Bodyweight Exercise Strength

Bodyweight Pistol Squat Exercise – Shoot your leg strength through the roof

Written by shapeshifter

There are few bodyweight exercises more coveted and revered than the pistol squat. I constantly see forum threads and questions all over the web about how to do it and how to build up to it.

To be sure, it requires strength-essentially you are squatting twice your bodyweight in terms of a conventional two legged squat. But the difficulty of the pistol squat involves much more than mere strength.

It is a very sophisticated exercise that requires coordination, timing, balance and mobility, on top of impressive lower body strength. What most people don’t realize is that we can take the movement apart and reduce the sophistication level in order to build back up to the full movement incrementally. This is the beauty of our Circular Strength Training® approach to bodyweight exercise.

The following clip gives you a few ideas of what you can do with the “King Of The One Legged Squats.” Take a look, give them a try, and let us know in the comments how it went. Also, please share your tips for progressing with this exercise. We’re always looking for new tricks to put in our bag!

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  • Fantastic tutorial! I am going to being implementing those variations into my regimen so I can work up to full pistols. If you could, it would be great to cover how to overcome lower back stiffness as part of attaining a full pistol squat. Thanks!

  • Coach, believe it or not, it was through Pistols that I came to Scott Sonnon and CST in a round about way. I first became aware of Pistols through a video of the ‘beast’ Ross Enamait doing them and I actually had done a web search on his Burpee routine, found an article of Steve Cotter doing Pistols, then became aware of Pavel Tsoutalane (his book Naked Warrior is centered on Pistols) and through him discovered Scott Sonnon……then Adam Steer.

  • Wade – Let us know how the P squats go. It’s hard to say without seeing you, but your “lower back stiffness” may actually be a need for more hip mobility…

    Kevin – It’s a small world, eh?

  • Dave – Yeah, definitely. I’ve often used a bench behind clients to do the eccentric (lowering) portion of the pistol only as a link in the progression. Clubbells work even better than KBs though… 😉


  • Adam –

    Thanks for sharing those variations. I have tried the pistol in the past and can do it relatively easily with my right leg but not my left. I quit doing them because of a grinding popping noise in my left knee… no pain, just sounds awful… the same when I do lunges or walk up stairs(resulted from squatting with weights). Maybe these variations could help me develop that leg? I’ve also picked up “Intoflow” in hopes it mays help the knee joint.

    Great stuff, thanks for sharing! ~ eric

  • Hey Eric,

    Intu-Flow will do wonders in washing that joint out. Some of the noise could be do to fluids moving around in there. It depends on the sounds its actually making. I’d say for now you should just be careful not to let any pain creep up over a three on the Rate of Perceived Discomfort scale (1-10).

    You can definitely use these drills to build that lagging side up. Make sure you do the same level and volume with the stronger leg though to keep things balanced. You can also try lowering your butt down to a box or stair behind you and then standing back up using both legs. That’s another good variation that was mentioned above in the comments.

    Let us know how it goes.


  • the full descent is not a problem for me… but i can’t get up without bending the extending the leg and getting up like a doofus. help….

  • Nice video. I am a 50 yr old with a replaced hip. I can do a pistol to the floor with a 52 lbs Kbell. My Dr. has had me demonstrate at conferences to show what can be done. Personally I used a cable cross over to learn the movement. I would put the cable at belly height, hold on to a tricep rope, add some weight to help pull me up and step back a couple of feet. As I got stronger I would just lower the weight until I didn’t need the help anymore.

  • I love it…. thanks for video anyway…… kindly send me more videos about leg exercises ‘cos i really really wanted to build a big muscles in my upper legs (tighs)…. thanks c”,)

  • Excellent tutorials – I am a 52 year old woman, train 6 times a week and am living proof that if you exercise and watch your diet you CAN look good in your 50s. A colleague said to me today, she wants to look like me when she is 40! I love these tutorials – I add all these variations to my workouts. Alleviates the boredom – give them to my Bootcamp trainer too!

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