Pistol box squat exercise

Pistol box squat

Exercise details

  • Target muscle: Quadriceps
  • Synergists: Gluteus Maximus, Adductor Magnus, Soleus
  • Dynamic Stabilizers: Hamstrings, Gastrocnemius
  • Mechanics: Compound
  • Force: Push

Starting position

  1. Stand on one leg in front of a box or bench. Hover your non-standing leg in front of you.


  1. Keeping your non-standing leg hovering in front of you, inhale as you slowly squat on your standing leg.
  2. Stop and hold for a second once your butt touches the box. Do not sit on the box or shift your weight on to the box.
  3. Exhale as you stand back up.
  4. Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.
  5. Repeat on the opposite leg.

Comments and tips

  • The pistol box squat is an advanced exercise and is not suitable for beginners.
  • Keep your standing knee and foot pointing in the same direction. If you find that your standing knee caves in during the squat, you may not have enough strength yet to perform the exercise. Consider using a taller box or chair first and focus on keeping your knee over your foot.
  • You may raise your arms forward to help with balance.
  • The purpose of the box is to help you control your descent to a certain height and to eliminate the stretch reflex. When a muscle is stretched, the reflex is triggered, causing the stretched muscle to contract. The more sudden the stretch, the stronger the contraction.
  • In the case of the pistol box squat, the quadriceps muscle is stretched. If you were to perform the pistol box squat quickly, the stretch reflex would be triggered, helping your quadriceps to extend your knee and stand up. Thus, your quadricep muscles would be “assisted” by the stretch reflex. Descending slowly and holding the squat for a second helps eliminate the stretch reflex and would thus challenge your quadriceps muscle more, increasing its strength.
  • Do not sit on the box.
  • Keep your torso upright.
  • See also the dumbbell box squat and barbell front box squat.

Pistol box squat video

You may use the pistol box squat to progress into the pistol squat. The video below provides some progressions you can do. Note that the demonstrator in this video slightly sits down on the box. Remember to NOT sit down but rather just tap the box with your buttocks.


ExRx.net, Single Leg Box Squat (pistol)

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