“Why Should I Work on Pistols?”
Out of the list of physical skills that CrossFit nurtures and develops, the pistol tests four out of those ten skills: strength, balance, flexibility, and coordination. What separates the pistol from the standard 2-legged air squat is that the pistol practices and develops unilateral loading of one leg. Through this unilateral loading, one can diagnose any differences in leg strength, balance, or flexibility between the right and left legs.
As T-Nation explains,
Single-leg squats allow you to target the legs with greatly reduced shearing force on the spine.
Far from a neat parlor trick, developing the strength to do pistols will benefit all of your other squats as well as your deadlift. Steve Kotter outlines why they are so demanding:
Balance-pistols teach what is referred to in Internal Martial Arts as “rooting”, as in the roots of a tree, forming a solid connection to the ground. Because we are shifting the body’s center of mass over a narrow base of support, and for an extended range of motion, balance is challenged and trained in a dynamic fashion.
Flexibility-the muscles and joints of the legs, low back, hips and ankles are required to work at the extreme ranges of motion, both in flexion and extension.
Strength-the powerful muscles of the glutes and thighs are moving the body weight throughout a very narrow base of support, thereby recruiting tremendous stabilizer function in all the lower body joints; tension is maintained throughout the eccentric, isometric and concentric portions; the core musculature is recruited to maintain balance and alignment.
Coordination-the neuromuscular system is challenged by the multiple requirements involved in pistol practice-balancing, contracting and stretching.
Focus/Mental attitude-a clear focus and concentration is required to maintain control over the body; fear and restricted movement is overcome by releasing our fear of falling and reintroducing freedom of motion.” Continued…