The Pistol

The pistol is an advanced exercise that requires great leg strength, midline stability, and balance.  It will improve those three things as well, but differently than regular squats, it will do so with each leg individually.  Typically we have a dominate side which creates asymmetry, breaking the squat down to single legs will help with balancing this out.

Our very own Katie Phillips got her first pistol in Speed and Agility a couple of weeks ago.  Not only did Katie get one, but she repped out pistols like it was her J-O-B!  Super proud of you Katie!

To be performed properly…

- Start standing on one leg (this will be your base leg)

- Lower body down into a full squat (hips below knee) with opposite leg straight out in front. (note: opposite leg DOES NOT touch ground at any point)

- Stand back out of squat by pressing through base foot until full hip extension occurs (note: it is helpful to keep chest as tall as possible, press through heel and think of keeping big toe on ground).


Sounds easy  right?!?  It’s not!!  The amount of control, balance and strength needed to perform a pistol properly is insane.  There are several progressions to make this happen.  First, you must master the back squat.  After proper back squat form is consistent and comfortable, work on single leg strength with step ups.  From here move onto working the actual pistol with limited range of motion by squatting to a tall box for a “fanny target”.  As your strength and balance improve, work at lowering the target until eventually a controlled, full range of motion pistol is achievable.  If you don’t have access to a box or need extra balance support with the box, using a door frame or a secured pole for support will help tremendously to guide you down in the squat with more control.

Not only are leg strength, midline stability, and balance crucial to be able to perform this skill, but also flexibility.  Without good hamstring flexibility, it will be near to impossible to do a proper pistol as your opposite leg will be extremely difficult to hold up off the ground.  Also hip and calf flexibility are critical in order to perform a full depth squat.

If you are interested to go further in depth with this movement, check out this article by T-Nation.


Written by Jenny

Jenny LaBaw has been an athlete her entire life. As a 3-sport collegiate athlete, she competed in soccer, indoor and outdoor track and field. Post college she found her need for competition fulfilled through endurance running races anywhere from 5K’s to marathons. Her competitive drive led her to CrossFit in 2010 where she started training to compete at the elite level. In 2011, her first year competing in CrossFit, Jenny placed 2nd at the Northern California Regionals earning herself a spot to The 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games where she gained the title as the 6th Fittest Woman on Earth. In 2012 she improved her regional standings, taking 1st in Northern California and once again a spot to The Reebok CrossFit Games. Injury took her out of the 2013 season, but is working hard at returning to the Reebok CrossFit Games in 2014. Although, she enjoys competing, Jenny's true love is being outdoors mountain biking, hiking, waterskiing, snow skiing, camping and more with her boyfriend, Marcus and two yellow labs, Ziggy and Pogo. With her love for sport and exercise, Jenny chose a career as a personal trainer so she could share her passion of health and fitness with others. Attending Cornell College, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education with an emphasis in Fitness and Wellness. Prior to Norcal, she has trained in gyms, private training studios, and coached soccer. Her 10+ years of coaching experience has allowed her to work directly with a wide variety of people from children trying to discover their coordination to adults wanting to shed a few pounds to professional athletes looking to be the best in the world. No matter what walk of life you are coming to her from, her mission is to make you realize your potential and help get you there. She will prove to you that you can be stronger, more fit, and healthier than you think you can be. With her inspiration, motivation and dedication, she will challenge your body, encourage your mind, and help you to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Jenny will help you be your best!

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1 Comment

  1. Matt B

    You may bring pistols to a gun fight…but I bring pellet guns!

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