An excerpt from the EYC Podcast episode #32 – Musings of a Pistol Squatting Man
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The first key area I want to address is assisted pistol squat variations. What I mean by assisted variations is holding on to a fixed object that will allow us to mitigate some of the demand off of the working leg, or legs. For example, holding on to a parallel bar during a bodyweight squat, or a vertical bar to help during a pistol squat. Where I’ve found assisted squat variations particularly effective is fine tuning technique. Since assisted variations mitigate some of the difficulty, more focus can be placed onto slowing the movement down, and performing it with as clean a technique as possible. My epiphany came when attending a PCC event in 2014 and found that my pistol squats needed a lot of work. I’ve always taken squat training seriously, and am my own worst critic when it comes to the level I am at, so it hit me pretty hard. This is when I decided to basically reset my squat training and approach it in a way that was less about reps and rapid progress, and more about clean technique, and quality reps.
Another reason assisted variations are so effective is they allow for a finer a degree of tweaking because there are many ways of increasing or decreasing the amount to assistance you give yourself. For example, using both arms, one arm, one arm with full grip, one arm with only two fingers, a higher or lower apparatus, and so on. Assistance can even only be used at certain points in the range of motion. For example, pushing up from the bottom position is a common sticking point for those looking to conquer the pistol squat. This being the case, the assistance can come at this point, then be released, as in the press pistol. This is a much better alternative to shifting weight forward and using momentum to get back up. You may be asking, why would I mention that, I would never do it! Well if so, good on you, however it can be a tempting prospect for some, especially if the foundation wasn’t built in earlier squat variations. It is dangerous for the knee so I don’t recommend it.
What you want to ensure when using assisted variations is that you maintain proper technique throughout, and you aren’t assisting yourself so much that the leg isn’t doing the work it needs to do. If that’s the case, it may be a good idea to regress to earlier squat variations because you may be doing more harm than good. Requiring too much assistance from the method you are using can be jarring, and affect technique if you don’t have the requisite strength, potentially causing injury. Be honest with yourself and regress if necessary. The way I have always thought of it is I need to be 80% toward this movement, and I can use assisted variations to help with that remaining 20%. If I feel like I am less than that, I still have work to do. You should be able to maintain proper technique and control throughout. Three years later I can attest that assisted variations have improved my pistol squat tremendously, and at the PCC earlier this year, three years after the first, I was very impressed with my showing. I had to take a step back, which was a blow to my ego, however a change in approach was necessary, and well worth it.
Youtube Channel: Elevateyourcraft