THE PLATFORM PISTOL...

The final move in our series of one-legged squats is the simple, easy to learn, easy to do anywhere -- Platform Pistol. Simply find something the right height and squat to it, repeatedly. Your arse and thighs are going to love it.

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HOW TO PLATFORM PISTOL:

GET A BENCH OR A STEP OR STACK OF MATS OR WHATEVER-THE-HELL-ELSE YOU GOT OF APPROPRIATE HEIGHT — it needs to be as close to the floor as possible, while still allowing you to actually be able to do the damn thing.

DO YOUR FIRST REP WITH BOTH LEGS — just so that you can get confidence and a
sense of how low you need to go before your bum hits the platform. Without this
most people mess up the first rep worrying they are going to fall over rather than concentrating on their Pistol. It’s also a splendid idea to stand so close to the platform that your calves touch it, that way there’s less chance of missing it.

THEN START FOR REAL ON ONE LEG — that’s the point of the exercise after all.

NOW, ACTIVELY REACH YOUR ARMS AND ‘SPARE’ LEG OUT IN FRONT— This helps to counter-balance, and makes it easier to feel a stretch in the back of your
working leg sooner, which is what we want.

OH, AND KEEP YOUR FRONT LEG LOCKED — this is the dream, it takes a bit of quad and hip flexor strength, but also helps to stop you falling over backwards.

SHOOT YOUR BUM BACK — as with any squat, push your bum back athletically, like you’re about to sit down.

CONTROL WITH STRENGTH ALL THE WAY TO THE PLATFORM — Now decend smoothly and with strength until you land silently on your platform. Feel your standing
leg–your quads, but particularly your arse–controlling the move.

ROCK BACK JUST A LITTLE — if you need to. When you’re good at these you can
leave that out.

ROCK FORWARD — to gain just a little momentum. Nothing crazy. Try to rock
forward smoothly and feel your weight go into your standing heal and your glutes load (stretch and feel the tension).

STAMP THROUGH YOUR FRONT HEAL — Then we drive back up. Imagine your stamping or pushing strongly through your front heal.

‘GLUTE LOCK’ AT THE TOP — keep pushing all the way to the top. If it’s a tough
rep, speed up as soon as you are through the sticking point and finish with a strong glute-lock and straight leg. If your’re really good and in perfect balance, keep your front leg out in front, if you’re not quite there yet, take a second and touch down before you go again.

THE PROGRESSIONS

There’s a bit of a knack to picking the perfect drill for any individual with these. Our goal is two fold: firstly, to get the best leg strength stimulus we can, and secondly to build towards perfect pistol squats (for fun). The progressions below run basically from easiest to hardest, and you’ll want to find out where you are and progress through them. Lower the platform then work your way from easiest to hardest.

However, there is a time and place to jumping back and forth between the drills. It won't always be a linear progression. Be systematic, but if you get stuck on any one progression for too long, mix it up a bit.

FOR EACH PLATFORM HEIGHT, THERE ARE 4 PROGRESSIONS

PROGRESSION 1: SPARE LEG ASSISTS – Here the 'spare leg' stays grounded and does up to about 20% of the work. We use this if we aren’t strong enough or we need to break through a depth plateau.

PROGRESSION 2: ROCK. STAMP. HINGE. – Lifting the working side foot and actually stamping to initiate the drive up is the final ‘cheat’ if you just can’t quite get it up at a certain height. So every rep we hinge into it, reach the hands and stamp down hard to initiate the upward drive.

PROGRESSION 3: JUST HINGE: Here we start to remove the cheats: no more reaching, no more stamping, but you are allowed to hinge into the move to help you get started.

PROGRESSION 4: STRICT REPS: In the hardest progression, you stop all the cheats and use your dead start strength to drive back up with no momentum. Simply lean the body into the correct position, hold the core and torso still and press your foot down until you squat all the way up.

HOW YOU PEOPLE MESS IT UP...

YOU MISS THE STEP – OK, this is as rare as it is hilarious. But it's happened! Possibly re-read the instructions a little and don’t do these on a boat in choppy waters, and do check the step is actualy there before you start!

YOUR HEAL COMES UP – This is a BIG one. It happens if you don’t know how to squat properly, if you’re not concentrating, if you have physical restrictions (like tight ankles), but particularly if you are really trying to cheat the squat but you don’t have the strength to drive back up from your chosen mat height. What happens, is that you roll into a good position, try and drive up through your heal, but quickly your body realises it doesn’t have the strength to push up (the horror!), so you roll forwards past the ‘groove’ where we are trying to train and then your heal comes up as you drive up–unfortunately your whole body falls forward as you do this. Naughty!

The fix: sense when this happening, and fight harder to squat with your heal down and without your body rocking forward too far. If you simply don’t have the strength, you have to make the exercise easier (for now). Either use a higher platform, or use your spare leg to assist (progression 1) , or try the active stamp cheat discussed below.

YOU STAY TOO UPRIGHT – The ultimate athlete would be able to stay totally upright with these. Strength, flexibility, coordination–they got it all. That’s not me though, and if I dare point out, that ain’t most of you either. So, when we are learning these, especially if you’re not yet strong enough to do them without a platform thing, we want to allow our torso to lean right over, we want top look down and we want to encourage a stretch in the bum. That’s where we need to learn to get power from, and it’s easier (at first) if you allow
yourself to lean into it slightly. So while you’re learning these, do that.

YOU DON’T USE THE ROCK – Stay to static and you don’t get to use the rock to get a little momentum and a little extra glute stretch. If you don’t have enough strength without the rock, you better use the rock! Sit. Rock Back. Rock forwards. Stamp.

YOUR KNEE CAVES IN – classic issue on all squats.

WICKED CUES!

LOOK DOWN, STAMP DOWN – No heavy weight on your back; no need to worry about spine angles. Looking down encourages your glutes to load a bit and you’ll be stronger. Then focus on stamping down and though the floor to encourage glutes, hams, quads to work in unison.

HANDS FORWARDS, BUM BACKWARDS – to be athletic, we need to get a stretch in the posterior chain on the way down, the better you do this, the stronger and more-athletic you’ll be. So we reach our arms one way, our bum the opposite and voila, we learn to stretch and control through the butt.

PUSH THE FLOOR AWAY – there’s a lot going on with these–just look at all the waffle on this page for a start. It’s easy to concentrate so hard that you forget to actually, you know, push yourself all the way back up. So, if your mind gets too busy, you can always go back to this cue…push the floor away with your working leg. As hard as you can.

WHY DO IT TO YOURSELF?!

YOU'LL MASTER THE PISTOL SQUAT, AND THE PLATFORM PISTOL PROGRESSION LADDER OR COURSE – as below, Pistols are a fun skill to master. You’re not going to be good at them without great legs. Of course, most people can’t do them straight away. So, we do a few drills to help you master them. Rolling Pistols being one, then using a platform that’s cleverly placed at the height you can just about manage (this drill that is) is another. Strive to master your current level then edge the platform lower and lower as you get better and better.

GET GREAT LEGS – it’s compound; it’s strength; it’s a FULL range of motion squat. Read: if you get really good at these, you will get really great legs.

NO SQUAT RACK? DODGY BACK? NO CONFIDENCE?...NO PROBLEM – I have to admit it. I’m an absolute single-leg squat whore. I use all of them, and I let all of them do things to me, and cause me pain in all kinds of places and in all kind of ways. The thing is, it just feels so right. Having suffered for many years with a bit of a whiplash complaint, I can’t do a traditional barbell back squat wihtout undue neck pain for days after. As much as I’d love to be a hardcore lifter-boy, it’s just not worth it. The exercise doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. For many people, for various reasons, the same is effectively true: they have injuries, they lack of confidence, or they lack the skill that prevents them from lifting big heavy weights.

If that’s you, these and skater squats should be your bread and butter. I routinely find you can get more good quality work, with heavier loads, stressing the right places than you can with heavy weights unless you’re dealing with experienced lifters. If you’re an experienced lifter, you’ll want a little of both two-legged and one-legged strength work. If you’re not, or –like me, you train a lot of people, new people–every day, then these are a safer starting point and the best way to build serious leg strength quickly.

EVEN OUT YOUR TWO LEGS – No doubt, once you’ve had a few goes at these, you’ll feel compelled to tell me that one of your legs is better at it than the other one. Well, welcome to being human. Different strength levels, coordination levels, and bio-mechanical quirks means that almost everyone finds this is the case. The good news is, with practice, you can narrow the gap–and narrowing the gap gives you a better balanced body with more athleticism and less injury risk. Note: work to narrow the gap but don’t chase perfection. You are (probably) human after all.

ALTERNATIVES...

I put so many single-leg squats in The Strength Sessions Programme because it is unlikely you’ll need alternatives.

Most people can do them. They cause very few injuries relative to other things. They can be done pretty much anywhere and they are easily scaled from very easy to very hard.

But if you really can’t do them, I suggest extra work on any of these (as ever, these are in order of preference).

ROLLING PISTOL

DEAD-START SKATER SQUAT

KETTLEBELL SWINGS

GOBLET SQUATS

BIKE INTERVALS

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