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Pistol Squats: How to Progress, Benefits, Plus 8 Workouts

The single-leg squat is one of the most difficult movements to master and also one of the most common in CrossFit competitions.

Mistakes to Avoid – Pistol Squats

Pistol squats abuse your ankle mobility and if you don’t have much, then you probably lifting your heel when reaching your butt close to your foot. Make sure you keep your foot grounded on the floor. The culprit for lifting up your heel could be ankle mobility, but it could also be a lack of strength on your legs, glutes or even abs to keep your balance.

rich-froning-pistolsSource: CrossFit Inc
Rich Froning doing pistol squats

You may round your spine when doing pistol squats, but you should not excessively hunch your back. The more upright you keep your posture, the more challenging and effective the movement is.

If you do not fully extend your leg at the end of the movement it will not count as a rep. That is a mistake most CrossFitters beginners will make before hearing “no rep” from their coach and get distracted. You already performed the hardest part, make sure you fully extend your leg before moving on to the other leg.

Muscles Worked

Pistol squats will develop flexibility, endurance and coordination of your leg muscles. The exercise works these muscles:

  • Hips
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Calves
  • Abs (to a smaller extent)

Benefits of Pistol Squats

sara sigmundsdottir pistol squat strong crossfit mentalitySource: RX'd Photography

Besides providing a great leg workout, pistol squats will greatly improve your balance. This will translate to better running, as you need balance to shift your weight from one leg to the other while on the go.

The increased ankle mobility will help you feel more comfortable in a deep squat, meaning you can reach a new PR on some weight lifts such as the front squat.

Pistol squats are a bodyweight unilateral exercise so it will correct any muscular imbalances you may have.

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