The Piston Squat Introduction

In this article, we will cover the two different versions of the Piston Squat.

One: is a calisthenic movement where you will perform the squat with a single leg.

Second: is a weight training version where you will use a barbell and both legs with a limited range of motion. This version is for targeting the quadriceps. It keeps them under consistent tension for the duration of the exercise. It has no real similarities to the calisthenic version.

Before attempting either variation, you should have a solid understanding and good form with squats.

We will first cover the single leg version and then the weight training version.

If you are new to single leg training, it may take some time for you to get the balance required to do this movement.

This calisthenic exercise is also commonly referred to as a pistol squat.

To help you learn the move, you can use a Squat Box or chair placed behind you. This way when you are at the bottom position, you will be on the box.

This exercise is rated as an advanced training method. It will require you to have good balance, great leg strength, and flexibility in your lower body.

Once you begin to feel comfortable with the movement you should remove the Squat Box.

Replace it with a pole or wall to hold to help you to maintain your balance. After practicing this way for a few weeks, you should have the balance and strength required to perform the exercise without assistance.


To help prevent extra stress on your knees do no allow your knee to pass the tip of your toe.

Piston Squats How To - Calisthenic Variation

Image Example

How to perform the piston squat

Video Demonstration

Written Description

Make sure to keep your core tight when you are performing this exercise.

  • Extend at your knee slightly raising one of your feet off of the ground in front of yourself. Your other foot is to remain flat on the ground.
  • You are now in the starting position.
  • Push your hips backward and then bend at the knee to lower your body.
  • Continue lowering your body until you hit parallel. Your knee should be just below your hips crease.
  • Drive through your heel with the foot on the floor to raise yourself back to the standing position.
  • You have completed one repetition repeat for the desired number of reps you have selected.

Muscles Worked

  • Primary Muscles

  • Quadricep
  • Glute Max
  • Gluteus Medius
  • Gluteus Minimus
  • Secondary Muscles

  • Hamstring
  • Hip Flexor

You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by wearing weighted clothing or holding a kettlebell/barbell in front or at the sides of your body.

When you use weight in your hands, it will also increase the difficulty required to balance yourself.

Piston Squats How To - Barbell Variation

This variation will help you to build upper leg and overall lower-body strength. It works well as an accessory exercise into your lifting routine.

It is rated as a beginner exercise. If you can do a squat, you will have no issues performing this movement.

This exercise works well for people who have knee issues and do not want to overload their joints. It is very similar to the traditional back squat, but with a reduced range of motion.

You will stop descending while you are slightly above parallel and will not rise high enough for a lockout.

You will also perform the movements faster than you would with traditional back squats.

The goal is for you to increase the time under tension of your quadriceps. The average weight used for this lift is between 45 and 60 percent of your one repetition max weight.

This exercise gets used with a low repetition scheme (generally 5 to 8 reps). If you perform high repetitions, it is likely that your form will begin to break down and place your spine in a compromising position.

Many athletes like sprinters commonly use this training exercise to help increase the explosiveness of their legs.

As a person fatigues on the lift, the back will usually start to round increasing the chances of receiving a disc injury in the spine. So make sure you keep your repetitions on the low side.

Written Description

  • Brace you core while keeping your head and chest up. You lats should be retracted and pulled down.
  • Get under the barbell as you would when performing a regular back squat with a shoulder width stance and unrack the weight.
  • Unlike the back squat where your toes are pointed out at an angle, you want to have your feet straight for this version.
  • Start the descent by pushing your hips backward, do not allow your knees to break first.
  • Continue descending until your body is slightly above the parallel squat position.
  • Now drive through your heels to return to the standing position, you should be almost completely erect.
  • Make sure you do not fully lockout in the standing position and stay just above parallel at the bottom of the squat.
  • You are to perform this exercise as quick as you can while keeping control.
  • To help you keep your chest out and your spine in the proper position throughout the movement have your elbows pulled down and close to under the bar throughout the lift.

This version will mainly work on your Quadricep muscles. While it will also use the other muscles as the exercise outlined above it is to a much lesser degree. The other muscles are not used as much because of the decreased range of motion.

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