If you guys have seen my pistol squat progression over the years you know that it has been a journey, let me tell you! It has been a goal of mine for a while and I’ll be honest, there were certainly times that I was frustrated and also weeks and months that I didn’t see ANY progress. But, I continued to work at it and I’m so happy I didn’t give up. If you didn’t catch this reel I made for you guys, start there! I give some helpful exercises to start building up that strength.
So my first piece of advice is to be patient and consistent. It certainly is not going to happen overnight, and the sooner you come to terms with the fact that big goals take TIME, the better off you’ll be. Start by setting smaller goals, like moving up in weight in your workouts and adding a big stretch sesh to your weekly schedule. I know those goals aren’t as ~sexy~ as dropping into a pistol squat, but trust me on this one — getting stronger and more mobile are key to pistols!
Next, before starting pistol prep, focus on foundational movements. I’m talking squats, sumo squats, pulse squats, jump squats, bulgarian split squats, lunges, walking lunges, jump lunges… you see where I’m going with this?? Master the basics. Watch your form and build confidence as you increase your weights and reps. If you’re looking for a place to start, try Good Sweat At-Home 1.0, it is a great program for building strength and learning about form. Otherwise check out my lower body workout roundup (going Live later this week) for tons of challenging workouts!!
Ok, now let’s get to the fun stuff. After setting small goals, increasing mobility and building strength, you’re ready for pistol prep. If you’re a part of the #GoodSweatFam you’re going to recognize A LOT of these moves. I sneakily built them into the program and YOU’RE WELCOME because you’re already on the right path. Let’s get into it.
SINGLE-LEG SQUAT + BOTH FEED STAND
Focus on the negative: lowering down slowly with control. The hardest part of the pistol squat is staying in control the entire time, so building strength at each level is critical to overall progress. Build these into your workout 1-2x a week. You can use a box, bench, chair or your couch, and if you need to stack pillows for a bit of extra height. Over time you can find lower seats to work these!
ELEVATED SINGLE-LEG SQUATS
Once you’ve mastered the single leg squat + both leg stand, try staying on the standing leg ONLY the entire time. You can build up your seat (make it higher) with pillows or books to decrease the intensity at first, and take them away over time. Lower and sit with control, and come back to stand on just one leg. Try a couple reps on each leg, switching legs when you burn out one side. This move, in particular, will help you start to understand the balance of a full pistol.
WEIGHTED SINGLE-LEG SQUATS
Now that you’ve progressed and mastered single leg squats, grab your weights! I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to work into these shapes with CONTROL!!! Otherwise you’ll end up at the bottom of your pistol with no hope of getting back up. We build strength in the negatives!!! Also, at this point in your journey, really start to focus on the standing knee. DO NOT let it cave in! You have to protect those knees.
SINGLE-LEG BENCH GET UPS
These babies are tough but will help increase the range of motion of the standing leg. Build these into your workouts 1x per week starting on a lower bench (or chair, couch, box, etc) without weight, and overtime you can increase your weight and height. At this point you’ll start to notice changes for sure — now that you’ve worked the negatives and built strength your body will be ready for the FULL range of motion!
The time has come!!!! Try out a few full range pistols on both sides with something to assist you getting back up — whether that be a TRX band, a Recreation Sweat power band, or your bf/gf’s hands (Bridger has 100% helped me up from the bottom of a pistol lol). This step will honestly take the longest so don’t get frustrated if you’re stuck here for what feels like forever, I promise that every rep counts! Assisted pistols over and over will improve your range of motion (you’ll notice it’s more comfortable over time!) and also help you find a good rhythm of pistol-ing. Once you’ve made it to this step, make sure you practice your assisted pistols AT LEAST once a week. Muscle memory is a crazy thing and you def want it to be on your side.
Obviously the moment we’ve all been waiting for and the reason we’re all here. Your first couple unassisted pistols will be a disaster if you’re anything like me. When I was stuck in the assisted pistol phase I would try to do a full pistol pretty often (like wayyy before I was ready) and fall out of it or need to drop my hands or put my other foot down on my way back up. It sucks but it all counts! Every failure is informs your body how to GROW in order to be able to do it better and stronger next time.
You guys got this!!! So excited to see you progress, tag me @rachaelsgoodeats in your attempts and let’s celebrate together when you succeed!
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