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Old 08-28-2013, 08:45 AM   #1
Alex Toro
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Pistol Mobility According to Carl Paoli

On GymnasticWod Carl Paoli has the narrow bw squat (insteps touching) listed as one of the prerequisites for achieving pistols. This has been an area of much frustration for me, and I don't know if I'm just missing something very fundamental about squats. I would think that I have enough ankle mobility for close squats. I can do airborne lunges on both legs, but my right leg is a little shaky. I can also place my foot 6 inches away from the wall and push my knee to the wall without my heels raising up off the ground. Also, as I've sifted through the forums, I've seen the picture some people reference for analyzing ankle mobility (the one with the blue and yellow lines that denote ranges of ankle mobility) and I seem to have decent range of motion. Is it a matter of hip mobility? Every time I try to do close squats, I can get to just above parallel and then I fall over.

I figure if I just keep going at it, I'll eventually get it. I've done partial range of motion narrow squats for high reps and I have seen some improvement. I still want to know what the limiting factor is, and see if anyone else is experiencing similar frustrations.
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Old 08-30-2013, 08:23 AM   #2
Brendan McNamar
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Re: Pistol Mobility According to Carl Paoli

Are you still pushing your knees out? Screwing you feet into the ground?

I bet if you watch Carl his knees are not straight over his feet in the narrow stance squat. Even with your feet together you will still need femur clearance at the pelvis to break parallel.

That should be the solution. I tried a quick test but all I confirmed is my ankles are still too tight.
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Old 08-30-2013, 08:51 AM   #3
Andrew N. Casey
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Re: Pistol Mobility According to Carl Paoli

if you post the specific video you are talking about it would be helpful.

that being said i can promise you he is wrong because i can do pistols (not well) and i certainly can't get into the position he is talking about without falling backwards. i saw a video with him and K-starr one time putting their feet and knees together and sitting back into a full ATG squat, wrapping their hands around the knees legs and just sitting there. talking about how that proved some sort of mobility. while i don't doubt that it is good for mobility, not everyone can do that and mobility may not be the limiting factor. i am plenty mobile to get into that position, even barefoot, and certainly with lifting shoes on (elevated heel), but i can't sit there without falling backwards. for me it is simply because of my levers and the fact that much of my weight is in my legs and butt, plus i have a big belly which shift my upper body behind. this is the same issue i have with pistols is falling backward. if i hold a 45lb weight out in front at arms length pistols are actually easier for me becasue it keeps me from falling back. mobility and leg strength are fine for pistols with me, it is just a matter of not falling back, even with leg and arms extended out.

i suggest holding on to something and trying to get in that position to see if you can get all the way down with feet and knees together, this will tell you if it is a mobility issue or not. if you can sit in the position with good form while having hands straight out in front holding onto something but then fall back when you let go, then it is a balance issue not a mobility one. you might try some pistols with a weight out in front to see if it helps. or try some pistols while holding onto some rings, a rope, some TRX straps, etc for balance, not using them to pull yourself up, but just to not fall.
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Old 08-30-2013, 09:51 AM   #4
Alex Toro
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Re: Pistol Mobility According to Carl Paoli

This is the Paoli video I was taking about:


In comparison I've seen close squats done in this manner.


I think I remember it being said somewhere on this forum in another post, but isn't it supposedly a law of mobility that if one joint isn't able to meet the demands of what you're trying to do, another joint will take up the slack (i.e. hips vs ankles)?
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Old 09-09-2013, 07:53 AM   #5
Brian Neal Carpenter
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Re: Pistol Mobility According to Carl Paoli

After my first WOD that had pistols owned me, I did the following for no more than 4 minutes before or after my workout each day. Two weeks later I was able to do pistols no problem:

- Pistol "lowers" right leg 30 seconds (just do the lowering portion of the movement)
- Pistol "lowers" left leg 30 seconds
- Rolling pistols right leg 30 seconds
- Rolling pistols left leg 30 seconds
- Repeat

The two mental notes that helped me the most were:
- Reach forward with your arms, try to extend them as far as possible
- When raising back up, activate muscles in the following order: glutes, quads, glutes, hips

Not sure if this will work for you but it worked great for me.
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Old 09-09-2013, 08:42 AM   #6
Blair Robert Lowe
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Re: Pistol Mobility According to Carl Paoli

Such a squat is generally common and simple in gymnastics. That being said, not all kids are able to do it because of long legs or poor ankle flexibility.

Having a gut doesn't help either.
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