The move I love to hate: Runner Kellyn Taylor's pistol squats
Northern Arizona-based runner Kellyn Taylor may just be the definition of "badass." In addition to logging 100-mile weeks, the 30-year-old, who placed sixth in the 2016 Olympic marathon trials and fourth in the 10,000 meters, is a firefighter-in-training as well as mom to 6-year-old Kylyn, her daughter with husband Kyle.
Distance running isn't just about logging the miles, though. Strong legs are a must, and Taylor swears by these pistol squats, which impress her gym mates and are great for building bilateral strength -- imperative for runners who push off of one leg at a time. "Basically if you want strong legs you should be incorporating pistol squats into your general strength routine," says Taylor.
The move: Pistol squat
How to do it: Stand with your legs firmly on the ground. Keeping your weight on one heel, raise the opposite leg to the front. You can hold your extended foot or leg, but you don't have to. Push your hips back and bend your standing knee to slowly lower yourself as far as you can. Raise your body back up and repeat.
When I do it: I do 2-3 sets at 8-10 reps each time. It's part of the strength routine I do 1-2 times per week. I also sometimes just do them on a whim for "fun" because everyone thinks they are cool.
Why I do it: They are cool, but they are also a great exercise for runners, any other athletes who make bilateral movements, and anyone else who would like to build general strength in the hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and calves. They also improve balance and mobility. The muscles that are activated while running are the ones that are targeted during this exercise.
Why it's so killer: Doing a standard two-legged squat is hard enough to do without falling over. Take one leg away and things get interesting! It's a fun exercise to show people and an even more fun one to watch people attempt. Don't worry if you can't do it the first time you try. There are many variations that make this exercise easier or -- if you desire -- harder.