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Pistol Form Advice

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Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rastaman on Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:54 pm

When doing a pistol with either leg, I am tending to have difficulty keeping the elevated leg straight.
The leg is straight initally on the start of the concentric, but once I start to push myself up out of the hole I need to bend the leg back as I raise. The leg remains elevated, but ends up bent beneath me by the time I've finished the rep.

I assume that this is due to a lack of strength, rather than a balance issue.

Should I continue working pistols with this form or drop back to assisted pistols for a while until I've built up a bit more leg strength getting out of the bottom position?

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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Journeyman on Wed Jan 09, 2013 11:06 pm

Either/or.
You need more hip flexor strength and hamstring flexibility to hold your nonworking leg higher, and more quad/glute strength on your working leg so you won't have to lean forwards on the way up.
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rastaman on Wed Jan 09, 2013 11:28 pm

Thanks Jman.
Not sure about the hip flexor strength and hamstring flexibility on the nonworking leg, as I have no probs on the negative and holding the bottom position for 40 secs.

The quad/glute strength is more of the issue though. I am finding that initially I am having to really push forward out of the bottom position. Most of the quad/glute strength Ive built up lately may be from shrimp squats and their movement pattern.


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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Journeyman on Thu Jan 10, 2013 12:13 am

Maybe do pistols pausing just above basement (so you really need to struggle to hold that position) on a low block or step or something so your non-working leg can dangle, but only a few inches. That should help with low-end strength 'out of the hole'.
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Guest on Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:45 am

Sounds like a co-ordination thing more than a weakness thing. It takes time to train your body to do anything. Your nerveous system needs to be trained along with the muscles. As a supplementary exercise I would suggest you place your
extended foot on a chair, do a few reps (not many) where you focus more on flexing the Hip flexor muscle of the elevated leg trying to raise it off the chair in the low position. This will also work your balance so be careful and use a chair to hang onto with a hand as you do these until you get good enough balance developed. Also you can try them standing on a low stool or milk crate to allow your extended leg to strengthen and allow your hips to get lower. But I strongly advise you go slowly and carefully. Your knee is a delicate joint under the levels of stress of doing pistols. Be cautious and go slow trying to work up to any exercise. Your body can and will do many amazing things if you give it time to adjust to the given activity. As a hint of things in the future, there are other ways to do the Pistols using bodyweight that are even tougher that I know of.
But that's for the future after you can do these good and stable for awhile. Be safe and go slowly. Don't try to rush your body. Work with it, not against it.
I hope this helps. :D

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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rastaman on Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:24 am

Journeyman wrote:Maybe do pistols pausing just above basement (so you really need to struggle to hold that position) on a low block or step or something so your non-working leg can dangle, but only a few inches. That should help with low-end strength 'out of the hole'.

Sounds like a good idea - will have to really work hard with this to hold form. Could maybe work a few slow negatives with isoholds a couple of inches above the hole, once tired from pistols. I'll try initially without the elevation and use a step or something if needed.

Thanks mate.
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rastaman on Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:34 am

billgetsstrong wrote:Sounds like a co-ordination thing more than a weakness thing. It takes time to train your body to do anything. Your nerveous system needs to be trained along with the muscles. As a supplementary exercise I would suggest you place your
extended foot on a chair, do a few reps (not many) where you focus more on flexing the Hip flexor muscle of the elevated leg trying to raise it off the chair in the low position. This will also work your balance so be careful and use a chair to hang onto with a hand as you do these until you get good enough balance developed. Also you can try them standing on a low stool or milk crate to allow your extended leg to strengthen and allow your hips to get lower. But I strongly advise you go slowly and carefully. Your knee is a delicate joint under the levels of stress of doing pistols. Be cautious and go slow trying to work up to any exercise. Your body can and will do many amazing things if you give it time to adjust to the given activity. As a hint of things in the future, there are other ways to do the Pistols using bodyweight that are even tougher that I know of.
But that's for the future after you can do these good and stable for awhile. Be safe and go slowly. Don't try to rush your body. Work with it, not against it.
I hope this helps. :D

Thanks Bill. I'll give these a try. Should help with balance.

Cheers Chris
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rastaman on Mon Feb 18, 2013 4:13 am

Finally tried some full unassisted pistols again today.

Managed 5 reps with good form each leg. Managing to keep the elevated leg straight out in front of me quite comfortably for the complete movement.

Dropping back to 2 finger assisted pistols and working hard on the hip flexor has really helped. That and building up some mileage in the legs!

Thanks for the advice JMan " hip flexor strength"!
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Journeyman on Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:07 am

Cool, glad to have been of service!

5/5 is the beginning of big things. Next up 10/10, then 15/15, then....
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rix on Mon Feb 18, 2013 7:07 pm

pistol form is kicking my ass lately :(
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rix on Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:37 am

I NEED HELP. i cant, at all, get my ass low and keep my foot planted to the ground. i practiced the close feet both legged squats and if i get my buttox low enough, i just roll back. But if i hold a 2kg medicine ball out infront of me, it seems to balance me? so do i hve a balance issue? weak knee tendons?
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Iliander on Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:27 am

Rixstar wrote:I NEED HELP. i cant, at all, get my ass low and keep my foot planted to the ground. i practiced the close feet both legged squats and if i get my buttox low enough, i just roll back. But if i hold a 2kg medicine ball out infront of me, it seems to balance me? so do i hve a balance issue? weak knee tendons?
Maybe you should work on your hamstrings?
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rix on Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:41 am

maybe, but i think its a stability/flexibility issue. i jog a lot so i dont think my hamstrings are weak.
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by ranger_x3 on Mon Mar 04, 2013 12:24 pm

Jogging does little to nothing for hamstring strength whether you jog 10 or 100 miles per week. Short sprints will help with hamstring strength/power.

Now if you tested leg strength when your best mile is 8 minutes versus your best mile being 5 minutes you would undoubtedly be stronger when you ran it in 5 minutes, but it would be a much smaller margin than you think.

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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Dave on Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:34 pm

Is your heel coming of the ground Rix? If so, check out the YouTube video "how to squat like an Olympic Weightlifter". In my opinion, if you can do an Olympic style squat (ATG) then you can do pistols.

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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Journeyman on Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:35 pm

^ What ranger said.
Do hyperextensions, GHR work or RDL/single leg deadlift to strengthen your hamstrings.

Running is not nearly adequate for leg strengthening work, never has been, never will be.
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Dave on Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:39 pm

Yet it's a very common thing to hear new trainees say "I don't need to work on my legs because I run 3 miles a day" or whatever. :facepalm:
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Journeyman on Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:55 pm

Exactly. Cardio is not 'leg work'.
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rix on Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:34 pm

i still train legs, i was just saying, i cant imagen my hamstrings being that bad because i run a lot and do all the KB swings and what not.

so is it a hamstring issue?

Dave, yeah the only way i can do a full pistol is if i raise my heel at the bottom.


Last edited by Rixstar on Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:36 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Dave on Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:37 pm

I'd work on those drills in the video then.
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rix on Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:41 pm

yeah thanks, its really fustrating me, i really wanna keep it down.
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rastaman on Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:48 pm

Some of these ankle, feet and calf mobility drills might help;
http://maxwellsc.com/blog.cfm?blogID=60
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by ranger_x3 on Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:51 pm

That depends on if they're heavy swings or not. If you're doing a bunch of light swings then I put it on the same level as running. Only you are going to be able to really determine what the issue is with your pistols.

Personally I still can't do an unweighted pistol barefoot. I need counterweight to not fall over at the bottom, and for all I know it might be because it forces me to tense up a muscle I don't realize I need to focus on. I haven't tried with less than 6# yet, but I know it's not a strength issue because with a tiny bit of weight I can do a large number of reps, and I can do unweighted with a slight heel raise in my shoes.

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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rix on Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:29 pm

Thanks Rastaman!!

I swing 2 12kg kbs. so not that light, but enough for DOMS.
if i hold a weight infront of me, i can do pistols with eeeaaasssseeee, its just doing it unweighted i have an isssue

edit, sorry i wrote 2 24s, because as i was typing i was adding them up in my head.


Last edited by Rixstar on Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:52 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Journeyman on Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:40 pm

If you can do a few sets of 20 swings to shoulder height with 2x24kg, and focus on glutes/hamstrings while doing it, your hamstrings should be fairly strong.
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rix on Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:53 pm

wooops, i meant 2x12's, sorry ill edit that. im still after 24s, company stole my money :( havent refunded me
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Dave on Mon Mar 04, 2013 8:56 pm

You're just having a bad run of luck with training tools lately aren't you.

Ranger: It sounds like you could probably also benefit from the video I posted in the previous page, as well as Rastaman's advice. Once you can do a full ATG Oly squat in bare feet, you can do ANYTHING. Okay a little hyperbole, but a healthy hyperbole. :D
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by ChrisTG on Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:21 pm

Rixstar wrote:I NEED HELP. i cant, at all, get my ass low and keep my foot planted to the ground. i practiced the close feet both legged squats and if i get my buttox low enough, i just roll back. But if i hold a 2kg medicine ball out infront of me, it seems to balance me? so do i hve a balance issue? weak knee tendons?

It sounds like an ankle mobility issue, you can't move your knee far enough forward to stay balanced over your foot. I put my toes on a weight plate and gently rock my knee forward over my toes. Go slow and careful, it's extremely effective but also easy to pull your calf if you aren't careful.

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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by itlives on Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:52 pm

I didn't look at what video Dave posted so forgive me if I recommend the same.
Go to mobilityWOD.com and type in ankle mobility.
Spend some time because it will take some time (on your ankles).
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Dave on Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:58 pm

It's actually been a while since I've watched it myself. So I can't say for sure if he said anything about ankle mobility, but ankle mobility is definitely key to hitting a deep squat, be it pistol, Olympic or otherwise.
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Journeyman on Tue Mar 05, 2013 1:19 am

Rixstar wrote:wooops, i meant 2x12's, sorry ill edit that. im still after 24s, company stole my money :( havent refunded me
Aw man that sucks :grrr!:
Well, with 2x12s work up to a set of 50 consecutively, at least, to start, and go from there.
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rix on Tue Mar 05, 2013 5:56 am

Yeah I can do 100 in a row. Too easy now, need to upgrade once I am finally refunded!
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Re: Pistol Form Advice

Post by Rix on Tue Mar 05, 2013 5:58 am

Yeah im defo gonna do the stuff in the video and get my ankle mobility up. Thanks guys
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