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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bodyweight Pistol vs. Weighted Pistol

IMO, pistols are the best leg strengthening exercise known to man. If you can pistol, your legs are pretty strong.

The pistol takes time to master. Most dive in too early but they soon realize that they need to lay down a good foundation before they attempt the pistol.

I recommend mastering the airborne lunge first then progressing to the pistol. Here is a quick video on how to do the airborne lunge.

I hope that video helped with a good progression for the pistol. The airborne lunge will smoke you.

Bodyweight Pistol

The bodyweight pistol requires much more mobility than the weighted pistol. You need to utilize almost all available ankle dorsiflexion with this variation. You weight yourself in the middle of the foot and not just your heel.You will also have a torso position that is more forward and "over" your legs. There is generally more lumbar and thoracic flexion.

Weighted Pistol

The weighted pistol is easier for a few reasons. One, you have a counter-balance. This allows you to sit back earlier and shift the weight towards your heel. Two, you can get away with less than adequate ankle mobility because of this counter balance. The knee does not have to glide forward as much because you can sit back. The last key difference is the torso position. The weighted pistols allows the spine to be taller throughout the movement as well.

Here is a quick video on the differences


  1. This is really cool stuff. Great demonstrations. I will try this progression from the start... Thanks

  2. Hi Mike. What do you think would be a good number of airborne lunges to shoot for before starting on pistols?

  3. Peter-

    Here is the scoop with the airborne lunge. It set's you up for better hip stability and it teaches you how to recruit the hip flexor at the bottom of the lunge. Try to hit 2-3 ladders of 2, 3, 5 twice a week and go from there. After 2 weeks, start trying to pistol. If you need help lets set up a quick skype session and I will gladly help.

  4. Hey Mike. Thanks for the offer. After regular airborne lunges got really easy, I started doing them from a deficit. I'm currently doing them from about a 7" deficit (stack of five books). I'm trying to increase the range of motion to that which is required for the pistol so I'll be strong at the bottom of the movement. I'm also working hard at improving my hip mobility (cossack squats FTW). It seems to be working well so far. Hopefully in a month or two I'll be doing pistols. I'll make sure to post a video once I get my first one!

  5. Hey Mike! I can sort of do pistols now (with a counterweight)!