Bodyweight & Calisthenics

It’s Time For Pistol Squat

The pistol squat, or one-legged squat, is a classic bodyweight skill display of leg and hip strength. When you are able to perform them, it means you have well balanced lower body strength, flexibility, and balance.

And it can feel so difficult the first time you try it that it seems either you can do it or you can’t. Even though the pistol is a tough movement, that doesn’t mean it’s out of reach.

Coach Jami Tikkanen at Thames CrossFit packs a ton of useful information into 4 minutes. He demonstrates a drill in which the athlete “rotates” into the pistol to encourage the athlete to actively resist the internal rotation in the hip that naturally occurs when performing a pistol. And that’s just the beginning! He addresses following:

Developing Flexibility

  • Perform box squats using a good morning (deadlift) to initiate the movement where you compress your chest to your thighs.
  • Use a weight to counterbalance the hips during the movement.
  • Use a rubber band to compress the knee and create tension in the knees to help them stabilize while moving.


  • Using a pull-up bar, dorsiflex (flex the toe toward the shin) the ankle while maintaining contact with the ground. At the same time, move the hip forward from different angles to work on mobility.
  • Bend the hip toward the frontal plane while the ankle remains on the ground dorsiflexed.
  • Rotate the hip away from the pull-up bar.


  • Use different thicknesses of assistance bands to perform a full range of motion pistol while hanging onto the bands.
  • Bring the feet in close together to mimic the one-legged stance, squat, and then extend one leg at the bottom to perform a “bottoms up” pistol on the way up. This is done with and without bands.
  • Perform a “negative” pistol (which is essentially a reverse of the “bottoms up” pistol): Extend one leg at the top of the movement and then squat while keeping the leg extended. At the bottom of the movement, bring the extended foot down beneath the hips and stand up with both feet on the floor.

Put Your Pistol Squat to Work!

Whether you’re looking to compete or just trying to become fitter and healthier, the pistol has its place in your training repertoire. By following the tips and advice in the articles and videos provided, you’ll be taking your leg strength, balance, and flexibility to the next level.

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