Pistol squat correct execution and benefits

By healthiergang writer , medical student.

How Do You Do The Pistol Squat?

The pistol squat is a fairly complex exercise to perform but does not require any equipment.

The execution is as follows: stand upright with your feet slightly extra rotated and spaced from each other by less than the width of your pelvis. At this point, flex one knee and bring the other leg in front of your body. The leg that must be carried forward serves to balance the weight of one's body and must be kept straight and parallel to the ground as much as possible.

The range of motion of this exercise involves a full squat. The buttocks must literally touch the ankle area. It is important to keep the flexing knee in line with the foot. Imagine drawing a line that follows the foot of the bending leg and trying to make the knee travel on it.

If the knee were to fall inwards, towards the body, enormous stress would be placed on the cruciate ligaments of the knee itself. This, coupled with the extreme degree of knee flexion required by the pistol squat, is a great recipe for seriously ruining the joint itself.

Once you have reached the complete squat position, imagine pushing away the ground on which it rests and returning to the initial position. When pushing to get up, you need to concentrate the pressure in the center of your foot.

Being an exercise in which balance is a limiting factor, it is essential to maintain adequate balance, if the pressure moves more towards the heels you risk getting unbalanced and falling back. If you move too far towards your toe, you risk lifting your heels off the ground, losing your balance and putting additional strain on your knee.

Pistol squat correct execution and benefits

Varianti del pistol squat

Since balance is a limiting factor, it is possible to perform the exercise with the help of one hand by leaning on something stable. For example a door jamb or whatever. This allows you to maintain balance much more easily.

Another limiting factor is the mobility of the ankle: when this is not sufficient, the heel tends to rise in the final position of the movement. To get around this problem you can put a shim under the heel reducing the plantar flexion demand of the movement.

Faced with this problem, however, it is more useful to work with stretching and mobility exercises as the mobility of the ankle is a prerequisite for numerous other movements.

Advantages of the pistol squat

The pistol squat offers numerous benefits.

โœ” Requires no equipment: like most calisthenics exercises, the pistol squat does not require the use of any object.

โœ” High range of motion: from the description of how to perform the exercise it is evident that the quadriceps reaches a position of high elongation at the level of the knee and then returns to a position of maximum contraction. This is undoubtedly a positive factor and improves mobility and active range of motion.

โœ” It improves the balance: similarly to the previous benefit it can be deduced from the execution that the ability to maintain a correct balance must be well developed. If this were not the case, you would not be able to perform even one repetition.

Disadvantages of the pistol squat

Like most exercises, the pistol squat has several disadvantages.

โœ” Stress on the joints: the joint that is most at risk is certainly that of the knee. The extreme degree of flexion and very precarious balance put a lot of stress on the knee and it is easy to further compromise the situation by moving the knee towards the other leg to maintain balance

โœ” Insufficient stimulus: the pistol squat is a difficult exercise to perform not for a lack of strength in the lower limbs but for a question of balance. When the balance is lacking, the body is as if it were putting itself in a defensive situation and does not allow you to fully express your abilities. The leg muscles are the most powerful muscles in the whole body and the stimulation this exercise can give is not enough for an average or high level athlete.


Each exercise has its risks and benefits. As described above, he finds that the pistol squat is not an exercise worth doing.

Joint stress is too high and the stimulus is not sufficient to achieve a hypertrophy response. Increasing the load by adding some weight would strain the knee joint even more. I find exercises like the front squat, Bulgarian squat and lunges to be more profitable than this exercise.

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