Copyright (c) 2010 Caroline Radway
Bet you didn't think that the best leg and butt exercise ever can acually be done anywhere, anytime and with no equipment whatsoever?!
Well, it's true! And it's called a Pistol Squat!
A pistol squat is simply a single leg squat. Simple?
Well, maybe not. You stand on one leg, holding your free leg straight in front of you, parallel to the floor. You then push the hips back as you lower them down, aiming to sit on an imaginary stool behind you. At the bottom you should be sitting all the way back on your calf. You then stand all the way back up and repeat.
This is a lot harder than it sounds, however! You need a massive amount of strength throughout your entire body, as well as good movement patterns and flexibility. But as it really is one of the ultimate exercises you can learn (one to impress your gym-buddies with!) so I highly recommend you give it a go.
Next time you are 'stuck' with no equipment, wondering how on earth you will be able to get a good workout in, give The Pistol a try!
Here are a few steps to take to help you master The Pistol.
You should ensure that before you attempt a pistol, you have a strong 2 legged squat and can perform this all the way to the ground - this in itself is a challenge and many will struggle below 90 degrees. So work on that first. You may find that holding a kettlebell in front of your chest actually helps you get low, as it counterbalances the tendency to fall backwards (the same applies to the pistol itself). You can build up to this by placing a low box or step behind you, and over time, using a lower and lower step until you can lower all the way down unaided.
The next stage is to make sure you have good balance while standing on one leg - my regular yoga practice has certainly helped me in this respect but many people rarely test or develop their balance! Practice standing on one leg and holding for as long as you can, without wobbling. To challenge even further, lift one leg up in front of you and even to the side, or try closing your eyes or moving your head from side to side (you'll be surprised how much you rely on grounding your vision on a certain point to help with balance!).
If you have limited flexibility you will struggle with the full pistol. There is not a simple way to build flexibility, you simply need to ensure you stretch your tight muscles on a regular and ongoing basis - again, yoga is good for this! Also incorporating regular foam rolling into your training plan is a very good idea - you can get a manual explaining that in more detail from the member site listed below.
You may find that as you try the different stages to build up to the full pistol, your flexibility naturally improves as you are beginning to use your body through it's full range of motion.
When you are ready to try squatting with one leg, you want to start with a supported version to take some of the strength and balance element out of the equation.
Find a support, such as a door frame, and use that for support as you go through the one legged squat motion. This will also highlight other areas you need to work on - such as your flexibility.
The next stage is the 'single-leg get-up'. Sit on a seat and lift one leg in front of you. Using your leg strength and keeping the leg out in front, simply stand up on one leg. Then slowly lower yourself back down to the step or box and repeat.
As you get stronger through the leg, butt and core you can begin to use a lower and lower step, until you are ready to go all the way without.
The Pistol is certainly a challenge, but one well worth setting yourself. When you finally achieve lift off, as you rise from your first ever full pistol, you will understand why!