pistol squats

Pistol Squats – Effective Leg Training Without Equipment

Nobody has anything against strong legs and a handsome butt. The classic way to get here is via heavy squats, deadlifts or the leg press.

However, equipment is not always at hand outside of the gym. The so far little noticed but perfect solution: With Pistol squats you can train your legs effectively and you don’t need any equipment.

Pistols are one-legged squats, so strength training for the legs. Start the execution standing upright, lift one leg and bring it forward as stretched as possible. You bend the standing leg until the hip joint is below the knee. For better balance, grasp the tips of the toes of the raised leg. Now push yourself back up into an upright position.

Why should I do that?

As described above, a meaningful leg training through body weight training is problematic in principle. The legs are our largest muscle group and are used to carrying heavy loads through the area every day. Correspondingly, only additional weights provide real growth stimuli.

Pistol squats are a great alternative for fans of training without equipment or for those who cannot make it to the gym for organizational reasons. They put an unusual strain on the muscles and add new flavor to your workout. I’ve seen men fail with a one-legged squat with a 200-pound backsquat.

In addition to the increase in strength, you benefit from Pistol squats above all through training your coordination skills and your balance. In other words: Pistol squats shape real athletes! They also train the hip extensors and even the foot muscles.

If done correctly, pistol squats are the ideal exercise for balance.

What if it doesn't work out right away?

Don’t worry: no pistol master has fallen from the sky! The sequence of movements is initially unfamiliar and it may take a while for the first repetition to succeed. However, there are some scaling options:

Box Pistol Squats

Stand with your back to a plyo box. Alternatively, you can also use a chair, bench, etc.

Now go to the squat, sit down, and get up again. The lower the shelf, the more demanding. For beginners, a seat height at hip level is recommended

Pistol Squat while holding

Loop a resistance band around a pull-up bar or use gymnastic rings if you have one. In an emergency, a shelf or table can do the job. Hold on while you perform the pistol squats. This makes the balancing act easier and you can concentrate on developing strength.

Pistol squats with raised heel

Place a small weight plate on the floor. Stand on the weight with your heel. This will make it much easier for you to keep your balance.

If you stay on the ball and practice consistently, you will make rapid progress and will soon be able to complete a few repetitions in a row. By the way: It is completely normal that the exercise is much easier on one leg than on the other. Right-handed people are usually much stronger on the left leg and vice versa.

What does a meaningful pistol training look like?

The same applies to exercises with your own body weight: Only a meaningful repetition scheme leads to success.

Add pistol squats to your workout routine. Train them 3 times a week and make sure you have at least a day’s break between units. Especially at the beginning you are sure to have a lot of sore muscles, then treat yourself to sufficient regeneration.

You can play with the reps a little. An example training could look like this:

4 sets of
10 repetitions right
10 repetitions left

The repetitions can either be done for each leg in one go or alternately.

Or like this:

As many reps as possible
1 minute right
1 minute left

… or so:

Tabata style
4 X 20 sec load, 10 sec break

Conclusion: Pistol Squats

Anyone who pursues ambitious goals in terms of muscle building and strength gains cannot avoid training with the dumbbell and a progression of the training weights. Pistol squats nevertheless have a right to exist in the plan of every athlete. Here again the advantages at a glance:

  • Effective leg training with your own body weight
  • Training of strength, coordination and balance
  • Strengthening the hip
  • Opportunity to compensate for imbalances

… and of course the one-legged squat is also a cool party trick.

Give pistol squats a chance.

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