Strength Training for Runners: Pistol Squats

Photo: Scott Draper

“Pistol squats help a runner identify leg imbalances and work on improving these imbalances by training the legs separately,” says Siobhan Kilgallen, director of Athletic Reconditioning at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. “This exercise is also beneficial for runners who train on uneven surfaces.”

Pistol squats also develop flexibility, endurance, balance, coordination and strength by targeting the quads, hamstrings, calves, buttocks, core and hip muscles.

How To Do It:

(Note: Beginners should place a chair, bench or box behind them for support and guidance.)

Step 1: From a standing position, extend your arms outward so they’re parallel to the ground. Extend one leg out in front of you. Don’t allow the toes of the standing leg to turn outward or inward.

Step 2: Slowly squat down on your standing leg while keeping your other leg extended in front of you. “Don’t allow your heel to come off the ground,” Kilgallen warns. “If this continues to happen, place an object under your heel to provide a ramp.”

Step 3: Squat as low as you can (beginners should try to touch their butt on a chair) and press into the standing foot before returning to the starting position. Resist the urge to bounce as you go back to the first position.

Kilgallen recommends doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions of this exercise on each leg. Try to squat lower and lower while maintaining a stable stance. Eventually try not to use anything supporting you from behind. Keep the shin of the standing leg as close to vertical as possible, and also try to keep your back flat.


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