What is a Single Leg Squat?

Dan Cavallari

The single leg squat is often known as a one-legged squat or a pistol squat, and it is exactly what it sounds like: an exercise in which one squats down to a low position on one leg. The single leg squat is an essential part of many workouts because it engages a high number of muscles in the legs, back, and other core muscles. A single leg squat can help build muscles in the legs and back, and it can also help increase endurance in the thighs, calves, hamstrings, and other leg muscles.

Woman doing yoga
Woman doing yoga

To perform a single leg squat, one should start by standing up straight with the shoulders back and hands at the sides. To begin the single leg squat motion, raise the left leg off the ground slightly. Begin to lower the body into a squatting position with all the body's weight resting on the right leg. As the body drops, the left leg should extend forward; by the end of the squat motion, the left leg should be fully extended so it is parallel to the floor. In addition to the leg extension, one should extend both arms forward so they are parallel with the left leg and the ground. This motion will aid in balancing the body on the right foot, and it will also help engage core muscle groups.

The single leg squat is done in repetitions; one should do ten to fifteen squats on one leg, then ten to fifteen on the other leg. Usually the exercise is done in sets, which can be interspersed with other exercises. A person could, for example, do one set of one legged squats — fifteen repetitions for each leg — then do an upper body exercise such as curls. After the curls, the person could go back and do another set of squats. This allows the legs to recover for a few minutes between sets, preventing strain or other injuries.

A variation of the single leg squat is the one legged squat with weights. This exercise is for advanced users who are looking for an additional challenge to muscle development and balance. The exercise is performed in much the same way as the regular one legged squat, but instead of extending the arms out forward so they are parallel to the ground, the person will hold weights in each hand. The weights can be very light to begin, and as the squat is performed, the user will do a curl with the weights. The arms will drop as the squat position is abandoned and the body returns to the upright position.

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