One of my clients is working on her pistol squat to one day compete for the Iron Maiden Challenge. While I cannot disclose the specific training I have given her, I CAN tell you it was less dense that the usual preparatory work that goes into getting your RKC/SFG kettle bell certification.
For the Iron Maiden Challenge, female participants are required to perform a 1 legged squat (aka the pistol squat) with a 24kg kettle bell (roughly 54 pounds). This is NOT an easy feat, but you CAN easily program this lift by ironing out the basics of the body weight pistol squat.
The body weight pistol squat is an exercise that is all about balance and strength. I say balance first because there are a number of things that can actually throw your balance off regardless of how strong your legs may be. I
To start, let’s talk about some of your hip flexors. Tighter than usual hip flexors can cause your knee to cave inward, causing you to wobble to the point of losing your balance during the pistol itself. Be sure to stretch them out properly before practicing the squat. Also, if you have tight hamstrings and quad muscles, you might find it difficult to anchor yourself downward. I highly recommend using a foam roller to roll out any knows in your hamstrings or quads and to help relax the muscles.
Now that you’re all stretched out, let’s talk about increasing your leg strength. First, find an adjustable box jump and start squatting on to the box with one leg. You will sit down onto the box with one of your legs extended. Over time, you want to lower the box until you reach almost floor level. Once you progress that far down, you are ready for the body weight pistol squat.
Once you progress that far down, you are ready for the body weight pistol squat. The rep schemes you will want to focus on for your body weight pistol squat should increase incrementally over time. I recommend starting with 3 set of 3 pistols and working your way up 5 sets of 5 over the course of time.
Here’s a week by week guide for 3 weeks to help you master your body weight pistol.
Week 1: 3 sets of 3 pistols R and L, 2 days a week
Week 2: 4 sets of 3 pistols R and L, 2 days a week
week 3: 5 Sets of 3 pistols R and L, 2 days a week
Instructor note: after your 3rd week take 1 week off and repeat this process starting at 3 sets of 4 pistols.
Truth be told, I have been following just some intermittent pistol squat practice to keep my movement pattern fresh in my mind. I have NOT trained any weighted pistol squats since August of 2016, but out of curiosity, I went to test the old 24kg pistol squat just to se if my body weight practice held enough weight to move a 54 pound kettle bell. The results were awesome! While I cannot make the claim that by JUST doing body weight pistols without any added load will get you to a similar result, I CAN tell you that continually practicing the movement patter with your body weight pistol WILL lead to better power output when going for a heavy lift!
I guess this just goes to show you that less IS more when it comes to keeping your power up to date 🙂
If you have any more questions on how to train the pistol squat, or are looking for more kettlebel related training in general, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or request a free consultation by clicking this link. I have clients here in Pittsburgh and also distance coaching clients that I train around the world. You may read client testimonies as well by clicking this link !
That’s it for today’s pistol action folks! Until next time. . .