Pistol Squats are a very difficult but equally rewarding bodyweight exercise. Pistol Squats are a great unilateral exercise that require strength, stability, flexibility and mobility. This movement takes a lot of practice to perfect, but it’s absolutely worth the time spent. There are also a number of moves you can utilize to slowly work your way up to the Pistol Squat, such as Split Squats and Single-Leg Squats on a Box. If you’re not familiar with Pistol Squats or need help learning how to perform them, check out this piece.
But if you’re interested in learning more about why Pistol Squats are such a powerful exercise for athletes, read on.
One thing that’s often neglected during our training regimens is our balance. Balance is an extremely underrated attribute and one that is essential to completing the full range of motion for Pistol Squats. From the beginning to the end, proper balance and body control will help avoid injury and improve joint stability. As an athlete, single-leg balance is particularly valuable. Why? Because nearly every explosive athletic movement will put you in a single-leg position at some point, and being able to be stable and powerful in those positions can help you move and play better. Pistol Squats are one of few exercises that require significant balance, joint stability, muscle activation and body control.
2. Body Awareness
Executing a perfect Pistol Squat is nearly impossible unless you have tremendous body awareness. Body awareness is defined as the internal understanding of where the body is in space. Unless you’re an absolute fitness freak, you will not be able to just mindlessly bang out Pistol Squat after Pistol Squat. You’ll need to really focus and dial in on the contributions and positioning of muscle groups all throughout your body, whether it’s your glutes, hamstrings, core, quads, etc.
Body awareness is extremely important to any sport. Staying focused and aware of every movement will not only propel performance but, most importantly, help avoid potential injury.
3. Destroying Imbalances
Naturally, we all have a dominant side. No one has perfect symmetry, but that doesn’t mean we can’t strive for balance through our training. That being said, Pistol Squats are a great unilateral movement for identifying what side (and what leg, in particular) is weaker. Once we identify, we can correct and strengthen. Strengthening that weaker side through Pistol Squats is one of several great methods for addressing that imbalance.
When I work with clients, I know it’s extremely frustrating for people to have one side give out during bilateral movements. They feel strong enough, but one side simply isn’t up to the task. For both athletes and the general population, imbalances lead to nothing but trouble in terms of pain, limited flexibility, limited strength, etc.
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