6 Excellent Pistol Squat Benefits (No. 1 is our favorite)
When it comes to lower body exercises, pistol squats may be the new king.
The single leg squat is a challenging exercise that can quickly build incredible strength, balance, and flexibility, especially in your legs and hips.
When comparing traditional back squats with pistol squats, there are several reasons why you might want to consider switching up your workout to include these.
Here are what we think are some of the biggest pistol squat benefits.
1. They’re Better For Your Back
The main problem with the traditional back squats come from just how strong your legs are. Your legs contain the largest muscles in your body, so to effectively stress these muscles in our workouts we sometimes need to add weight.
Squatting with weights can be a great exercise, but can also become dangerous as the added weight pushes down on your spine. This compresses the vertebrae, the discs in the spine, and can cause a large variety of health issues from pulled muscles to herniated discs.
While pistol squats already present more of a workout for your legs, working on them diligently can allow you to build up to performing them while holding a weight in each hand.
This method not only provides a crazy workout to build some extreme leg strength but does so without the chance of injury that back squatting entails.
2. They Build Balance
Hip muscle imbalances are not uncommon among people, in fact, many people may be unaware they have them. Often caused from sitting too much or not getting enough of the right kinds of exercise, these problems may seem minor at first but can become serious and difficult to fix.
These imbalances can make your body become stiff, but pistol squats provide an excellent way to build up a base of support that will improve your overall balance and performance in many of the physical activities you do.
Back squats require a little bit of balance to keep your core from rocking forwards or backward, but pistol squats require a great deal more.
Part of this need for better balance comes from the fact that you’re standing on one leg. Simply balancing on one leg can be difficult and helps to improve overall balance by strengthening some of the smaller stabilizing muscles in the hips and pelvis.
Pistol squats also require you to keep your body from tipping sideways while you lower your hips and core, which forces your hips to use some muscles that you usually don’t. Because of this, doing more pistol squats will develop muscles that simply aren’t activated when doing back squats.
3. They Build More Muscle
This is basic physiology–pistol squats make your leg muscles do more work by putting more stress on each leg.
While one can back squat with lots weight on their shoulders, when performing pistol squats the overall load on the leg you’re squatting on is nearly doubled. It only makes sense that this would make the muscles grow more, even without the use of extra weights.
But if you can work up to it, try holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand for a more intense pistol squat workout.
What makes pistol squats an even more powerful exercise is that they can be used to quickly strengthen and tone or to build and bulk leg muscles.
Doing a low amount of reps, only 3-5 pistols, will encourage strength gains without causing muscle tearing and growth. Pistols can definitely be used to build leg size by doing more. Remember, it’s all about balance.
4. You Can Do Them Anywhere
Because of how efficient pistol squats are, you won’t need weights to get a great lower leg workout doing them. If you’re new to doing one legged squat, you probably shouldn’t be using them anyways.
And if your legs are already ripped, at the very least you won’t need a barbell.
In your home, your office, your hotel, or of course at the gym, there’s no place you couldn’t kick out a few pistols and get a short but great workout.
Exercises like pushups and sit-ups can be great at times as well, but they don’t quite tire your body like pistols do. And if you’re doing your single leg squats right, your hands definitely shouldn’t get to touch the ground.
5. They Better Prepare And Protect Your Body
Pistol squats make your body move in a more natural way that better mimics the way your body moves and bends in real life compared to back squats. In “real life” activities like sports or simply the day-to-day movement you do, things are more chaotic and flexible than most of our standard exercises train us for.
If someone bumps into you or you trip and get into an awkward body position, this is when we typically get hurt. Limiting your range of motion, such as when lifting or squatting, can make you become stiff and rigid.
This is the reason why many people prefer free weights over resistance machines in most situations, as they force your body to be more flexible. Anyone, not just athletes, needs more than just strength. We need the ability to bend when necessary and the freedom to move in ways we don’t exactly plan for.
Combining the increased movement variability offered by pistols with improved stability is arguably the best benefit offered by single leg squats.
6. They Make You Look Impressive
If you watch someone do a pistol squat, you know they’ve got some serious toning and strength. Doing Pistols properly means that you have good strength and control.
This may seem like a silly party trick, but as the worst, it’s a great exercise that can demonstrate that you’ve really in the time and focus. At the best, you might laugh while your friends fall all over themselves trying to imitate you.
Pistol squats can provide several benefits that help you perform and look better while also improving important qualities like your balance and flexibility.
While we try not to fuel any debate over pistol squats vs back squats, we do think it is important to show you that single-leg squats are another workout to check out while also highlighting some of the dangers of adding weight to traditional back squats.
Check your ego and be patient if you’re a beginner to pistol squats and remember to always put form first and to be persistent with it. Pistols are by no means an easy exercise, but the pistol squat benefits are very rewarding.