Pistol Squat Vs Shrimp Squat: Everything You Need To Know

Exercise is a center point for the lives of many people. For a lot of people, this is an essential part of their day to day life and something that they rely on to keep fit and healthy, both physically and mentally.

While some people prefer working out in the gym with equipment, others are perfectly happy to use their body weight as part of their workout. If you are more into cardio than weightlifting, then there’s no doubt that you will have completed a squat at some point in your life.

But the question is, "Which squat?".

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The Difference Between Pistol Squats & Shrimp Squats

Pistol Squat Vs Shrimp Squat

Unless you enjoy exercise, you might not be aware that there is more than one type of squat that you can do to exercise.

In this guide, we’ll be comparing the pistol squat and the shrimp squat to look at the differences, benefits, and drawbacks that the two have. So if you are struggling to decide between a pistol and shrimp squat, keep on reading. 

pistol squat

What is a Pistol Squat?

Before we compare the two, let’s take a quick look at what each type of squat is. First, let’s look at the pistol squat. A pistol squat is different from a traditional squat as it requires the person to complete the exercise on one leg.

So while the act of squatting is the same as a traditional squat, it is very different as it requires a lot of balance.

A pistol squat is a type of exercise that you will primarily see completed by people who are into their fitness, and it is commonly included in CrossFit workouts

We will take a deeper look at the parts of the body that this squat exercises later on, but in short it helps to work out all of the muscles in your legs and glutes to grow strong.

It also helps tone your core muscles so it is a very well-rounded workout. This explanation might make you think that a pistol squat is easy, but this is not the case. The pistol squat is one of the most difficult squats that exist, so how does it differ from the shrimp squat? 

What is a Shrimp Squat?

Next, let’s take a quick look at what a pistol squat is. We will be investigating the similarities and differences between the two types of squats later on, but just on the surface, it is easy to pick these out.

The shrimp squat, just like the pistol squat, is a squatting exercise that requires the person completing the exercise to do so using only one leg.

So again, balance is key for you to be successful in completing this exercise. Just like the pistol squat, the shrimp squat is very difficult and so it is an exercise that should only be completed by advanced fitness fanatics. 

We will take a deeper look at the areas that you work out by doing a shrimp squat later on, but they exercise a similar area of the body to a pistol squat.

As well as exercising the multiple different muscles in your legs, a shrimp squat also works on your abdominal muscles and spinal erectors to exercise multiple parts of your body simultaneously.

So now that we understand what both a shrimp squat and a pistol squat is, let’s take a look at the main differences between the two. 

What is the Difference?

There are quite a few differences between pistol squats and shrimp squats, so we will be taking a look at these differences in depth.

The main differences include difficulty, the intention, muscles used, and range of motion. So let’s take a further look at what these differences mean. 

Difficulty Level

The first difference that we will take a look at is the difficulty level between pistol squats and shrimp squats. We have already mentioned that both the pistol squat and the shrimp squat have a higher difficulty level than your average squat.

Neither type of squat is considered an easy exercise as they both work on multiple different muscles while also requiring you to balance on one leg. For a lot of people, balancing is a task in itself, let alone balancing while also doing a workout. 

But which of the two exercises is the most difficult is a topic which is often debated. A lot of people believe that the shrimp squat is more difficult due to the way that you must hold your leg while you squat.

However, some people say that the pistol squat is the more difficult version as it works on your ankles, knees, and hips simultaneously. Pistol squats also require the squatter to dip deeper which is another reason why it is often perceived as the harder version.

Additionally, a lot of people often believe that it is more difficult to hold your balance while doing a pistol squat than it is while doing a shrimp squat which is why this is often seen as the more difficult version.

But what are the other differences between a pistol squat and a shrimp squat? 

The Intention of the Exercise

Another key difference between the pistol squat and the shrimp squat is the intention of the exercise. The intention of the exercise that you are completing is something that is often overlooked, but it is very important when putting together a workout routine.

The intention of both the shrimp and pistol squat is very different from one another so these exercises are often used in very different exercise routines. 

The shrimp squat requires less range of motion, something we will look at later on, and because of this, it is often used in more basic workouts than the pistol squat.

The shrimp squat is primarily used to exercise the squats in more basic workouts for those who have less experience in working out. Whereas the pistol squat is often used in more advanced workouts.

While both types of squats have advanced difficulty levels, the shrimp squat is considered the easier of the two, which is why this type of squat is used in more workouts.

Whereas, you will find that the pistol squat is only used in very advanced workout routines such as strength workouts and CrossFit exercise routines. Now, let’s take a look at what muscles each type of squat uses. 

Muscles that are used

Another point where the shrimp squat and the pistol squat differ is when you look at the muscles that are used during both of these types of exercises. Of course, both types of squat focus on similar areas of the body, but there are some key differences between the two. 

Both types of squat primarily target the quad muscles due to the movement of the knees bending with every squat. Similarly, they also both target the glutes due to the straightening of the knees after bending.

While a lot of muscles that they target are very similar, the pistol squat actively works on more muscles than the shrimp squat. Due to the position in which the second leg is stretched out during the squat, this allows the pistol squat to target more muscles than the shrimp squat.

By allowing more muscles to be exercised this means that the pistol squat will build upon the strength of more muscles than the shrimp squat. This is partly linked to the differences in the range of movement between the two squats, which is the next and final difference that we will look at. 

Range of Motion

Finally, let’s take a look at the last major difference between the shrimp squat and pistol squat.

This is the range of motion. This is the most noticeable difference between the shrimp squat and pistol squat as you can physically see how the range of motion differs from one type of squat to the other.

The pistol squat requires the squatter to touch their hamstring with their calf, therefore requiring a lot of bending of both the knee and the hip which uses more muscles.

Whereas the shrimp squat requires the person doing the exercise to barely bend in comparison to the pistol squat. As the shrimp squat requires you to hold the knee behind you, you simply squat until the knee touches the ground then straighten up for a complete movement.

But the pistol squat requires a much deeper bend and therefore a wider range of motion. So it is clear to see how the range of motion has a big impact on the muscles used during these squats, therefore causing the major differences between the two types of squats.

The Pistol Squat

With the differences between the two types of squat clear, let’s take an in-depth look at the two types, starting with the pistol squat.

As we have established, this is the more difficult type of the two, so let’s begin by taking a look at how you do a pistol squat. 

How to do a Pistol Squat

Before we get into the pros and cons of pistol squats, let’s begin by taking a look at how to do pistol squats. As with any type of exercise, technique and form are key for completing a successful pistol squat, so let’s take a look at what you need to do. 

To complete a pistol squat, you first need to begin by standing up straight and tall as if there is a pole attached to your spine preventing you from bending.

Keeping your dominant leg straight, you should then begin to lift your non-dominant leg out in front of you so that it is off of the floor. You should then lift both of your arms so that they are straight out in front of you, in the same way, that your non-dominant leg is extended in front of you. 

Next, you need to begin bending your ankle, knee, and hip on your dominant leg (the leg that is firmly attached to the floor). As you bend, you should lean forward as you begin to come closer to the floor.

While simultaneously bending your knee, ankle, and hip of your dominant leg, you should continue lifting your non-dominant leg in the air, ensuring that it never comes into contact with the ground during the exercise. 

After you have dipped low enough that the hamstring of your dominant leg touches the calf of the same leg, you can then begin to straighten up.

Return to your straight back standing position then repeat the same exercise for your chosen amount of reps.

Once you have finished the exercise for that leg, you should repeat the same on your opposite leg for the same amount of reps. But be careful with your balance when using your non-dominant leg. 

Tricks and Mistakes

Now that you know how to do a pistol squat, let’s take a quick look at some tricks which can help you do so successfully, and common mistakes which some people fall victim to. Beginning with the tricks. 

One major point where people find difficulty with a pistol squat is balancing. A lot of people are fully capable of completing the pistol squat exercise but struggle with balance, so we have a trick which you can use to solve this problem.

We recommend using a vertical pole that is balanced in front of you to work your way down into the squatting position, almost as if you are climbing down the pole. T

his does make the exercise easier and requires fewer muscles to be used, but it does mean that even those who struggle with their balance will be able to do the exercise successfully. 

Now, let’s take a look at some of the common mistakes which people complete when doing pistol squats.

One common mistake is people lifting their heels off of the floor during the exercise due to inflexibility in their ankles. 

While this does not stop the exercise from being effective, it does mean that you use fewer muscles than in a full pistol squat.

Similarly, a lot of people often fall victim to bending forward too far while completing the squat. This doesn’t completely limit the success of the squat, but it does prevent your abdominal muscles from getting a full workout. 

Pros and Cons of the Pistol Squat

Before we move onto the shrimp squat, let’s take a look at the benefits of the pistol squat. As we have established, the pistol squat uses a lot of different muscles which is a benefit of this exercise, but let’s take a closer look. 

One of the major benefits of the pistol squat is that it uses the ankle joints and the muscles in this area.

The more often that you complete a pistol squat, the more flexible your ankles will become, allowing you to complete pistol squats more successfully. 

Over time, completing the pistol squat will also help improve your balance. So, even if you begin doing this exercise by using a vertical pole as we mentioned earlier, over time you will be able to control your balance and complete the exercise easily. 

In contrast, there is only one real disadvantage of the pistol squat and this is that it might cause discomfort in your joints when you first begin doing them. But over time as your flexibility improves, this discomfort should ease. 

The Shrimp Squat

After looking at the pistol squat, it is now time for us to take a closer look at the shrimp squat.

Let’s first begin by taking a look at how you should complete this exercise to get the best results. 

How to do a Shrimp Squat 

To ensure that you are completing your shrimp squat correctly, we have put together this quick guide to how to do one. So let’s take a look at how.

You must begin the exercise by standing tall, like in a pistol squat. Next, you should curl your non-dominant leg behind you grabbing the ankle with the hand on the same side of your body.

You should extend your other arm out in front of you then begin bending your body at your ankle, hip, and knees to lower yourself toward the ground. 

As you descend, your body should lean forward to ensure that you are holding balance and using your abdominal muscles. You will know that you have completed the full squat when your bent knee touches the ground behind your foot that is grounded on the floor.

Once you have done that, you should return to a vertical standing position, then repeat for a set amount of reps on both legs. 

Tricks and Mistakes

Let’s now take a look at some tricks which can help your shrimp squat, and some common mistakes to avoid. 

The main trick that we recommend for this type of squat is to protect your knees.

A lot of people fall victim to their knee hitting the ground harshly during the squat, so we recommend placing a mat or a towel down onto the ground behind the foot that you have cemented to the ground to protect your joints. 

This will also protect your knee should you accidentally lose balance and fall to the ground, preventing you from unnecessary injury and ensuring that you don’t need to be fearful when completing this exercise. 

In contrast, the most common mistake made when completing shrimp squats is not bending low enough during each rep.

By not bending low enough, you are not using all of the muscles which are supposed to be used in a shrimp squat, and in particular, your quads will not be getting a full workout. This is why it is important to ensure you dip down when doing a shrimp squat. 

Pros and Cons of the Shrimp Squat

Finally, let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of the shrimp squat beginning with the good things. 

One of the main benefits of the shrimp squat is that it allows you to build the muscles in your quads significantly.

Successful shrimp squats put a lot of strain on your quad muscles, and this pays off further down the line once you have completed these exercises frequently.

So if you want to work on your quad muscles without needing to use additional weights, the shrimp squat is an excellent way to do this. Similarly, this workout is also great for balancing out muscle mass due to the wide variety of muscles used with every squat. 

However, there is one major negative of the shrimp squat, and that is that it is difficult to add any weight to the workout. All of your hands and legs are in use during this exercise, preventing you from holding onto weights to advance the workout without overbalancing or falling.

This is why a lot of people tend to choose the pistol squat instead of the shrimp squat. 

Other Types of Squats

You may want to try some other squats to mix in your routine and to stay fresh.

  1. Zercher squats muscles worked
  2. Cossack squat
  3. Hack squat
  4. Belt squat


Even though the pistol squat and shrimp squat are often perceived as very similar, there are some major differences between the two.

But they are both excellent ways to work out and a great way to build muscle mass in different parts of your body. 

Kevin Harris