Pistol Squat Progressions: From Beginner to Full Movement

The pistol squat is a highly challenging bodyweight movement common to CrossFit workouts. This exercise not only requires strength, but balance and a high amount of body awareness. For many, the pistol squat is too challenging to safely perform. The following are my favorite variations and progressions towards performance of a full pistol squat. Don’t follow this as a strict progression…some will find certain exercises easier/harder than the order I have them listed in.

Split Squat

Split squat

Reverse Lunge (with or without slider)

Reverse Lunge Slider

Reverse Lunge with Foot Flat – the flat foot makes standing up much harder as the back leg cannot push as much.

Reverse Lunge Foot Flat

Reverse Lunge with Foot Off the Ground – again harder due to back leg not being able to produce as much force.

Reverse Lunge Foot Off

Box Pistols – varying heights according to athlete ability. Make the exercise harder by not putting full body weight onto the box.

Box Pistols

Box Single Leg Squats – again, height of the box will really change the difficulty of this one. Have athlete tap the heel on the ground. This will prevent them from using that leg to push off as they stand.

Box SL Squats

Ring or TRX Pistols – use rings/TRX for balance help and for a little upper body assistance if needed.

Ring Pistol

Pistol with Weights – often times, holding a weight can provide balance assistance and make pistols easier.

Counterweight Pistol


Pistol Squat

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