to do.

I don't know what your comment about the 500 pound squat was supposed to mean, but once you get past the high school level (where you're probably still at), 500 lbs would only be impressive for the smallest guys on the team (and kickers).