Are One-Legged Squats Better? Benefits, Technique, and Tips

Are one legged squats better? That is a question that many people have been asking lately. More and more fitness enthusiasts are discovering the benefits of single-leg exercises, and the one-legged squat, or pistol squat, is becoming increasingly popular. But why is this particular exercise gaining so much attention? And is it really better than traditional squats?

Well, the answer isn’t necessarily clear cut. While one-legged squats do offer some unique benefits, such as improved balance and stability, they may not be superior to traditional squats across the board. However, what is clear is that incorporating pistol squats into your workout routine can certainly add some variety and challenge to your leg day.

So, whether you’re a seasoned fitness enthusiast or a beginner just starting out on your fitness journey, it’s worth considering incorporating one-legged squats into your leg workouts. Not only will you be working different muscles and improving your balance, but you’ll also be keeping your routine fresh and exciting. So, how can you get started with pistol squats? Keep reading to find out.

Benefits of One-Legged Squats

One-legged squats, also known as pistol squats, are a type of strength training exercise that involve lowering your body weight onto one leg while keeping the other leg extended out in front of you. This exercise requires balance, coordination, and strength in your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Below are some of the benefits of incorporating one-legged squats into your exercise routine:

  • Improved balance: One-legged squats require a significant amount of stability and balance, which can improve your overall balance and reduce your risk of falls in everyday life.
  • Increased strength: Performing one-legged squats can increase strength and muscle endurance in your lower body, particularly in your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
  • Reduced risk of injury: Since one-legged squats work each leg individually, they can help identify and correct any strength or flexibility imbalances between your legs, reducing your risk of injury during other exercises or everyday activities.

In addition to these benefits, one-legged squats can also challenge your core stability and engagement, leading to improved overall core strength. However, it’s important to note that one-legged squats may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those with knee or ankle issues. Be sure to consult with a fitness professional before adding one-legged squats to your workout routine.

Muscle groups worked during one-legged squats

One-legged squats, also known as pistol squats, are a highly effective bodyweight exercise that targets several muscle groups in the lower body. Here are the main muscle groups worked during one-legged squats:

  • Quadriceps: The quadriceps muscles (located in the front of the thigh) are the primary muscle group worked during one-legged squats. These muscles help to extend the knee and are essential for movements like jumping and running.
  • Glutes: The gluteus maximus (the largest muscle in the buttocks) is also heavily targeted during one-legged squats. This muscle plays a vital role in hip extension and helps to stabilize the body during the exercise.
  • Hamstrings: The hamstrings (located on the back of the thigh) are also activated during one-legged squats. These muscles work to flex the knee and extend the hip and are crucial for activities like sprinting and jumping.
  • Calf Muscles: The calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and soleus) are also activated during one-legged squats. These muscles work to plantar flex the ankle, which is essential for activities like walking and running.

In addition to these primary muscle groups, one-legged squats also engage several minor muscle groups, including the adductors (inner thigh muscles), abductors (outer thigh muscles), and core muscles. Due to the high level of muscle activation during one-legged squats, they can be a very effective exercise for developing lower body strength and power.

The benefits of one-legged squats

One-legged squats offer several benefits for athletes and fitness enthusiasts, including:

  • Increased lower body strength: One-legged squats are a highly challenging exercise that can help to develop significant lower body strength and power.
  • Improved balance and coordination: Performing one-legged squats requires a great deal of balance and coordination, making them an excellent exercise for improving these skills.
  • Lower risk of injury: One-legged squats are a relatively low-impact exercise that can help to improve joint stability and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Improved athletic performance: Due to the high level of muscle activation and lower body strength developed through one-legged squats, they can help to improve athletic performance in activities like running, jumping, and sprinting.

Tips for performing one-legged squats

If you’re new to one-legged squats, here are some tips to help you perform the exercise safely and effectively:

  • Start with assisted variations: If you’re new to one-legged squats, start with assisted variations like holding onto a wall or chair for support until you can perform the exercise with proper form.
  • Focus on form: When performing one-legged squats, focus on maintaining proper form throughout the exercise. Keep your chest up, your knee aligned with your toes, and your heel firmly planted on the ground.
  • Control your descent: As you lower yourself into the squat, focus on controlling your descent and keeping your weight centered over your foot.
  • Engage your core: To help stabilize your body during the exercise, focus on engaging your core muscles throughout the movement.
  • Gradually increase the difficulty: As you become more comfortable with one-legged squats, gradually increase the difficulty of the exercise by holding weights or performing the exercise on an unstable surface.

With consistent practice, one-legged squats can help to significantly improve lower body strength, balance, and athletic performance.

Muscle group Primary function Activated during one-legged squat
Quadriceps Extend knee Primary muscle group worked
Glutes Hip extension, stabilization Heavily targeted during exercise
Hamstrings Flex knee, extend hip Activated during exercise
Calf muscles Plantar flex ankle Activated during exercise

Data source: PubMed

Proper Form for One-Legged Squats

One-legged squats, also known as pistol squats, are a challenging exercise that require proper form to prevent injury and maximize results. Here are some key tips to keep in mind when performing one-legged squats:

  • Begin with proper positioning: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, engage your core, and keep your chest lifted.
  • Shift your weight to one foot: Lift the opposite foot off the ground and flex the ankle of that foot to prevent it from touching the ground.
  • Squat down: Lower your body down with control, keeping your knee in line with your toes and your core engaged.
  • Keep your chest lifted: Make sure you don’t round your back or allow your chest to collapse.
  • Rise back up: Use the strength in your supporting leg and glutes to return to the starting position, maintaining proper form throughout.

Performing one-legged squats with proper form will not only prevent injury but also ensure that you effectively target the muscles in your legs, core, and glutes. To further optimize your form, consider using a mirror to check your positioning and practicing with a trainer or experienced partner who can provide feedback.

Below is a table outlining some common mistakes to avoid and tips to improve your one-legged squat form:

Mistake Correction
Rounded back Engage your core and keep your chest lifted throughout the exercise.
Knee caving in Ensure that your knee stays in line with your toes and doesn’t collapse inward.
Foot touching ground Flex the ankle of your lifted foot to prevent it from touching the ground.
Dipping to one side Keep your weight evenly distributed over your supporting foot and maintain proper positioning throughout the exercise.

Incorporating one-legged squats into your workout routine can add variety and challenge to your leg day while also improving balance, stability, and overall strength. With proper form and technique, you can reap the benefits of this powerful exercise while minimizing the risk of injury.

One-legged squats vs regular squats

When it comes to leg exercises, the regular squat is often considered the king. But what about the one-legged squat, also known as the pistol squat? Is it superior to the regular squat in terms of building strength and muscle?

  • Bilateral vs Unilateral: The regular squat is a bilateral exercise, meaning it works both legs at the same time. On the other hand, the one-legged squat is a unilateral exercise, meaning it isolates each leg separately. This can be beneficial for correcting muscle imbalances and improving overall stability.
  • Range of Motion: The one-legged squat requires a greater range of motion than the regular squat, which can increase flexibility and mobility in the hips, knees, and ankles.
  • Core Activation: The one-legged squat places a greater demand on the core to maintain balance and stability, resulting in improved core strength.

However, it’s important to note that the regular squat is still a highly effective exercise for building lower body strength and muscle mass. In fact, many athletes and bodybuilders swear by the regular squat as their go-to leg exercise.

Ultimately, the choice between the one-legged squat and the regular squat comes down to personal preference and fitness goals. Both exercises have their own unique benefits, and incorporating both into your leg workout routine can lead to optimal results.

Here is a comparison table highlighting the key differences between the one-legged squat and the regular squat:

One-legged squat Regular squat
Exercise type Unilateral Bilateral
Range of motion Greater Less
Core activation Higher Lower
Muscle groups targeted Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves

Both the one-legged squat and the regular squat have their own unique benefits and should be included in a well-rounded leg workout routine.

Variations of one-legged squats

One-legged squats, also known as pistol squats, are a challenging exercise that work on lower body strength, stability, and balance. There are several variations of one-legged squats that offer different benefits and intensity levels:

  • Assisted Pistol Squat: This variation uses a support such as a chair or wall to help with balance and stability. It is a great option for beginners or those who are working on building strength and mobility.
  • Elevated Pistol Squat: This variation involves elevating the back leg on a box or bench. This adds more range of motion and difficulty to the exercise, as well as targeting the glutes more effectively.
  • Weighted Pistol Squat: This variation involves holding a weight, such as a dumbbell, kettlebell, or barbell, to increase resistance and challenge the muscles further.

If you want to take your one-legged squat game to the next level, try out these advanced variations:

  • Jumping Pistol Squat: This variation involves exploding off of the ground after completing a pistol squat. It requires explosive power and engages the fast-twitch muscle fibers in your legs.
  • Isometric Pistol Squat: In this variation, you hold the bottom position of the pistol squat for a set amount of time (such as 10-30 seconds). It challenges your muscles to maintain tension and is an excellent way to improve lower body endurance.


One-legged squats are an excellent exercise for building lower body strength, stability, and balance. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced athlete, there are several variations of pistol squats that you can incorporate into your workout routine to challenge yourself and see results.

Common mistakes when doing one-legged squats

One-legged squats, also known as pistol squats, are a challenging exercise that requires balance, stability, and strength. While they are a great way to improve lower body strength and stability, many people make common mistakes when performing this exercise. Here are some of the most common mistakes:

  • Dropping the knee inwards: The knee should track over the toes, not drop inwards. This can cause knee pain and injury. Focus on pushing your knee out and engaging your glutes and outer thigh muscles.
  • Not going deep enough: The thigh should be parallel to the floor at the bottom of the squat. Many people don’t squat low enough, which limits the effectiveness of the exercise. Make sure to go as low as you can without compromising your form.
  • Leaning too far forward: Your chest should remain upright, and your weight should be distributed evenly over your foot. Leaning too far forward can cause strain on your lower back and make it harder to balance.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll get the most out of your one-legged squats and prevent injury. Remember to take it slow, focus on your form, and give your body time to adjust to the exercise.

Incorporating One-Legged Squats into Your Workout Routine

One-legged squats, also known as pistol squats, are a challenging and effective exercise that can help increase lower body strength, stability, and balance. If you’re looking to switch up your workout routine or add some variety to your leg day, here are some tips for incorporating one-legged squats:

  • Start with the basics: If you’ve never done a one-legged squat before, it’s important to start with the basics and build up your strength and stability gradually. Begin by practicing your balance and stability with regular squats or lunges, and then move on to assisted one-legged squats using a chair or wall for support.
  • Incorporate them into your warm-up: One-legged squats can serve as a great warm-up exercise to activate your glutes, quads, and hamstrings before your main workout. Start with a few sets of 5-10 reps on each leg to get your muscles firing and your heart rate up.
  • Add them to your leg day routine: If you’re looking to increase lower body strength and muscle mass, one-legged squats can be a great addition to your leg day routine. Aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps on each leg, focusing on proper form and control throughout the movement.

Here’s an example of a one-legged squat workout you can try:

Exercise Sets Reps
Assisted one-legged squats 3 8-12 per leg
Dumbbell goblet squats 3 12-15
Barbell deadlifts 3 8-10
Dumbbell step-ups 3 10-12 per leg

Remember, it’s important to listen to your body and progress at your own pace. If you experience any pain or discomfort during one-legged squats, adjust your form or decrease the weight and seek advice from a qualified fitness professional.

FAQs: Are One-Legged Squats Better?

1. Are one-legged squats harder than regular squats?

Yes, one-legged squats require more balance and stability, making them more challenging than regular squats.

2. Can one-legged squats help improve my balance?

Yes, one-legged squats can help improve your balance by strengthening the muscles that support it.

3. Are one-legged squats better for building leg strength?

One-legged squats target specific muscles in your legs, such as your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, making them a great exercise for building leg strength.

4. Can one-legged squats help prevent knee injuries?

Yes, one-legged squats can help prevent knee injuries by strengthening the muscles that support your knees.

5. How many one-legged squats should I do?

It is recommended to start with 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg and increase gradually as your strength and balance improve.

6. Are one-legged squats safe for everyone?

One-legged squats may not be safe for everyone, especially those with knee or hip injuries. It is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise.

7. Can I do one-legged squats without equipment?

Yes, one-legged squats can be done without equipment. Simply stand on one leg with your other leg extended in front of you and slowly lower yourself into a squat position, then return to standing.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for reading! One-legged squats can be a great addition to your workout routine, but remember to listen to your body and consult with a healthcare professional if needed. Keep up the good work and check back soon for more fitness tips and tricks.