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How to Do Pistol Squats

The Squat Variation You Need to Do If You Want Strong Legs and Glutes

Building a great rear is no walk in the park, and just doing cardio will not get you a strong, plump butt. What does it take, you ask? We talked with Sarah Chadwell, CPT, a bikini competitor, who agrees that iron, sweat, tears, and glute-specific exercises are what it takes to transform a butt. Additionally, the hard truth about booty gains is that you need to be lifting heavy and lifting smart!

"I have years of experience in the booty building department!" Sarah told POPSUGAR. "As a bikini competitor, the shape of your butt almost becomes your obsession, because it's one of your most valuable assets on the stage and maybe the hardest part of your body to get just right. I used a myriad of exercises to sculpt my derriere, but my secret weapon was heavy pistol squats."

Why You Should Do Pistol Squats

Pistol squats might just be the most challenging unilateral bodyweight exercise ever dreamed up. They require tremendous lower-body strength, balance, and flexibility. They will definitely kick your glute's butt (if that's even possible), and they'll help eliminate muscular imbalances, helping you build near-perfect symmetry. But remember, this is about going heavy. That is the singular truth about booty gains — lifting heavy weight will yield results!


How to Do Pistol Squats

  • Stand in an athletic stance, feet hip-width apart. Raise one foot slightly off the ground while you balance on the other.
  • Hold your arms straight out in front of you parallel to the floor with your palms facing downward.
  • Brace your core.
  • Hinge at the hips to begin lowering your body toward the ground. Don't allow the heel of your balance foot to leave the ground.
  • Your nonbalance leg should be extending straight out in front of you parallel to the floor while you descend downward.
  • At the bottom of the movement, your glute should be resting on your calf (on the balance foot side).
  • One you reach the bottom, pause and then begin moving back up into standing position.
  • Don't allow your raised foot to touch the floor before beginning the next repetition. Do as many reps as you can. This will not be high-volume work.
  • Switch legs and repeat.

How to Modify Pistol Squats

"You may not be able to complete a pistol squat without building up more glute, hamstring, and quad strength first. That is OK!" Sarah advised. "If you are just starting out, start with a progression that will help you achieve a full-blown pistol squat."

Here is a modified progression that will help you work up to a full pistol squat. Stay patient, and remember that it takes time to accomplish a pistol squat. You'll feel so accomplished when you finally get there, though!

  • Stand in front of a box or flat bench. You'll sit down on this box or bench as you perform the pistol squat instructions from above.
  • When you descend, go all the way down until you actually sit on the box.
  • Pause and begin moving back up to standing position.
  • Each week, try to use boxes that are lower and lower to the ground, until you are strong enough to touch your glute to your calf and stand without assistance.
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