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How to Get Your First PISTOL SQUAT (Step-by-Step Progression)
Here is my progression for mastering the pistol squat. In the strength game we often forget about training on single leg because we spend so much time working on improving our numbers on the main core lifts: the squat, deadlift, clean and snatch. In doing so it is easy to unknowingly develop weakness in some areas of our body. Challenging yourself with single leg squats can illuminate any deficits you have. Not only that, performing single leg activities will work on balance. Every athlete needs to work on balance.
While not everyone can go straight to the full pistol squat, a touchdown single leg squat can be a great early stage single leg movement that gives the same great benefits. By starting small and progressing appropriately, we can see a dramatic change in the ability to control the knee. In order to do this we will use a small box or a weight plate. Starting with a lower surface, we can then work our way up to a full pistol squat.
Start by using a 4-inch box. If you’re at the gym, you can stack 2 weighted plates on top of each other. Assume a single leg stance on top of the box or plates. From this position, drive your hips backwards and bring your chest forward. This movement allows you to engage your posterior chain. If you do this correctly you should feel slight tension in your glute and hamstring muscles. Bringing your chest forward while driving the hips back will bring you into a balanced position with your bodyweight over the middle of your foot.
By keeping the knee in line with your foot, squat down until your opposite heel gently taps the floor before returning back to the starting position. If you are doing this exercise correctly you will feel your butt muscles working hard after a few reps. You should not feel any pain or stiffness in your knees.
When you’re performing this exercise, try to keep your shin as vertical as possible. Allowing the knees to slide forward too soon will increase the pressure on the joint and the susceptibility of cave in. Eventually the knee will have to move forward as the depth of the single leg squat increases. However, there should be little forward movement of the knee during this initial small box.
As the 4-inch box becomes easier and easier, increase the difficulty by moving to a higher box or adding more weights. A higher box will demand more control from the knee. Eventually the end goal will be to perform a full pistol squat with good technique.
If you need help with the needed ankle mobility to perform a full pistol, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IikP_teeLkI&t=241s
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