Shrimp Squats vs. Pistol Squats: Which Is Best?

Want to get started with single-leg squats but not sure which one to do? Want to know which one is better?

Being on the internet, you’ve probably seen and know of the pistol squat. It’s a really cool movement that lots of people like to do and if you can pull it off, you look like a total badass doing it.

However, the movement is quite difficult, and it requires a certain level of flexibility, strength, and control. But there’s another really cool bodyweight squat variation you can do, which is likely better for you, and most aren’t talking about it.

It’s called the Shrimp Squat. 🍤

In this article, we’ll break down the difference between Shrimp Squats and Pistol Squats, and what we recommend you start with.

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Shrimp Squats and Pistol Squats: Similarities and Differences

Both movements are single-leg exercises that require good balance and joint mobility to do properly. If you’ve never done single-leg work before and try to follow along, you’ll see just how frustrating they can be without some practice first.

The way they differ is mostly where the center of gravity is during each movement.

The Shrimp Squat will have your weight balanced over the midfoot and is a little easier in terms of balance because it’s more quad dominant. But it can be more difficult than the Pistol Squat because of the strength and ankle mobility required for the full movement.

The Pistol Squat will have your weight balanced more so on your heel. This movement will be a little less quad dominant, focusing more on the glutes, and It requires better hip flexor mobility, strength, and balance at the bottom of the movement.

Both of these movements have sticking points depending on your own strength and flexibility, but you can work your way to doing them at full range of motion to continue making progress.

We give you a full demonstration of each exercise in our video below.

If you can do bodyweight squats with no problem, you’re in the clear to begin working on single-leg squats.

We Recommend Starting With The Shrimp Squat

If you had to pick one movement to begin with, the Shrimp Squat is best, and it’s what we use in Integral Strength. This movement is easier to start with because of the progressions and variations based on your level of strength and flexibility.

We like the Shrimp Squat because it challenges your ability to bend at the knee and the ankle.

And as you become more proficient with this movement, it carries over to many other strength movements and daily life… like running up stairs, going for steep hikes, and squatting down to pick up heavy bags of groceries.

👉 If you don’t have a lot of experience squatting, it’s a good idea to get proficient with a bodyweight squat before trying out the Shrimp or Pistol Squat.

The strength you’ll build learning how to squat properly will make your single-leg squats much easier than trying them alone at the beginning. And the more you work on single-leg squats, the better you’ll be at the regular squat.

If you’re ready to dive into learning the Pistol squat, see our full Pistol Squat tutorial.

Here’s Ryan outlining the key differences between the Shrimp and Pistol squat:

Troubleshooting Single-Leg Squat Issues

One of the biggest complaints of almost everyone starting to practice single-leg squat variations are flexibility and strength.

Most people will lack the necessary flexibility in their ankles, feet, and hips, or a combination of those. We recommend starting with a self-assessment to see where you’re lacking. You’ll want to assess your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your flexibility.

If you need help with improving your ankle and feet mobility, check out our guide to increase range of motion in your ankles and feet. If your hips are tight from lots of sitting, see our tutorial on how to increase your hip mobility.

“My Knees Go Over My Toes. Is This Bad?”

You may have read this on the internet before. And you’ve probably seen people in the comments section of social media picking apart someone squatting with their knees out over their toes.

Well… we want you to know that it’s totally fine for your knees to go past your toes. As long as your knees are healthy, and you have no problems, pain, or injuries with the patellofemoral joint, it’s absolutely safe for your knees to track over your toes during the squatting movement.

One study showed states: “contrary to commonly voiced concern, deep squats do not contribute increased risk of injury to passive tissues”[1]. So as long as you’re getting expert help, and practicing the movement in a progressive manner, you’re not under any excess risk of injury.

Another study tells us that if we don’t properly load the squat with our knees going over our toes (in a natural squatting position), it can add more stress to other areas, like the hips and lower back[2].

So, no need to worry about your knees going over your toes, especially if it comes naturally and you can do it with intention and control. To work into the Shrimp Squat, you need to build up strength throughout your entire body.

Like all movements, everything you do should follow a progressive, easy-to-follow plan that meets you where you are. Since we are partial to Shrimp Squats, we include them in Integral Strength.

Learn How To Do That Shrimp Squat With Integral Strength

Integral Strength is a skill-based strength program that helps you build practical skills and strength that carry over into your beloved daily activities.

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Knee References

1. Analysis of the load on the knee joint and vertebral column with changes in squatting depth and weight load

2. Effect of knee position on hip and knee torques during the barbell squat

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