It seems that pistol squats with are easier with your hands in front of you than they are with your hands behind you. What I don't understand is why.

Like with a front lever or planche or whatever straddles are easier because they're reducing your body length and thus torque. And with situps having a weight behind your neck is harder than having it in front because it seems like if it's in front you can rely on chest muscles to push it up whereas you can't if it's behind you.

But what about pistol squats and hand placement? I just don't get it.


  • 3
    I think it's just balance. Dec 3, 2013 at 9:13
  • 2
    Like Dave said, it's just balance. Your center of mass is somewhere around your heel or even behind it and you want it to be over the middle of the foot; putting hands in front helps achieve just this. Some people who can't do a pistol suddenly can when holding a 5kg weight in their hands (I guess one of the few exercises where adding weight actually helps).
    – VPeric
    Dec 3, 2013 at 15:29
  • Speaking from experience (it's something featured in the martial arts style I practice), it's largely balance. Once you can do it fluidly and have the muscle to hold yourself up (and not everyone can do this), then putting your arms elsewhere isn't that terribly hard.
    – user241
    Dec 4, 2013 at 2:38

1 Answer 1


Think about it for a second: once the movement starts, the weight of the body is being balanced by the leg on the floor; to maintain a good posture for the exercise, the body's weight shifts backwards. If the force generated by the leg on the floor can counteract the body's weight, the hands can be placed anywhere.

However, for most people (or beginners), the leg isn't strong enough to balance the whole body; therefore, the arms are needed in front to tilt the weight forward and thus, help the foot balance the overall weight.

So basically,

Weight by arms (in front) + force generated by the standing leg = total body weight (in the back)

Again, if the leg is strong enough to generate enough force to counteract the body's weight, the arms can be placed anywhere.


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