Dragon Squat Exercise Guide — Muscles Worked, How to, Benefits, & Alternatives

dragon squat pistol squat progression
Dragon Squat pistol squat guide

The dragon squat takes the pistol squat up a level. 

Experts widely regard the dragon squat – a step up from the shrimp squat and pistol squat – as the ultimate bodyweight exercise for strengthening your legs. This challenging routine demands exceptional flexibility, stability, and strength, making it an excellent opportunity to push your limits and unlock your full potential.

Research shows that the squat is the gold standard for exercises that enhance your athletic performance (1). However, you’ll have to rely on calisthenics if you don’t have access to weights. People in this category must find ways to overload their muscles for results.

You can also use high-rep or unilateral training to overload your muscles. However, the pistol squat and the dragon squat, an advanced pistol variation, also accomplish this. In this exercise guide, we look at how to surmount the challenge of doing the dragon squat and the benefits of this routine.

Techniques & Muscles Worked

The dragon squat is a unilateral movement that trains one leg at a time. It targets your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, hip adductors, and hip abductors. Dragon squats also work on your abs and obliques as you’ll use your core to maintain stability during the routine.

Dragon squats are not beginner exercises; doing them will test your stability and balance. While this exercise is excellent for your lower body, doing it wrong could put you at risk of injuries. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to do dragon squats.

  1. Assume a standing position with your legs together and your arms raised to your sides. 
  2. Next, brace your core and pull your shoulders down and back before transferring all your weight to one leg. This is your starting position.
  3. Squat with that leg while crossing the other leg behind it.
  4. Then, swing that leg out to the front at the bottom of your squat without touching the ground. Ensure that this leg stays straight the whole time. You can move your arms as needed to maintain balance. 
  5. Pause for three to five seconds and then drive your squat leg into the ground to stand back up while returning the other leg to get to the starting position to complete the rep. 
  6. Switch legs and repeat steps two to five.
  7. Do this exercise for as many reps as you can. 


The dragon squat is a single-leg exercise, which means more focus on the leg in use, leading to greater gains. But did you know that research shows that one-leg exercises can improve the strength, power, and endurance of even the leg not in use (2)? Below are more benefits of the dragon squat. 

Leg Strength & Flexibility

Dragon squats channel your entire body weight through one leg when you squat. This greatly overloads and strengthens your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. The contortions of this routine also work on the flexibility in your hips. 


You don’t need any equipment to do the dragon squat. As a result, you can practice this exercise at home or even in a hotel room when you travel. Dragon squats are an excellent option for those who choose to do calisthenics.

Mobility & Balance

You must balance your weight on one leg when doing dragon squat. You’ll have to use your core muscles and position your arms in the air for this. Over time, this exercise will improve your ability to balance successfully on one leg. It’ll also improve your hip mobility

Fix Muscle Imbalances

Single-limb routines like the dragon squat are a great way to find which of your limbs is stronger. While training, you can use a greater number of reps to balance out and strengthen the weaker limb. 


Are bodyweight squats and even pistol squats too easy for you? The dragon squat is an advanced move that will challenge and motivate you. This can help you break out of training monotony and even a plateau (3)

Dragon Squat Alternatives

Speaking of variety, dragon squats are not the only challenging exercises you can use to train your lower body. Below are other routines that will also task your leg muscles and improve your mobility. 

Pistol Squat

The pistol squat is another advanced variation of the bodyweight squat but is a step below dragon squats. Experts suggest that you learn this routine first before attempting the dragon squat. This exercise targets and also builds your quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, abductors, and adductors. 

Shrimp Squat


The shrimp squat is also an advanced variation but below the pistol squat above. The order from least challenging to most challenging are bodyweight squat, shrimp squat, pistol squat, and dragon squat. Shrimp squats target the same muscles as the pistol squat but don’t require as much mobility. 

Box Step Down

Box step-downs lift and lower your body using one leg. They build the hamstrings, quads, glutes, adductors, abductors, and core muscles. Box step-downs require less flexibility and balance than dragon squats. 

Smith Machine Pistol Squat

Smith machine pistol squats build all the muscles the dragon and pistol squats do. However, this exercise doesn’t require balancing as the machine, which is safer, supports you. It still puts the load on one leg, though. 


What muscles do dragon squats target?

Dragon squats target and build the muscles of your lower body unilaterally. They also build core muscles like your abs and obliques. For a more precise breakdown, refer to the exercise guide above. 

How hard is a dragon pistol squat?

The dragon pistol squat is a tasking exercise. This routine is a step above pistol squats and an advanced variation of bodyweight squats. Before attempting this variation, you must be great at shrimp and pistol squats. 

What are the benefits of single-leg squats?

Single-leg squats work on your mind-muscle connection and improve your exercise form. Handling the weight one leg at a time also enhances the endurance and strength of that leg. Plus, research shows that even the leg that is not working benefits when doing single leg exercises (2)

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  1. Myer, G. D., Kushner, A. M., Brent, J. L., Schoenfeld, B. J., Hugentobler, J., Lloyd, R. S., Vermeil, A., Chu, D. A., Harbin, J., & McGill, S. M. (2014). The back squat: A proposed assessment of functional deficits and technical factors that limit performance. Strength and conditioning journal, 36(6), 4–27. https://doi.org/10.1519/SSC.0000000000000103
  2. Kannus, P., Alosa, D., Cook, L., Johnson, R. J., Renström, P., Pope, M., Beynnon, B., Yasuda, K., Nichols, C., & Kaplan, M. (1992). Effect of one-legged exercise on the strength, power and endurance of the contralateral leg. A randomized, controlled study using isometric and concentric isokinetic training. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology, 64(2), 117–126. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00717948 
  3. Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(24), 4897. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16244897
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.