Pistol squats (CC1 progressions)

These moves rely on specific training and cannot be acquired without a strong enough base. A fairly easy one would be a muscle-up, an intermediate one a front lever, and an advanced one a Maltese. A legendary one would be a one arm handstand push-up.
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Pistol squats (CC1 progressions)

Post by Against Gravity » Sat Oct 10, 2020 4:27 pm

The purpose of this topic is twofold:

1. To introduce Convict Conditioning 1 progressions for pistol squats, for those of you who didn't want to read the book or didn't know about it
2. To discuss our experiences with those progressions, for those of us who have already tried them and have some extra tips / comments to share.

Let's start with the progressions:















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Re: Pistol squats (CC1 progressions)

Post by Against Gravity » Sat Oct 10, 2020 4:33 pm

Pistol squats (step 10) are a relatively easy (and very worthwhile) exercise to unlock. Not so easy is to build up the reps from 20 to 50 reps (as elite standard requires). Personally, I've not achieved more than 30 consecutive reps, because by then, my technique isn't clean and I've to regress to lower reps to ensure technique is perfect. Thus, it's really a long term exercise, when aiming for strict high reps.

Still, even when strict high reps get hard, there's two ways to make it even harder:

Step 11. Hands-behind-back pistol squats


Step 12. 'Dragon' or 'behind the leg' pistol squats:

Steps 11 and 12 makes the movement limited more by balance & mobility than actual strength, so as strength-focused alternative, you can also train weighted pistol squats:

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Re: Pistol squats (CC1 progressions)

Post by Vagabond » Sat Oct 10, 2020 5:43 pm

That 155 lbs one legged front squat is sick! My own PR in a front squat position (using dumbbells, tho) is 120 lbs, and it certainly looked worse than Mechanimal's 155 lbs record!

A progression that I like using, for the pistol, is the box pistol. CC mentions half pistols and assisted pistols, but it's worth doing both assisted pistols and box pistols at the same time period (not necessarily on the same day), with different rep schemes. I would do something like 3-5x3-5 Box pistols with a box height decrease as the main progression, and 3x10 assisted pistols for full range volume.

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Re: Pistol squats (CC1 progressions)

Post by Against Gravity » Sun Oct 11, 2020 12:47 pm

Vagabond wrote: Sat Oct 10, 2020 5:43 pm That 155 lbs one legged front squat is sick! My own PR in a front squat position (using dumbbells, tho) is 120 lbs, and it certainly looked worse than Mechanimal's 155 lbs record!
There's some freaks out there who single-leg squat even more than Meckanimal, though with a form that I think it's not fair to call it a 'pistol' squat. Still, heavy enough to be beyond (most) human reach


A progression that I like using, for the pistol, is the box pistol. CC mentions half pistols and assisted pistols, but it's worth doing both assisted pistols and box pistols at the same time period (not necessarily on the same day), with different rep schemes. I would do something like 3-5x3-5 Box pistols with a box height decrease as the main progression, and 3x10 assisted pistols for full range volume.
Yeah, box pistols are better to measure progress objectively than half pistols. I think CC author mentions in some part of the book that both half ROM exercises and assisted full ROM exercises must be done simultaneously, like you say. So it's not a straightforward progression, steps 8&9 are like one single step with 2 exercises.


When lacking enough mobility, or for certain people (ex. short legs and big basketball ball), step 9 can actually be harder than full unassisted reps. In those cases, 'assisted pistols' can be done using rings / trx / rope as well, like this:

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Re: Pistol squats (CC1 progressions)

Post by DanW » Wed Oct 14, 2020 12:27 pm

I had a person first for my left leg with some 1leg deck squats the other day. They were fun and I really like how they improved my balance. All the above squat variations look like a good time.

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Re: Pistol squats (CC1 progressions)

Post by Vagabond » Fri Oct 16, 2020 4:49 pm

Oh yeah, the deck squats is a progression that's used pretty widely in gymnastics. I remember seeing the girl doing them with a jump at the end.

Regarding the TRX assisted pistols: no need to use something that hangs, specifically. Any frontal assistance method can work well. The only things that need to be adjusted are the distance from the object you're holding onto, and the height of your hands on the object. In general, holding on about waist-height is optimal. At first, if needed, one can shift their hips waaaaay back, and as they get stronger and use less assistance, their knee will slowly creep forwards so they can maintain balance.


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Re: Pistol squats (CC1 progressions)

Post by Massimo Kokhno » Sat Feb 13, 2021 12:43 am

As far as I know, the current record for strict form front rack pistol squat is 90kg/200lbs by Adam Raw (second video):


And in second place Samuel Bocelli with 80kg/176lbs, and I think he'll surpass it this year (second clip):


Regarding progressions, I think the simplest approaches are progressively deeper partials or progressively less hand assistance from a stable surface, and lack of flexibility in the ankles can be compensated by elevating the heel on something stable or using a counterweight, and the inability to keep the free leg straight by bending its knee or standing on something that allows to keep the free foot lower.

If balance is a problem, a simple assistance exercise is standing on one leg with the foot arch engaged (to evenly distribute the load between the big toe, heel and outside of the foot and strengthen the foot muscles) and hips at the same height (engaging the outer glute so the opposite hip does not sag), this strengthens the muscles that avoid knee valgus by keeping the knee cap facing in the direction of the middle toes of the foot.

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Re: Pistol squats (CC1 progressions)

Post by Vagabond » Sun Feb 14, 2021 4:24 am

100% agreed on the approach. I like using progressively lower box squats and assisted full range pistols, as well. They're both very useful.

And holy crap, those are really heavy pistols, ha ha.