How to do a real unassisted Pistol Squat (without seriously injuring or embarrassing yourself in the process)

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Don’t let anyone mislead you….

When it comes to performing a real – true unassisted one legged pistol squat for the first time….. It’s going to be a challenge.

As a matter of fact, if you’re just starting to workout to build strength or struggle to do 30 free squats on two legs then you should stop reading right now and get to work on getting the base lower body strength that a pistol squat is going to require.

I’d truly recommend that if you’re not sure if you can do a one legged squat with a ballistic ball;

….then you should make sure you can confidently do a minimum of 10 reps with each leg before moving on to trying to do a pistol squat

This isn’t meant to be discouraging.

Quite the opposite, really….

In order to ensure your success you should make sure you’re prepared before taking on a challenging advanced movement like the pistol squat.

Trust me…

It’ll be worth it 😉


This is a pretty cool tutorial for you if you already have a pretty strong base of lower body strength. For example if you’re already doing single leg squats with a medicine ball or with a guided weight bar….. then you know you have the muscular strength, you just need to coordinate your strength and get balanced in order to execute an unassisted pistol squat.

If that is your situation, then a tutorial like this one (above) is perfect for you.

If you know you’re going to need a little more time and strengthening; or more flexibility then you’re going to want to take it a little slower and this next tutorial maybe better for you….

Alexia Clark (above) takes you through quite a bit more of a progression from bending to a 90 degree angle, to squatting on one leg with various degrees of assistance until you finally end up with an unassisted single leg pistol squat.


One of the challenges you might run into is flexibility in the ankle of planted foot. The foot that you’re using the drive force into the ground to execute the pistol squat will require quite a bit of flexibility in order to fully pull off the pistol squat. Elevating that planted foot is one way to get around a lack of flexibility and you’ll see a lot of people doing pistol squats while elevated b/c of this reason.

Lastly, I’ll leave you will one of the best and succinct pistol squat tutorials I’ve seen

Now, keep in mind that this is a generalized progression – the pistol squat requires a ton of ankle and hip mobility, single leg strength, core stability, and balance, and we often put in specific remedial exercises for any of those aforementioned areas that could use optimizing. Also, this takes *a lot* of time and patience! Something that also helps is to still perform your lunges, single leg deadlifts, step ups, and squats/deadlifts for general leg strength. Lastly, if you have had a prior history of knee pain or lower back pain, pistols might not be a great exercise choice for you – and that’s totally fine! There are a ton of different exercises (like those ones I mentioned above) you can still perform that have just as much benefit without the excess stress on those joints.