Global Bodyweight Training
The Single Leg Box Squat: Progressing to the Pistol

The Pistol squat is an impressive feat of strength, and the Single Leg Box Squat is a great place to start!

One of the challenges of bodyweight training is finding creative ways to continue to progress in your training without adding external resistance. There are multiple ways this can be accomplished, including changing the tempo, rest, sets, speed or leverage. Another supper effective technique is progressing to single limb training. Moving from bilateral (two limbs) to unilateral (one limb) completely changes the dynamic of the exercise. That’s why I’m such a fan of the single leg squat.

Building Stability for the Pistol Squat

Global Bodyweight Training, Mike Fitch
Full Pistol Squat
When we move to a single leg squat, we are challenging the stability of the ankle, knee, hip, and trunk, as well as the overall stability of the body as a unit. It’s extremely important to build this stability when building your foundation for a pistol squat.

A pistol squat is performed by single leg squatting all the way down until the butt touches the heel of the same leg. The opposite leg is extended straight out in front, with the arms straight and held at shoulder level.

Due to the fact that the pistol requires so much strength, you will need the stability in order for the muscles to exert that level of force. The single leg box squat allows us to progress into the deeper versions of this exercise, while activating the necessary hip musculature.

Global Bodyweight Training - Mike Fitch
Be sure to always align your knee over the toe!
Usually when we see someone squat and their knees go inward, it’s a good indicator that there is an imbalance of tight to weak muscles in their lower body. One commonly weak hip muscle is the glute medius which plays a vital role in tracking the knees during the squat. The single leg squat is an excellent way to activate this muscle and improve the entire mechanics of the hip, knee and ankle.

Performing the Single Leg Box Squat

If we start with a high enough object, you can perform the exercise with perfect form, and you’ll notice a quick progression into a deeper single leg squat. If you start too low and learn the movement with poor form, it will be much harder to progress to more advanced versions. So, take your time, and remember you can’t build a house without a solid foundation first!

Check out this video below for step-by-step instructions for beginning with the single leg box squat.

Stay tuned for more instructional videos on different versions of the single leg squat, as well as the pistol squat!

  • To read more about how great squats are, check out this article I wrote last year: RESURRECTING THE SQUAT
  • For a combination exercise that has both a squat pattern and a vertical pushing pattern, check out my video on this cool horizontal squat: THE HORIZONTAL SQUAT WITH PRESS


Published by Mike Fitch

Mike is the founder of Global Bodyweight Training. He has more than 12 years as a fitness professional encompassing a wide range of disciplines which he draws upon to create the GBT system.

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  1. This training led me to do a full pistol squat (but while holding a single 20 lb dumbbell for balance assistance). So I’m not totally there, but this tutorial helped me make great progress.

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