The way I heard about one legged squats is to them like this: stand, lower yourself on one leg while the other points forward, then push yourself up. When I try to do this, I don't even get my standing leg to 90° bent before the knee with weight on it feels weird and I run into trouble lifting the other leg.

So, today I've been doing this: squatting down (sitting on the back of my feet), and then doing a squat where I lift one leg so the other one does all the work. I think it works great and I guess I will feel my legs tomorrow. The feeling in the knees was ok.

One thing I will do different the next time is to force myself to end the movement with my upper body upright. Today I cheated by leaving the torso bent forward. I think when I end the movement with my torso upright, I will also hit the posterior chain. At a later stage, I may add some weight, but before I do that I want to have more feel for the movement as I'm a bit wary for my lower back. The last time I did legwork it was 30 deep bodyweight squats, could have done more, and today I did 3 sets of 10 reps per leg. Keeping the balance was no issue.

However, I've never seen this way of doing one legged squats advised anywhere and I think I read a bit about bodyweight work. So, I wonder if I'm doing something that's horribly unhealthy and I just did not notice.

  • Is this a good way to do one legged squats?
  • Are there any risks associated with this exercise, should I be on the lookout for certain signs of trouble?
  • Any tricks to improve the exercise?

Edit to add:
I do this occasionally, with 10-12 reps per set and leg. I try to be anal about form (feet pointing forward, weight on heel, tight abs) and so far my joints don't complain. When I'm not strict about form something feels wrong immediately. Possibly the pistol is inherently safer. Another possible downside is that it's easy to cheat oneself out of the full range of movement. You need to flexibility to squat deep (ass on heels), balance is easy. All in all I still think I stumbled upon a valuable exercise.

  • So...how's this project been going? Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 22:49
  • This is something that's a particular characteristic of the martial arts style I practice. Not everyone can get it, but those that do start out with using some kind of support to hold when going up and down. Keeping the foot flat is also important. With enough practice and time and building the strength, it can be achieved. Unfortunately it's either you do it or don't.
    – user241
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 22:59
  • @DaveLiepmann I answered your question in the body of my post.
    – mart
    Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 8:01

1 Answer 1


It sounds like you need to follow a one-legged (pistol) squat progression. You shouldn't expect to just be able to do a pistol the first time you try.

Personally, I achieved a bodyweight pistol squat with twice-a-week strength/skill workouts that involved:

  1. a standard barbell squat progression in the beginning of the workout. I think it was three sets of five back squats, but it might have been front squats. I was squatting just over my own bodyweight (i.e. ~200 pounds on the bar at ~180 pounds bodyweight)
  2. pistol skill work at the end of the workout. I think I did ten total reps, or maybe ten each side. At first I stood end-on to a door, grabbing both sides of the doorknob for balance and help standing up. Gradually I relied less and less on the doorknob. I switched to rings, trying to use only the strength of one finger on each ring to get back up.

The gist is to get mobile and strong in the hips while simultaneously developing skill and balance for the one-legged squat.

  • why's a pistol better than what I'm doing?
    – mart
    Commented Nov 18, 2013 at 15:11
  • @mart A pistol is a term for one-legged squats. Technically it's the specific kind where your suspended leg goes out in front of you, as opposed to doing a 1-leg squat on a box. Commented Nov 18, 2013 at 15:21
  • thanks for the answer, but my main question is about risks with the exercise I described.
    – mart
    Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 8:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.