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Now that I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight, my fitness goals have started to shift. I’ve been focusing on building strength and muscle, however, there are several other areas that need improvement as well. Flexibility, range of motion, and of course stability and balance. I consider these to be finesse attributes that often get overlooked. Although, the two exercises I’ll be discussing will also help to build strength. Specifically in the legs.

The exercises I’m referring to are the kettlebell 1 leg deadlift and the kettlebell pistol squat. Both of them require you to stand on one leg at a time until a desired set of reps is completed. That means no cheating after each rep by resting your floating leg on the ground! Allow me to break down these two exercises that are also featured in the stack 52 kettlebell exercise card deck.

Kettlebell 1 Leg Deadlift

As you can see, it is not a complex move at all. Since the kettlebell is hanging and not being held upright, there’s some leeway as far as what size kettlebell you should use for this exercise. Now that I’ve started working out with a 45 lb. kettlebell, I could use that and put more strain on my arms. However, since my objective with this combo is to focus on stability, I prefer to go a couple of sizes down and use my 25 lb. kettlebell. Plus, the pistol squat is a much more difficult exercise to perform with heavier kettlebells. It would make for an awkward transition from one to the other.

1 Leg Deadlift Step-By-Step

  1. Start by holding the kettlebell by the handle with the bell part closest to the ground, your arms should feel relaxed
  2. Ensure that your body is fully upright and that your stance is at a comfortable width
  3. Slowly lower the kettlebell to the ground while keeping one leg planted and the other rising behind you outstretched and straight as possible
  4. Both the lowering of the kettlebell and rising of your leg should work in tandem
  5. The objective is to have your rising leg as high as possible when the kettlebell touches the ground
  6. Next, simply return the kettlebell to hanging level while lowering your leg back into a standing formation
  7. Do not rest your floating leg on the ground until you’ve completed the desired amount of reps. If you can only do 1 at a time that’s fine!
  8. Afterward switch legs and repeat the above steps until you complete the number of reps in your set

Kettlebell Pistol Squat

This is where things get tough. Instead of your arms hanging down holding the kettlebell, they are fully outstretched in front of you. I’ve seen different variations where the kettlebell is held close to the chest. I don’t think you’re fully benefiting from the exercise by doing it that way. Although, if you want to go with a heavy kettlebell then I would say that is acceptable. It’s the squatting portion which is the real challenge.

Pistol Squat Step-By-Step

  1. Hold the kettlebell by the handle at chest level with your arms fully extended
  2. Slowly begin to lift one leg in the air as you place all of your weight on the other while simultaneously squatting
  3. Again, you’ll want to go as low as possible in the squat position while also extending your floating leg as much as you can horizontally
  4. Try to keep the kettlebell at chest level as much as possible throughout the entire exercise
  5. After reaching the low point, rise back into a standing position while returning your floating leg to a vertical position
  6. Do not touch the ground with your floating leg until you’ve completed your desired number of reps
  7. Finally, switch legs and repeat the process

Combing These Exercises For a Killer Combo

Now that you understand the basics of the pistol squat and 1 leg deadlift, it’s time to put them together and really test your balance! For those of you who aren’t so limber, go with a lighter kettlebell than you normally use for workouts. The routine can be adjusted to scale by increasing reps if you’d like an additional challenge. Hopefully, at some point, I’ll be able to perfect this combo and eventually add additional reps. For now, let’s keep it simple.

Stability and Balance Combo Step-By-Step

  1. Start with the pistol squat
  2. Next transition to the 1 leg deadlift
  3. Perform another pistol squat
  4. Finish on that leg with another 1 leg deadlift
  5. Switch legs and repeat the process

The idea is to maintain balance throughout this combo by alternating between the pistol squat and 1 leg deadlift. In this case, I suggest two of each for a total of 4 exercises before letting your floating leg rest. Then you can switch legs and do it all over again. It might seem easy, but I noticed a huge difference in balance and strength when I switched to my weak side. I imagine the heavier you are in your core area the more difficult this combo becomes.

Below is an example of this combo workout that I posted on Instagram. For some reason, the trim function didn’t work and it ended up keeping a portion of the beginning and end of the video which I wished to omit. You’ll see I had little balance issues right out of the gate! Oops. Then when I switched legs, I had some trouble keeping my footing.

Honestly, that’s okay. I’m not some elite trainer. I know I’m not perfect, but I’m working towards improvement. Everyone has their weak spots and this is one of mine. Even though this is a quick combo, it’s very tiring. The pistol squat requires a lot of concentration but is well worth the effort. I encourage you to try at least 2 reps of each exercise before switching to the other leg. If you can perform more, great! Make a game of it and see how many you can do at a time per side.

Ryan Faucher

I'm a web designer and kettlebell enthusiast on a quest to lose fat, build muscles and live a healthier lifestyle. I truly believe that exercising with kettlebells in conjunction with dieting is the most effective and efficient way to reach this goal. If you have the will and motivation, there is no reason you can't do the same.
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