I’m so glad Josh wrote about the pistol squat the other day in the blog HERE. The pistol squat is one of those movements I told myself, “I would NEVER be able to do.” That I was too big to (at 6’4 / 250lbs), but looking back it was more about I didn’t want to admit I had a weakness. Many people like myself when they first start out in strength training ONLY work on what comes naturally.
What do I mean?
Many wouldn’t be surprised seeing a big and heavy guy pressing a 48kg kettlebell easily — just as many wouldn’t be surprised if a leaner and lighter looking person performing a pistol squat. We are all bias to things that make us feel good, but all of us tend to benefit MORE from doing the things we aren’t awesome at in our workouts.
If you switched these feats for the two body types? The big guy doing a pistol squat and then the lighter guy pressing a 48kg kettlebell? That would be impressive. Why?
Strength is a skill, so therefore is requires consistent practice. Not only that, strength is truly defined by working on your weaknesses. So when you admit it, break out of your comfort zone, and focus on them— the results ARE impressive. That made the pistol squat something I wanted to focus upon for myself!
Sharing my story with you, I wanted to provide a real life example how DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training can be apart of that strength goal. For me, that meant using it to help my pistol squat. Many want to know how to do the pistol squat, but have no idea where to start. Josh gave some great advice in that previous blog post, but I wanted to expand on some of those ideas
I also wanted to give you a taste of what my new program DVRT for Real World Strength & Muscles has to offer. Showing you what you think isn’t possible — IS possible with DVRT.
Build a foundation with USB Single Leg Good Morning
Something Josh Henkin taught me is “we don’t have to squat in order to correct it.” This doesn’t mean going on a 12-week corrective phase to help your squat either. It means thinking about movements that make up the squat and how they teach important and different concepts of the movement. A great exercise to build your pistol squat is the Ultimate Sandbag Single Leg Good Morning.
A hip hinge movement to build a squat? That sounds pretty weird, but if we delve deeper you will see how it makes so much sense! We use the Single Leg Good Morning to build a strong connection of the lats/core/glutes that are of great importance in the squat of any type. Most people still believe the squat is JUST a leg exercise, but anyone that squats heavy of any form knows the close relationship of the core and lats to producing better core stability and stronger legs!
By actively “hugging” the Ultimate Sandbag we instantly get the spine, lats, and core tightly braced to set up for this movement. We are deliberate in how we hold the Ultimate Sandbag and so much of the power of our movements comes not just using the Ultimate Sandbag, but HOW we are using it in our exercises.
While this is a single leg hip hinge, notice how this sounds just like a pistol squat. I have to keep one foot stable as the other kicks back driving through the heel. You’ll also notice one side will be stronger than the other. So this builds great unilateral strength that’s required for a strong pistol squat. Yes mobility is important, but if you can’t stabilize in the right places first — there will be a instant roadblock to progressing your strength skills.
Shoulder Squat to Pigeon Squat
Never confuse simple with easy. This Ultimate Sandbag complex will be a challenge at first, but lead major strength gains understanding how the ENTIRE body works as one piece. This is done by shouldering the USB on one side, instantly you’re required to resist shifting to the loaded side (so the obliques will be talking to you). Once set up, think you want to pull your torso in between you’re hips and go no further from hip to knee level (for both exercises). You come up from the shoulder squat, and stack one foot over the other knee pressing into it. Be sure to squeeze the glutes tight once the hips fully extend back up. I recommend performing not more than 3-4 reps for each leg.
The shoulder position is a way we can build the lateral strength that the pistol squat requires. One of the most beneficial aspects of the pistol squat is that even though we are moving up and down we have to RESIST movement side to side and in rotation. A great way to build such a solid foundation is the use of the shoulder position in DVRT.
Training in 3-D for the Pistol: Side Lunge to Inside Clean to Cossack
The Ultimate Sandbag Cossack is the perfect exercise to now build the mobility required for the pistol squat (once you’ve earned you prerequisites from the other two above). BUT, how can we make it better versus a typical cossack? The USB side clean gives the perfect set up to complement the cossack by driving the feet into the ground first from the side deadlift position and stepping in laterally. Once standing in a tall vertical plank with the Ultimate Sandbag is once again ripped apart or “hugged”.
This type of reactive strength training can help people not only stabilize in the pistol squat, but learn how not to “dump” in the end ranges as well as when they have to reverse their movement. Just because the pistol squat is often done with body weight doesn’t mean it can’t be performed incorrectly, or in a way that places the body at risk.
Step to other side hugging the USB down into the cossack. Notice how my extending leg locks out rolling through the heel as the other leg remains planted into the ground. Perform no more thank 3-5 reps for each side. Do NOT let the heel lift up, as this is a sign of poor ankle mobility. If you cannot perform a cossack now, just perform the side lunge to inside clean to build your strength toward it.
The USB Pistol Squat
Now let’s finally get to the main event and put everything I’ve been talking about together with the Ultimate Sandbag Pistol Squat. This is wear the Ultimate’s Sandbag’s outside handles become very useful and effective for this challenging strength movement. By pulling the handles apart this engages the lats and retracts the shoulders down and back.
The lats (the big wings of your back) are RARELY talked about in strength training, other than getting that “v-taper” that people want to look sweet in their new shirts. Yet, when the lats are engaged, the core braces up more effectively to be pulled down into the pistol squat. Once at the bottom and pushing the USB out in front of you — drive your rooted foot HARD into the ground and flex the glutes until the hips are fully extended. Another major benefit of utilizing the USB is when it’s pushed out in front of you; this widens your base of support for better pistol position.
Some may not be able to use just the handles because you will find that your lats and core just aren’t up for the challenge. You can grab the outside of the Ultimate Sandbag itself and get many of the same benefits.
For those of you that already do a little press out with a plate or kettlebell, you will find this to be a whole new experience. Naturally most people push a weight a bit out in front of themselves to counter balance. Nothing wrong with that, but they are missing a HUGE opportunity to build even better movement and strength!
Take notice in this demo how we can manipulate the range of motion by using a chair, medicine or ball at the bottom pistol position to focus on stabilizing the in the RIGHT places first and then progress lower and lower until you own it.
If you wish to know more about how to get stronger with exercises like these — check out our DVRT Workout programs for 25% off with coupon code “spring2018” HERE