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Drops or double-legged pistols.

Description: With both feet on the floor, squat down all the way in good form.

Motions trained: Dropping/landing.

Main muscles used: Glutes, hamstrings, quads
   Other muscles: Calves


How to do it: With your feet under and shoulder width apart, try to sit on your heels, then stand up. Don't let you knees travel too much forward and in any case never past your toes. This is different than a squat. In a squat, you go until your thighs are parallel to the floor, in a pistol you go until your butt touches your heel, or until the thigh and calf stop you (if you have big legs this will happen first). Once you get past 90 degrees you will have to use your abs to pull yourself to the rest of the way down.

How to work up to it: A leg press machine might be useful, but it is impossible to get good form for these on one of those – the knee travels too far forward. The best way is to get a high stool and sit on that, then stand up.

Thought for the day: when you are sitting in a chair, the way you get is up not by standing, but by pitching forward so you can use your momentum. When I had hip trouble, I couldn't rock forward like that and with the atrophy I had in my leg, I had a heck of a time getting out of chairs. The guy who invented bean bag chairs should be shot.

In any case, using a high stool and either standing on books (make sure you have a stable base) or getting a progressively lower stool is an easy way to get your legs used to this. Most people can sit on a stool and get off of it. Eventually work up to a chair and lower. After you get much below 90 degrees, you should also practice holding onto a pole or doorway. This might take some time to really get down if you have a long way to go, but rest assured that you'll get there.

Ramping it up: Hang on to dumbbells and when that starts to feel good, think about pistols. You can also use a single dumbbell to get some oblique action in there. Drop it to one hip as you go down, keeping the weight on the outside of the body, then when you rise, lift it to full extension to the opposite side. Alternate sides.

Do's and don'ts: Don't just plop down if you are wokring up to these with a chair or box. Lower yourself with control since this uses the thighs, while standing uses the glutes. Don't pitch forward to rise, but drive through your heels. If you omit one or the other motions you will not be building up your legs symmetrically. Make sure your shins stay pretty much perpendicular to the floor. They can travel a little forward, but should never go past your big toe. If you really can't seem to get that right, do these by facing a wall with your toes 1 inch from it then try.

Comments: A squat occurs when you stop at about 90 degrees, but a pistol occurs when you go all the way down.

Some folks jump with these and swing the arms back then forward just as they jump. This is a nice exercise and makes it a variation of the Indian wrestlers' baithek, although usually in baitheks you rock forward onto the balls of your feet too. Normally Indian wrestlers don't do them plyometrically but do a couple of hundred a day. I don't like anything that requires that many reps, so I don't normally do them.