Pistol Squat Progression

A friend suggested I read a book that she claimed ‘everyone should read,’ and you know what? I think she’s right. Roar by Stacy Sims is a book based on how to match your food and fitness to the female physiology for optimum performance and great health. Yes, this book is based on the female body so parts certainly don’t apply to men, but there are some interesting points that lead me to this month’s article, which I find to be very beneficial for both men and women.

Stacy describes your glutes and hips as the steering wheel and stabilizer of your legs. If you don’t have a solid steering wheel, your legs will go in every which way. Wobbly ankles and knees collapsing inward are a recipe for disaster. AKA injury. The good news, both are preventable. 

Living in a mountain town, quad dominance is a common trend and is a subject I think we need to bring some light to. By balancing out our strengths and utilizing the entire body, we are setting ourselves up for success and ensuring that we can continue to do the things we love. As we start to consider the glutes and hips as the body’s steering wheel, we also need to look at what we can do to keep them strong for better balance and stability. 

A bodyweight movement I find to be very beneficial is the Pistol Squat. This unilateral movement (single leg) requires glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, core and a certain level of ankle mobility. When done to full range of motion, the thigh and back of the calf may touch. Sounds crazy, right? Not to worry, we will spend time below activating and mobilizing the posterior chain, core, and ankles to ensure the squat can be performed properly and effectively. 

Regardless of what your depth in this movement looks like, we need to be mindful that the knee isn’t collapsing inward, the heel isn’t lifting and that we are working to fire the glutes/stabilizers instead of relying on the dominance of our quads. Okay, so how do we do this? Let’s start with muscle mind connection. This means you actively think about muscles you are using while performing the movement. 

Essentially, what I am asking you to do is think about your butt right now as we start with a warm up followed by the progressions!

Warm up: 2 rounds 
Sustained weighted calf stretch - Standing on a step, allow the heel to slowly drop down, emphasising the calf. Hold for 15-30s. Repeat 4-6x per leg.
*Thank you Dr. Steph McDowell for this suggestion.

Single Toe Raise - Hands on hips, bend left knee up, contract right glute by coming onto toes, engage core to maintain balance. Slowly lower heel back down. Repeat 8-10 reps per side.
Glute Bridge - Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Raise glutes off the ground and squeeze, lift one foot off the ground being mindful that hips stay level, lower foot back down. 

Option to do all 10 on one side or alternate for a total 20 reps.

Pistol Squat:

Begin by placing chair/box beneath you.
Extend left leg, bending right leg and press your hips back. Keep a long spine.
Lower yourself to box (stack yoga blocks/books to make higher if need be).
Drive grounding foot into floor, keeping knee in a solid position as you stand up.
Option 1: 
Remove box and lower as far as possible while keeping good form. This is where thigh and back of calf may touch.

Option 2: 
For more support hold onto a stable surface or use a band.

Bonus points: 
Do this without shoes on.

Perform 3-5 good quality reps per side.