EXERCISE BREAKDOWN: ROLLING PISTOL SQUAT PROGRESSIONS
*Yes, yes, I know. I’m sooo excited about this exercise I’ve led with the alternatives first. That’s only due to the fact many may struggle with these logistically — not every body has tasty thick gym mats like I do. If you’re an elite / very good athlete with good leg strength and range of motion, you’ll be able to do these anywhere. But if not, it might be too difficult, so I wanted to put the options out there early.
The first option is to do the exercise, but just stick with higher reps of the easy progressions:
—> JUST WORK THE ECCENTRIC
—> ONE LEG DOWN, TWO LEGS UP
—> THE STATIC HOLDS
But if you don’t get on with these, you can switch them out for other stuff. Here’s a bunch of ideas in order of preference:
—> HEAVY LUNGES
—> FORWARD POWER-LUNGES
—> YOUR FAVOURITE OF THE OTHER 3 SQUATS IN THIS PROGRAMME
—> WEIGHTED GOBLET SQUATS
—> KB SWINGS
—> BIKE INTERVALS
HOW TO DO IT
PROGRESSION 1: THE ROLL AND SQUAT
STAND TALL – and get ready to have a great time.
REACH YOUR ARMS FORWARD AND SQUAT TO THE FLOOR – shoot your bum back and then bend your knees as you go down into the squat.
ROLL BACK (OR PERFORM A CANDLESTICK) – not too far, just enough that you can get some forward momentum on the way back up.
ROLL FORWARD, HEALS TO BUM, HEAD FORWARDS – initiate with your hips, then whip your heals to your bum and roll forwads into the squat.
STAND BACK UP – by pressing your heals hard in the floor, and standing up aggressively.
GLUTE LOCK AT THE TOP – squeeze your bum and abs at the top to mark the end of the move. That’s one rep. Probably best do some more now.
PROGRESSION 2: THE ROLL TO ROCK-BOTTOM HOLD
SIT — by squatting down as I elegantly described above
ROLL BACK — weeeeee!
ROLL FORWARD EXTENDING ONE LEG — last minute, extend one leg, lock out at the knee if you can, and make an earnest attempt to keep your foot just off the floor.
PLANT THE HEAL OF THE OTHER LEG — we want our foot flat on the ground, pointing straight ahead with the majority of weight through the heal.
STABALISE WITH YOUR HANDS — this leaves us in a rock-bottom single leg squat, hands down to take out any balance challenge.
STICK THE BOTTOM POSITION — stay here — ‘stick it’, for a few seconds. Enough time to correct any technique flaws (such as heal coming up) or all the stress loaded through the knee or leaning back).
HOLD IT FOR TWO OR THREE SECONDS — focus on feeling the heal in control, the head forwards, the spine tall & the ‘loaded arse’ that we all crave. The longer you are here the less you should need to stabalise with the hands. Could you take them away do you think?
REPEAT! — 3 second hold. Then Roll and repeat. For reps.
PROGRESSION 3: STATIC HOLDS — NO HANDS MAMA
AS ABOVE — but if you’re ready for the progression..
WITH NO HANDS — rather than place your hands down as in the last progression, as you come out of the roll…
REACH! — reach your arms forward actively to counter balance and try to stop dead in the bottom of the Pistol Squat.
PROGRESSION 4: THE ROLL TO PISTOL
This time it’s the real deal. Nearly.
ROLL — as always
PLANT YOUR HEAL — close to your bum, carefully but with purpose
GET YOUR HEAD FORWARD — just past your foot
THEN HIT THE FLOOR WITH YOUR HANDS — you’re going to smack the floor hard, or at least give a little push to cheat through the bottom inch and assist the squat
APPLY FORCE — then stamp your way back up to standing…so we’ve rolled into a deep one leg squat and pushed all the way to the top.
GLUTE LOCK AT THE TOP — as always, bum and stomach tight at the top please to signal the top of the move and boost muscle activation.
PROGRESSION 5: THE ROLL TO PISTOL — NO HANDS MAMA
Now we’re getting serious…
ROLL — as normal
REACH — your arms forward as you come out of the roll
STAMP AND APPLY FORCE — as soon as your foot hits the floor, push down hard through your heal and squat all the way up.
ECCENTEIC PISTOL ON THE WAY DOWN — for added marks, start learning to control the pistol squat on the way down. Shoot your arms and spare leg forwards, your butt back and control the squat as low as you can before you roll. The slower the better (well, 2 seconds is ideal).
BONUS TECNIQUE NOTE: The better you are, the slower you roll into the squat. If you’re strong enough, roll into the pistol, stop dead, then power your way to the top.
PROGRESSION 6 – ‘THE PISTOL’ ITSELF
For those who are ready, we can round off all this squat’n’roll with some actual Pistol Squats.
Bonus technique note, on all of these progressions you can squat down on two legs, but if you want to work your way back through again, perform an eccentric pistol squat (again, described in this breakdown) on the way down at the start of each rep. As soon as you hit the bottom position or (more likely for some!) as soon as you start to fall back, roll and move smoothly into whichever progression you are currently dominating. If your arse is taking too much of a pounding consider increasing protection (by way of an extra mat) or, take it as a subtle hint that you better stick to lowering with two legs for now!
HOW IT GOES WRONG AND HOW TO FIX IT?
YOU CAN’T EVEN ROLL! – don’t sweat it, junior school PE aside, who the hell performs a backwards roll?! It’s easy though, after a few goes…all you do is grab your shins, make sure your lower spine is rounded and you can feel your abs control the move and you’ll get it after a few practices (probably).
YOUR KNEE HURTS – either these are not for you and you must get your knee checked out by a physio, or you’re putting too much stress on your knee and letting it slide forwards/cave in. You don’t want that. The fix for sliding forwards is below. The fix for knee caving in is first to focus on controlling it and second to regress the move until you can control it. You’ll get better with conscious practice over time.
YOU’RE KNEE GOES TOO FAR FORWARD – We don’t want that. We want all the weight in the heal, that’s where we push to get the best balance of strength — particularly to order the glutes to work. If your knee slides too far forward remember to leave an inch between your arse and your heal at the bottom and to get your head thing ahead of your knee thing.
YOUR HEAL COMES UP – Calves too tight? Your heals going to come off the floor. Too weak? you might roll through the desired position and end up too far forward with your heal elevated. The fix: one: understand the move better. 2) make sure you have enough range of motion, particularly at the ankle. Three: get stronger (more time on earlier progressions).
YOU CAN’T STAND AND YOU JUST KEEP GOING FORWARDS – mainly, you just aren’t strong enough yet and your body is trying to get you the hell out of there! Drop back a progression, build strength patiently, then return to the troublesome progression with a vengeance later!
YOU CAN’T BALANCE IT – This can be because you’ve not the strength or necessary range of motion to stay in a rock bottom Pistol Squat (damn it!), or just because your’re too tentative or simply need to practice. The fix: find out if you have appropriate range of motion — can you hold the position just stabalising gently with your hands? if so, you probably have, if that’s a struggle though, we need more mobility. Once you have the range of motion, time and practice on the earlier progressions will give you the strength. The control comes from purposeful practice and deciding to ‘go for it’ no hesitant messing around, be focused, mean business and make it happen.
YOU CAN’T CONTROL ALL THE WAY DOWN – Similar to the above. Do you understand the move? Do you have the strength? More often than not, rolling too far forward is a result of not having the strength and you roll past the point where we need to be squatting or even grinding through (occasionally). It could be though, that you’re having such a bloody good and marvelous time on the rolling around that you forget what you are here for. The roll is tiny, ultimately we are going to remove it, the job is simply to give you enough momentum that you can ‘cheat’ your way through the bottom portion of the move. Don’t just roll forward like a maniac and forget about the squat, not if you want to get better stronger thighs anyway!
YOUR KNEE CAVES IN – we must keep the knee in line with the toes on this move. If it’s caving in, the fix is to one: focus on it, 2 systematically get stronger and find more balance at the knee ankle and hip. At least half the time i find that with focus and concerted effort people can hold good form on these. if you can’t, you need specific drills. Stick to the progressions you can do perfectly.
YOU’RE NOT STRONG ENOUGH – Damn it! i know, i know, no one wants to hear this. But that’s the idea of all these moves. If you’re simply not strong enough, knuckle down, go back a progression and come and master it another day. You’ll get it down the line.
KNEE LEVEL WITH FOOT, HEAD AHEAD OF KNEE – Get this right and you’ll hit perfect position at the bottom of the Pistol far more easily.
STAMP THROUGH THE FLOOR! – there’s a lot going on with these. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that it’s a squat! As with all squats, focusing on stamping through the floor — pushing the floor away — will remind you of the main move!
CONTROL THE ROLL WITH YOUR ABS – if your lumbar spine extends as you roll (read, ‘un-rounds’ and you get taller) then you won’t roll smoothly and you’ll feel like a plonker. Control with your abs (like hollow body position) and you’ll get it in no time (ish).
STOP HALF-WAY THEN INCH YOUR WAY DOWN — Struggling to control your Pistol on the way down? It’s not always that you lack strength. Sometimes you start to quick and fail to slow it down. The fix: try stopping your Pistol half-way down, then exaggerate the arm reach and inch your way down. You’ll do better.
WHICH PROGRESSION IS RIGHT FOR YOU?!
I like you to do ALL the progressions up to your current level for once each workout as a quick warm up and practice. Then follow your programme as normal from then.
WHY DO IT TO YOURSELF?
YOU CAN USE THIS TO MASTER THE PISTOL SQUAT — this a great way of learning to Pistol if you want to Pistol but can’t quite Pistol. If you’re nowhere near, you must stick to the early progressions. But, if you’re close, the roll gives you the tiny assist you need to get through the all important bottom inch or two — the sticking point for most — and then you can have a whale if a time powering back up. This will likely lead to building the strength required for the real thing over time. It’s one of the best ways to master these in my opinion.
IT USES FULL RANGE OF MOTION – Used to a lot of lunges and barbell squats? Great. But you might be missing something, we want to be strong through the entire natural range of motion. So get involved with these and you will spur new growth and development in an often left out range.
IT’S FUN (it is). I don’t care what you say. these are fun. you are going to have a good time.
YOU’LL GET AMAZING THIGHS – If you want amazing thighs, you need to build real strength through a full range of motion. what better tool then, than mastering rock-bottom, slow, controlled Pistols to force your thighs to adapt? It make take months or years to master these, but you’ll look the part when you do.