You want the benefits of doing pistol squats but either don't enjoy doing them, or you'd like a variety of exercise options. Pistol squats mostly target your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. Additionally, your core and hip flexors are also worked. If you’re looking for an alternative for pistol squats, we’ve rounded up nine single-leg substitutes for you to try.
Table of Contents
- 9 Best Pistol Squat Alternatives (For Perfect Balance & Mobility)
- Benefits of Alternative Exercises Over Pistol Squats
- Common Pistol Squat Substitute Questions
9 Best Pistol Squat Alternatives (For Perfect Balance & Mobility)
1. Skater Squat
Skater squats, also sometimes called "knee tap squats," are a great unilateral exercise suited toward all strength levels. The benefits of doing skater squats are that they are easier to do than compared with pistol squats.
Beginners are able to perform this workout with a limited range of motion and build from there, while more advanced strength levels can add weight to the exercise. Skater squats target your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Additionally, they help to stretch your hip flexors and ankles too, which improves mobility.
How To Do A Skater Squat
2. Reverse Lunge
The reverse lunge exercise is perfect for people struggling with existing knee problems, decreased hip mobility, or people who have a hard time maintaining their balance.
As a unilateral exercise (working a single leg at a time), you have more stability on your front leg, and less strain is placed on your joints. This exercise targets your glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles.
How To Do A Reverse Lunge
See Also - 10 Best Alternatives To Lunges
3. Split Squat
Split squats apply a very similar movement to a reverse lunge, except it does not involve stepping backward. Instead, both of your feet remain in place throughout the exercise. If you struggle with the coordination and balance required for reverse lunges, then split squats are an excellent alternative.
This exercise targets your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. If you’d like to increase the intensity of the workout, you can add weights.
How To Do A Split Squat
Read More - Split Squat Vs Lunge
4. Step Up
The step up is an excellent alternative exercise that works the same muscles as a split squat and involves a similar range of motion for your joints. It’s very easy to execute and is a great way to slowly build up your strength for pistol squats.
Adjusting the height of your step modifies the workout, allowing you to target specific muscles more. A low step will work your quads more, while a high step targets the glutes and hamstrings more.
How To Do A Step Up
Also Check Out - 10 Best Step Up Substitutes
5. Single-Leg Box Squat
The single-leg box squat is as close to a pistol squat as you’ll get but is significantly easier to perform. It also lets you progressively build up your strength. Once you’ve mastered the single-leg box squat, you can progress onto doing Bulgarian split squats or pistol squats.
With this exercise, you’ll be isolating your hamstrings one leg at a time. This is one of the most efficient ways to strengthen your knees and prevent knee pain. Aside from targeting your leg muscles, you’ll also be working your core.
How To Do An Single-Leg Box Squat
Suggested Equipment - Quality Plyo Boxes For Home Gyms
6. Single-Leg Lateral Squat
The single-leg lateral squat exercise is very similar to a pistol squat, except that your non-weight-bearing leg extends out laterally (to the side) rather than in front of you.
This is an excellent exercise for improving the flexibility and strength of your hips and knees, as well as improving your balance and coordination. For this exercise, you’ll be targeting your quads, glutes, hamstrings, hip adductors, and calves.
How To Do A Single-Leg Lateral Squat
7. Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat is an exercise staple that should be a part of every leg workout routine. This pistol squat alternative is more challenging than the regular split squat, requiring a decent amount of stability and baseline strength from your muscles and joints.
How To Do A Bulgarian Split Squat
8. Forward Lunge
The forward lunge is a very simple yet versatile leg exercise perfect for beginners. While it doesn't require any equipment, you can add weight to increase the intensity of the workout too.
Forward lunges target the glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and adductor muscles. Additionally, the stability required for the correct form makes them an excellent strengthening exercise for your core and back muscles too.
How To Do A Forward Lunge
Read Also - Benefits Of Lunges
9. Knee Drives
Knee drives are an easy but effective pistol squat alternative exercise that combines the movement of a step up and doing high knees. While you can do this exercise standing on the ground, using a plyometric box or platform helps to increase the range of motion and enhance the workout.
How To Do Knee Drives
Benefits of Alternative Exercises Over Pistol Squats
There are a variety of reasons why people should consider alternative exercises rather than pistol squats. While pistol squats offer a great leg workout, they do have their drawbacks.
These include being very difficult to execute and requiring a significant level of baseline strength. Additionally, incorrect form while doing pistol squats can cause lower back pain due to the overuse of the hip flexors.
Conversely, our alternative exercises allow you to target similar muscles without the above-mentioned problems. Added to this, pistol squats require you to lower yourself right down to the ground.
If you have an existing hip or leg injury, this would mean you’re not able to do the workout at all. At least half of the alternative exercises on our list don’t require such an extended range of motion, and they can be further customized to suit your needs or limitations.
Common Pistol Squat Substitute Questions
Why is it called a pistol squat?
The pistol squat, a variation of a single-leg squat, gets its name from the form or shape created when doing the exercise. When you perform the workout, you’ll extend your hand forward and grasp your foot, forming the shape of a pistol with your body.
Why is the pistol squat so hard?
The pistol squat is the most challenging squat to master, requiring both mobility and strength in order to execute the exercise. Unlike standard single-leg squats, pistol squats involve a wider range of motion, making them more challenging. In a pistol squat, the goal is to drop down as low as possible, ideally resting your hamstring on your calf.
Are pistol squats good for knees?
Pistol squats are not necessarily harmful or bad for your knees. When performed correctly, pistol squats can be beneficial to your knees. With the correct form, you’ll be able to target your glutes, quads, and calves while also strengthening your knee ligaments and tendons.
Which of these substitute exercises is best for beginners?
More than half of the alternative exercises we’ve included are suited toward beginners. These include: reverse lunges, split squats, step-ups, single-leg box squats, single-leg lateral squats, forward lunges, and knee drives.
That wraps up our comprehensive guide to pistol squat alternatives. Now that you know the benefits of these substitute exercises and what muscles are targeted, you'll be able to reach your goals and build your strength without having to do a pistol squat. The nine substitutes provided will help your strength training, and you'll achieve your goals in no time!
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