Why You Should Learn to Do Pistol Squats

Do you press the “Next” button on your 12 Minute Athlete workouts app every time the workout calls for pistol squats? If so, it’s time to change that and learn to do pistols!

If you’ve been reading 12 Minute Athlete for a while now, you know that in addition to super quick and sweaty HIIT workouts we also love more advanced bodyweight and skill exercises. For example, last September, we did a 30-day pistol squat challenge and earlier this year, a 6-week handstand challenge.

But today, let’s talk about pistols.

Anyone Can Do Pistols–But It Takes Work

Pretty much anyone can do a quick 12 minute workout, which is why we absolutely love HIIT training. But tougher strength and skill exercises like pistol squats are not super easy to do right away.

I remember when I first got interested in pistols and tried to do a few—they were so terrible that I was absolutely sure I would never be able to do them. I wasn’t even close. I have long limbs and it’s there’s no question that pistols are harder for tall people.

But although I made being tall my excuse for a while, I soon realized that there are tons of tall people out there who can do pistol squats. Since I don’t like excuses, I quickly became determined and decided that I would be able to do them one day.

The bigger the challenge, the greater the reward. 

So why did I get so excited about pistols?

Here are some of the top reasons why I wanted to be able to do pistols, and why you should learn to do them too:

You’ll Build Super Strong Legs

Many people don’t believe that you can get strong while doing bodyweight exercises. When you tell them that you’re not going to a traditional gym and not doing barbell squats, they just don’t take you seriously.

Prove them wrong, because they are.

Many people who can back squat with hundreds of pounds on their shoulders can’t do one single pistol squat. This is not to say that one is better than the other or that there’s anything wrong with barbell squats. But the truth is that being able to do pistol squats is the sign of ultimate leg strength and mobility.

Why are super strong legs important then?

It’s not that it only looks cool to be able to bust out a one-legged squat.

Your life is just much more enjoyable when you’re strong. I love to spend a ton of time outside doing all kinds of activities, and strong legs are definitely helpful. Hiking, stand up paddle boarding, rock climbing, and even walking (which I do a ton) are much easier when you’re strong.

And of course, everyday chores are much easier to do as well. You don’t tire as quickly, you can carry your grocery bags home (I eat a lot of veggies so mine are heavy), you can pick up your kids with ease, a gigantic bag of dog food feels like nothing, and so on.

All of those things actually improve your quality of life.

Pistols Improve Your Mobility

One of the main reasons why the majority of those people who can lift heavy weights but can’t do pistols squats is that they don’t have enough mobility.

Mobility is important for your health in general. It allows you to move freely, pain and ache-free. If our joints don’t have enough mobility to move properly, surrounding joints take the job over. The problem when this happens is that the surrounding joint is not meant to do this movement, and doing it anyway can create a lot of stress.

Too many people don’t move as much as they should on a daily basis, so their ankles, knees and hips become stiff and immobile. When you’re learning to do pistol squats, you’re not only training your strength, but also helping your body move better and more efficiently. And unless you’re super mobile already, you’ll likely need to spend some time improving your mobility as well.

You Become More Flexible

Another reason why learning to do pistol squats is awesome is that they help you become more flexible.

You’ve probably experienced for yourself that when your muscles feel open and relaxed, you feel so much better as opposed to being sore and tight. For instance, do you feel better after stretching for ten minutes or after sitting in front of your computer, shoulders hunched over?

Of course—after stretching!

When we’re flexible, our bodies are balanced better. Similar to our joints, when one muscle or muscle group takes over another’s job that it’s not designed to do, we create imbalances in our body.

While a pistol squat isn’t a flexibility exercise in itself, learning how to do them definitely makes you bendier. For example, a lot of people lack proper hamstring flexibility when they first start with their pistol practice. But working on stretching the hamstrings back to their normal length can not only help you perform a pistol, it can also save you from lower back and knee pain in the future.

And of course, the bendier you are, the better you do in your other activities and the more enjoyable life outside of your workouts is. Any movement that requires jumping, turning, bending, running, lifting, you name it–is easier to do when you’re flexible.

Your Balance Improves Significantly

There’s no question about it: pistols are an excellent balance exercise. Holding your entire bodyweight on just one foot while squatting up and down is tough!

Having good balance means having control over your body, and pistols work your balance like no other exercise does. You have to balance your foot, knee and hips and engage your core at the same time. You may find that your abs get more sore from pistol training than from a 45-minute core workout that involves a million ab crunches!

There are reasons that having good balance is important. For example, if you’re walking on a slippery road and about to fall, the chances of falling down and breaking your leg are much smaller if you have good balance. Studies also show that people with good balance have better spine mobility, faster reflexes, and less back injuries.

Also, having good balance makes other fun things like stand up paddle boarding, skateboarding, and skating so much easier and more enjoyable.

Learn to Do Pistols With Us!

Pistols not only look cool (we’re not denying that at all!), learning to do them actually makes you stronger, more flexible and mobile, and more athletic.

That’s why we’re super excited to announce our upcoming course on how you (yes, you!) can finally learn to rock a pistol squat.

The course is called Rock the Pistol, and it will be officially released next Tuesday, September 13th.

Rock the Pistol isn’t easy—but if you follow the course and work hard and consistently, you will rock a pistol squat.

Stay tuned for more information next week!

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9 thoughts on “Why You Should Learn to Do Pistol Squats”

  1. I can say only one thing about this exercise. If you can do a pistol squat, you have gained a lot. If you can’t, you have a lot to gain. I personally still struggle with that exercise. But on the right path alone to master it.


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