Whether you are totally new to learning pistol technique, or you have one leg that is worse than the other and you want to correct the imbalance, try using these tips to help you get better.
1. Above a Box
This is a common drill especially when you are not yet able to do a full squat. By working with boxes of different heights, you can train the movement pattern and get down to the ass-to-grass position.
The pistol can be trained in the same way.
Put a high box behind you, squat down and back until your butt touches it, then stand back up. This is the touch-and-go method. You can also unload by sitting on the box and rocking back and forth. This will generate momentum to help you stand up. This little assist will help you to go down a little further and be able to come back up. For the best results mix up both methods into your training. Lower the height of the box until you can get rid of it entirely.
2. On a Box
Stand on a Box or a stack of plates with one foot near the edge and the other leg off to the side. Extend your arms out in front of you to encourage keeping your chest tall which will help with balance. Slowly bend your knee of the leg on the box and push the hips back, just as if you were performing a standard squat.
Pause once you reach ninety degrees and then push through the supporting foot and stand back up into the starting position. You can combine this with Tip 4.
3. Close Squats
Since most people are taught to keep the shins vertical when squatting, they may loose the ability to dorsiflex. But as you must counterbalance more of your bodyweight forward when on one leg instead of two, pistol technique requires much more dorsiflexion than a two-legged squat.
The Close Squat is a normal squat with your feet close together. In the beginning, you may just be able to move your feet a bit closer than your normal squat width and still be able to descend to rock bottom. But eventually, you’ll want to get the feet together. This requires more of a forward lean and increased dorsiflexion. Basically, you wind up in the same position as a pistol, just on two legs. When you can descend all the way to the ground like this on two feet, try raising one leg up in the bottom position.
4. Pistol Technique with a Counter Weight
If you notice that you fall backwards when you do Pistols, hold a counterweight and let it pull you forward. Use a dumbell, kettlebell or weight plate.
5. Deck Pistols
This variation starts like a normal pistol, but at the bottom you want to roll backwards off your heel and onto your upper back, then roll forward again onto your heel and press up from the bottom. Rolling forward will give you some momentum in pressing out of the bottom position.
You can start off by rocking down, back, and up with two legs. Next, try rocking down and back with two legs but up with one. And finally, rock down, back, and up with only one leg. This will allow you to work the full range of motion, but have some momentum to help you up.
For more advice on how to improve your ankle flexibility, try these exercises: