I have covered the Pistol Squat before and it is a very difficult exercise to perfect as it is – but if you can do this exercise perfectly into a very low squat position on both legs, there are other additions to the exercise that add to its challenge!
Now in the photo above, the young lady has obviously got great balance – and would need to have, balancing on a Kettlebell like that – but there are easier additions to this exercise than that…
Before I go through two of these, I will go through some ideas to help you perfect the basic Pistol Squat exercise other than the ideas I have covered before (but for those who missed that post it was progressively working on squatting onto a lower bench until you can squat as low as the young lady in the photo).
1. To help with balance as you go deeper into the squat, you can hold onto either an upright (such as from a weight-stack machine) or a skipping rope tied to anything solid. Don’t continue to rely on this as the practice won’t help you to develop your balance.
2. Start each Pistol Squat session with hamstring stretches as this will help you keep your suspended leg straight. Also start the session with one or two sets squatting higher than your deepest position.
3. To help maintain the correct position in this exercise you may want to hold a small dumbbell or Kettlebell in your outstretched arms. This practice also helps you maintain balance – particularly in the low positions.
Of course related to this last idea is that once you perfect the deep squat position, you may want to hold heavier resistances out in front? But an unusual addition to the basic Pistol Squat is as you stand upright from the low position, you can raise the weight (best to use a Kettlebell, but a Dumbbell will do) until it is balanced overhead when you reach the top. Try to keep your extended arms straight throughout the movement, and lower the weight as you squat down until your arms are parallel to the floor. You don’t need a heavy resistance and it will help with balance. As a prerequisite to this exercise you could try the same exercise combination by doing a deep Step Down to the side of a Step Up Bench. The difference with the exercise that I have covered before (Step Down/Arm Raise) is that the arm movement starts at the parallel position instead of at arm’s length in front of your hips. As you perform the Step Up, you need use a higher bench and you raise the weight to above your head.
A more difficult movement combination to do is a Pistol Squat holding a Barbell above you head throughout the movement. Now, I can attest to this movement just with a normal squat on two legs as an Olympic Weight Lifter, but I admit that I haven’t tried this movement yet. If you are keen to give it a try, hold the Barbell with a wide grip and I suggest that you would have already done the Overhead Squat exercise?
These two exercise combinations seem difficult to do, but they are not impossible as the photo above attests. Just take it one step and one level at a time…