Wait, are pistol squat burpees even safe to try at home?

By Faith Brar
May 14, 2020
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A quick scroll through Nicole Polizzi (aka Snooki)'s Instagram proves the mom of three is all about hitting the gym hard. From handstand walkouts to gymnastics tumbling, the Jersey Shore alum loves to test her strength. Her latest home workout: pistol squat burpees—which look just as tough as they sound.

Snooki shared a video demonstrating the unique workout move in what appears to be her home gym. She's first seen taking a moment to stretch it out in a forward fold before getting down to business.

Then, she descends into a deep single-leg squat (pistol squat) with her right leg. Immediately after coming up from the pistol squat, Snooki jumps down into a burpee (complete with a push-up), keeping her left leg elevated. Finally, she hops back up to a standing position (still balancing on her right leg) and repeats the entire sequence, barely breaking a sweat. (Related: Watch Jessica Biel Do Plyo Box Pistol Squats Like It's NBD)

Snooki's fans were seriously impressed by her complex workout move. "That's crazy impressive," one user shared in the comments. "My trainer can't even do that," added another.

Pistol squats and burpees are hard enough on their own, but combining the two can present quite a challenge, especially considering the number of muscle groups each exercise is targeting. "A pistol squat is a unilateral movement that hammers your quads and glutes and is a great test of hip and ankle mobility and stability," says Beau Burgau, C.S.C.S., strength coach and founder of GRIT Training. "Burpees, on the other hand, are a full-body endurance move that primarily targets the chest, legs (quads, glutes), but also the core and shoulders." (FYI: Here's how to do a burpee the right way.)

By combining both movements, you're not only testing your balance and unilateral leg strength but your overall control and endurance too, says Burgau.

How to Do Pistol Squat Burpees Safely

If you're worried about the safety of this exercise, you're not alone. Several of Snooki's followers shared concerning comments about the move seeming somewhat "dangerous." Some people even wondered whether she could "blow out" her knees with the move.

But Burgau says that pistol squat burpees can be safe—that is, as long as your form isn't lagging.

"Make sure you know your mobility limitations," he explains. "You need to have proper leg strength, as well as stability and control to attempt this movement safely."

While it depends on your individual experience and level of fitness, your biggest potential risk for injury lies in the pistol squat portion of the move, he notes. "If you're not hinging at the hips correctly, and you let your knees flare out or twist in, you can jeopardize your knee tendons and ligaments," explains Burgau. (Related: 10 Exercises You Should Never Do Again, According to Trainers)

It's also important that you're able to lower down into that single-leg squat position with complete control, he adds, noting that Snooki actually seems to struggle with this a little in her video. Instead of descending into the squat with one smooth, steady movement, she quickly crashes to the ground, he explains. "This can put a lot of undue stress on your tendons, ligaments, and joints in your knee and ankle," says Burgau.

That "crashing" movement is usually a result of a lack of strength and overall hip and ankle mobility, adds Burgau. So, if you've never even attempted a pistol squat before, he suggests starting with some modifications of that move before progressing to the real thing (let alone a pistol squat burpee). (Related: Try These Modifications When You're Tired AF In Your Workout Class)

One simple modification: bench pistol squats. Simply perform a single-leg squat until your butt touches the bench before lifting yourself back up, explains Burgau. For more of a challenge, you could do an assisted pistol squat by holding onto a squat rack, rig, or chair as you lower down into the single-leg squat.

You could also modify the single-leg burpee portion of the workout by doing a burpee with both feet planted to the ground instead, says Burgau. "Plus, you could also remove the push-up, but really, the burpee is the easy part of this move," he adds. "The most important thing is to get comfortable with doing a pistol squat, and then you can think about adding the burpee." (Related: 4 Burpee Alternatives for an Amazing Home Workout)

Looking for more challenging exercises to spice up your workout routine? Try a shrimp squat, which is an even harder version of a pistol squat. (Or try some of these other hardest and best exercises from real trainers.)

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