Pistol Squat Progression?

Hi guys,

I have never managed to do a pistol squat, but then I have never had a concerted effort to do so! I think that I looks like a fantastic exercise to be able to do with many advantages to cyclists so want to be able to work on these over 2019.

I don’t think that my main issue is strength related to lift my body weight on one leg (only based on being able to lift over my body weight in front squats) so it could be flexibility, strength required to hold form during the exercise, not believing in myself or more.

Do any of you guys who can do pistol squats:

  1. See any cycling benefits in being able to do them?
  2. have a progression plan to be able to do them over the course of a few months/ year that worked for you?

Can do them, barely because of mobility constraints, but choose not to. Rounding my back every repetition doesn’t feel healthy. Instead I do single leg squats with a straight back and the resting leg beneath/behind me. This works the glutes and quads just fine.

Why would I work on hip and ankle mobility if I don’t compete in olympic weightlifting or crossfit? I see no point at all.

does that help your cycling?

The benefits are stability, strength (functional strength is what Coach Chad coins it) and muscle group balance.

Bottom line: having a strong, balanced and stable core/pelvis will help generate more power, help endurance by spreading the load to fast and slow fibers and prevent injury.

Since I can’t even do one, I’m doing banded squats to a chair to build strength and hopefully in time fold in single leg to a chain then progress lower.


I find they are more about mobility than strength. I’m not particularly strong at barbell squats but I can do pistols well by virtue of good mobility. You might have to spend ages on ankle or hip mobility to get these when time may be better spent riding and barbell squatting. Obviously don’t ignore mobility - but his is a pretty extreme movement. I don’t use pistols to train if I have a barbell, you miss all the core engagement.

Specifically? They might help horrendously steep MTB stuff where you’re grinding a slow gear with chest to bars to keep traction. I like having hip mobility there.

1 Like

It helps in sprinting and shorter efforts, I’m sure, but does probably nothing for ftp. Most importantly, for me at least, my legs look better.
Before totally transitioning to single leg squats, I was doing barbell squats (max. depth) with 110 kg, weighing 75-80 kg myself.
I’m combining single leg squats with glute bridges/hip thrusts, since i no longer deadlift with a barbell.

Coming from a long history of CrossFit (9+ years) I used to do pistols all the time. They were routine in CrossFit workouts. I spent months to years trying to be able to do pistols on my right leg, but a previous knee surgery (ACL, MCL and meniscus tear) just wouldn’t allow it to happen. I could rep out left leg pistols no problem. Conversely, I met workout partners both men and women who could do pistols from the beginning with little or no CrossFit training. Definitely a mobility and flexibility component involved with pistols as long as the basic strength is there.

Having put my CrossFit days behind me (4-5 years ago) and focusing on cycling, I personally don’t have any desire to regain my pistol prowess. There are strength and flexibility gains to be had, but it won’t directly make you a faster cyclist. It will make for a stronger and more flexible athlete which may lead to less injury and more cable in life off the bike. However, I wouldn’t put significant time and energy expecting to see your FTP rise as you become a pistol master. If you just want to learn how to do pistols then by all means there is no harm in doing so. There are plenty of progression videos on the internet, mainly associated with CrossFit.

I know TR is predominantly road focused but if you want to be fast offroad, you need these sorts of things in your life. A massive FTP while neglecting everything else won’t make you fast DH. And you’ll bin it and break yourself far more too :relaxed:


“I know TR is predominantly road focused but if you want to be fast offroad, you need these sorts of things in your life. A massive FTP while neglecting everything else won’t make you fast DH. And you’ll bin it and break yourself far more too :relaxed:

Agree here, and I guess coming from an athletic background the mountain bike and trails have always felt natural to me from day one, so raising my FTP has been my limiter. Mobility, balance, strength and flexibility will always be needed once on the trail and more so as the technicality increases. Those abilities are great to focus on in the off season/base phase and then skills work on the trail as riding season opens up.

this was interesting:

and another one:

google “pistol squat progressions” or similar.

1 Like

When is that extreme ankle mobility ever needed in biking, on- or offroad? Never, I’m quite sure. Hip mobility on the other hand is needed in an aero body position on road as well, not only offroad.

There is nothing magical about pistols. They alone aren’t going to make you any slower or faster.
What pistols do, is highlight imbalances and mobility issues in a very clear way. If you can do them, great. If you can’t, not the end of the world. But it is why you can’t that could be more telling. Addressing the why could lead you to developing the abilities to generate more power, more consistently, for longer.

1 Like

I saw @chad recommend them in this video:

I’ve been trying to train them for a few weeks with a bit of success. Am currently down to ‘coffee table’ height from ‘edge of my sofa’.

It feels like a ‘good muscle balance’ thing whilst I’m doing it. If it makes my legs look better then that’s double cool.

1 Like

Just like the one arm pull up and one arm press up you look cool :joy:

Jump on you tube and check out Carl Paoli https://www.youtube.com/user/nakaathletics
He has a book called Freestyle, but a lot of his stuff is on You Tube as well.
Another place for Pistol Squat Progressions is found in Mike Fitch’s Body Weight Athlete program. https://www.globalbodyweighttraining.com/bwahome/

Pistol Squats aren’t essential for cycling performance, but they could help. Particularly if you don’t have access to barbells, kettlebells etc. Pistols generally allow you to demonstrate good mobility and stability / motor control.

There are many other options for body weight single leg strength training. Split Squats, Lunges, Shrimp Squats to name a few.

I’m not a fan of pistol squats as it usually puts the knee in front of the toe which puts too much stress on the knees.

Split squats, backward lunges, kneel-to-stand are single leg drills that put less stress on the knees. And can do them safely with weights if you want to increase resistance.


I personally like goblet squats or any single leg split variation holding a kettlebell. Kettlebells are versatile and easily stored, so no need for extravagant equipment.

I can do pistols, but not sure they’re fantastic for strictly strength.

It helps if you have a thicker rubber band, attached to two poles. That way you have a bit more support when doing a pistol squat.



-Double leg deep squat, if you can’t do this, then raise your heels about 1-2 inches (continue using the heel lift through all progressions if necessary then slowly lower and remove it)
-Double leg deep squat lowering, then lift one foot and come to standing
-Single leg sit to stands from a low seat
-Double leg deep squat lowering, this time extend one leg out (pistol squat position) and come to standing. Use handheld assistance if needed
-Full pistol squat with handheld assistance then without

Extra credit: perform a pistol squat then proceed immediately into a shrimp squat :fire:

Bike-Body separation during cornering, ascending/descending technical terrain, hitting sweet jumps and manuals… for road specifically probably just bike-body separation during cornering and likely to a lesser extent than mtb or CX.

For me, being a heavy guy with plenty of “energy stores” doing 3x5 sets of coffee table or roughly 90 degree knee bend is as low as I can mustre. I hated leg day in the gym when I was younger and my muscular imbalances show it. When I do them (admittedly not often enough) my glutes are super sore for a few days after which tells me I really should be doing these at least twice a week.
As far as benefits go, having a more balanced musculature means less aches and pains due to imbalance (namely my lower back). Plus my wife is appreciative of my new and improved glutes :metal: