The 1-leg squat (From here on called “The Pistol”) is one of the best bang for your buck leg exercises anyone can do. So why should women love this exercise? Well, if you’re trying to develop “toned” and strong legs that don’t look like you’ve been training with the Russian Olympic wrestling team then this is the exercise for you!

pistol squat

Even Pavel Tsatsouline, who introduced kettlebells to Western culture and serves as a fitness expert for the US Marine Corps, the US Secret Service, and the US Navy SEALs said “The fact that you can build a strong pair of legs that do not chafe is a big asset for many. The pistol gives all the symmetry benefits of a unilateral exercise—without the issues of the Jane Fonda-esque lunges and such.”

Pistols are such a great exercise and one of my personal favorites.  It is one of the best examples someone can do that displays strength, mobility, and balance in a single movement. It is graceful, challenging, and extremely beneficial for the body.

pistol squat 2

If you are unable to perform pistol squats there are 3 main issues you may be running into.

Issues #1: Poor Ankle Mobility

The first and most important in my opinion, place to look at for a good pistol is the ankle. Why? Because your ankle needs to have enough free ROM (range of motion) in order for your knee to push past your toes during a pistol. The further your knee can pass your toes the easier it will be to balance and sit down into a deep pistol (hip below knee level).

How to fix it: Banded Ankle Distraction

How to do it:

Issue #2: Tight Hamstrings

You can’t exactly do a pistol with your other leg dragging on the floor now can you? This is where your non-squatting leg needs to very flexible. If you’re hamstrings are tight then you’ll have more trouble keeping your leg off the ground than trying to perform the pistol alone

How to fix it: Banded Hamstring Distraction

How to do it:

Issue #3: Hip Capsule restriction (hip problems)

Your ankles are mobile, your hamstrings are flexible, but you’re still dropping your leg to the floor during your pistol. 9 times out of 10 this means your quadriceps are running into your hip capsule causing you to 1) not keep your leg off the ground or 2) bend over so much you can’t keep your leg off the ground.

How to fix it: Couch Stretch

How to do it:


NOTE! Practice these stretches 3-4x week for best results. Depending on how tight or immobile you are this could take weeks.  

Stay Fit!

– Joshua Jarmin

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