Never Skip Leg Day with Pistol Squat Exercise

Pistol squat benefits feature iamge

If you do not wish to become the “Never skip leg day” campaign’s poster boy, you might be interested in adopting lower body exercises such as pistol squats. Not only does pistol squats benefits the lower limbs, it also helps to promote full body stability, increases mobility, and improves your flexibility.

Benefits of Pistol Squat Exercise

Whether you are facing a similar issue or actively trying to build up leg muscles, you might need some help to get a head start.

Personally, I am a big fan of the classic pistol squat exercise. This traditional workout does not require any expert assistance and neither does it involve the use of fitness equipment. Other benefits of pistol squat exercise include:

Enhanced Body Balance and Stability

In contrast to a two-legged squat, the pistol squat understandably requires a higher level of balance. This is due to the unilateral profile of the pistol squat that trains your body’s balance and strengthens stability.

Promotes Mobility

The pistol squat exercise simultaneously combines strength, mobility, and balance training into one simple workout. Focusing its range of motion at the lower body, it effectively promotes mobility that is guaranteed to facilitate lower body movements.

Strengthened Leg Muscles

With the need to maintain body balance on one leg, the pistol squat exercise helps to strengthen leg muscles more effectively. Although you might get slightly out of alignment at times, it only serves as an added resistance to the workout.

According to a report published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the pistol squat exercise can also help to identify and eradicate any physical imbalance between both sides of the body.

Convenience of Training

Last but not least, the most attractive benefit of the pistol squat exercise is that it can be easily carried out as it does not require any equipment. Instead of heading to the gym, you can simply engage in some pistol squat repetitions in the comfort of your home or at work.

In fact, I first started getting into the habit of pistol squat exercises by performing them at the park while on my way home each and every day without fail. It does not require a substantial amount of time but is greatly beneficial in the long run.

Step-By-Step Guide (Video)

A detailed walkthrough of the pistol squat exercise is presented in the YouTube video below, presented by

On the surface, you might feel that the pistol squat exercise is relatively easy to perform. I would not fault you for having such an opinion but you would be making the same mistakes as I did.

My first pistol squat repetition was definitely not a breeze in the park. Not only did I lose my balance halfway through, I constantly struggled to complete a full set. After my initial foray into the pistol squat exercise, I formularized a step-by-step guide to help ensure that I am performing each repetition correctly.

  1. Start off by standing with both feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Next, shift your full body weight onto one leg and keep the other leg outwards at a 45-degree angle
  3. Slowly lower your body to the lowest point possible, keep the standing shin as vertical as possible
  4. Utilize the inner thigh muscles and glutes to help improve stability on the standing leg
  5. Gradually recover to a standing position and this counts as one repetition.

It is important to keep your back straight at all times and also to press on the heel of the standing leg throughout the exercise. Adopting the correct posture ensures maximum effectiveness and also minimizes the risk of injury.


As mentioned above, a full set of pistol squat exercise is not as easy as it seems. To ensure that you are physically fit to undertake this exercise, there are two key elements to fulfill.

1. Full Bodyweight Squat

A traditional full bodyweight squat does not require as much balance as a pistol squat and can be easily carried out without much resistance.

Focus on perfecting the form of a full bodyweight squat. Ensure that you are able to complete at least 40 repetitions before attempting to implement the pistol squat exercise into your fitness schedule.

2. Bottom ISO Hold

After becoming accustomed to the full bodyweight squat, it is time to train for the lower position of a pistol squat. To specifically train for this, simply adopt a squatting position and shift your entire body weight to one leg. Next, extend the other leg and maintain this posture for up to 15 seconds.

Once you are able to complete both the full bodyweight squat and bottom ISO hold comfortably, you are ready to attempt the pistol squat exercise.

Progressive Variations

Instead of diving head first into a full pistol squat exercise, I strongly recommend that you implement progressive variations and work your way up. has a concise article on the Pistol progression that I recommend you short take a look.

A complete list of pistol squat progressive variations can be found in the “Pistol Perfect: One-Legged Squats and Beyond” article published in but my personal favorites are the bench pistol and assisted pistol.

Bench Pistol

Pistol Squat Exercise 1

A bench pistol can be carried out by standing in front of a bench, chair, or any low object at a comfortable height. The equipment of choice comes in handy when you lose your balance and can simply allow yourself to drop onto it. As you start to gain confidence, you can substitute for a lower equipment.

Assisted Pistol

Pistol Squat Exercise 2

Relying on a pole, door frame, or any sturdy object that can support your weight, adopt a position that would allow you to carry out a pistol squat. With both hands holding onto the support, lift up one leg and slowly descend. Once at the bottom, use the support to help you recover to the initial position.

It is important to focus more on your legs than on your arms, only relying on upper body strength when you start to lose balance.


Based on personal experience, I would strongly encourage that all fitness enthusiasts incorporate the pistol squat exercise into their fitness regime. It is a simple exercise that requires no equipment and does not warrant a visit to the gym. Despite its simplicity, it offers comprehensive benefits to the body, such as increased mobility, improved flexibility, strengthened muscles, and enhanced stability.

The step-by-step guide above should effective help you implement the pistol exercise but should you have any pressing issues, feel free to leave a comment below as well.

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Yuan - September 20, 2017 Reply

Great article!

Pistol squats are indeed amazing for strength, coordination, and especially great for when you can’t go to the gym and use weights to train. And noone has an excuse to not practice them 😉

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