If pigeons were brilliant, would they flock?

Crowd panics, market bubbles, and other unpredictable collective behaviors would not happen if people were smart about these things and just thought through their behavior before they acted. Right? That’s the perspective in economics, and even psychology and sociology.

But a UC Davis researcher looked at how people behave in simple reasoning games and found that people are usually driven to “flock,” or behave similarly to others in a given situation. Seth Frey, an assistant professor of communication at UC Davis, said this happens “even when people use the fancy reasoning processes that are supposed to make humans so special.”

Frey is lead author of an article, “Cognitive mechanisms for human flocking dynamics.” The paper appeared in the Journal of Computational Social Science this month.

“The basic idea is that we have this preconception about fads and panics and flocks and herds, that they are driven by our basest animal spirits, and that adding thoughtfulness or education or intelligence would make those things go away,” Frey said.

“This paper shows that people who are being thoughtful (specifically people who are doing dizzying ‘what you think I think you think I think’ reasoning) still get caught up in little flocks, in a way that the game they end up playing is driven less by what seems rational and more by what they think the others think they’re going to do.”

Each game used in the study is based on a very different way of thinking and should have evoked different varieties of reasoning by players, Frey said. But they did not. The same sophisticated flocking behavior bore out in all three games.

Flocking can be good or bad

Researchers looked at the behavior of hundreds of players, who came from student and online pools, repeated for many rounds of the games over time. They analyzed behavior over high and low payoffs, over multiple populations and with very experienced players, with the well-known “Beauty Contest” game and two they devised for the research, “Mod Game” and “Runway Game,” Frey said.

Rules and methods of winning each game varied.

In Beauty Contest, players receive a reward for guessing the number 0-100 whose number is closest to two-thirds the value of the average of all numbers submitted by all players. In the Mod Game, players choose an integer between 1 and 24. Players earn points by choosing a number precisely one above another’s number, except that 1 beats 24, such as in Paper-Rock-Scissors, in that every number can get beaten by another. And in the Runway Game, players practice the same one-upmanship of the Mod Game, but they can choose literally any number, -1, a million, pi, anything. These subtle differences lead to big differences in theory, but they don’t seem to matter to players, who get caught up in their group mates’ flocking no matter what.

Frey explained that flocking, in life, can be good or bad. It can be good for schools of fish, flocking birds, or team cyclists in a race — where in each case group members gain a greater ability to obtain food, be safe or to win. But flocking can be undesirable in a stock market fall or a riot, for instance, where safety, survival or “winning” can be jeopardized.

.” ..These games show that sophisticated human reasoning processes may be just as likely to drive the complex, often pathological, social dynamics that we usually attribute to reactive, emotional, nondeliberative reasoning,” the researchers conclude.

“In other words, human intelligence may as likely increase as decrease the complexity and unpredictability of social and economic outcomes.”

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Materials provided by University of California – Davis. Original written by Karen Nikos-Rose. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

A little labeling goes a long way

Even before infants begin to speak, hearing language promotes object categorization. Hearing the same label, “That’s a dog!” applied to a diverse set of objects — a collie, a terrier, a pug — promotes infants’ acquisition of object categories (e.g., the category “dog”). But in infants’ daily lives, most objects go unlabeled. Infants are constantly seeing new things, and even the most determined caregivers cannot label each one.

How can we reconcile the power of labels with their relative scarcity? New research from Northwestern University reveals that infants can use even a few labeled examples to spark the acquisition of object categories. Those labeled examples lead infants to initiate the process of categorization, after which they can integrate all subsequent objects, labeled or unlabeled, into their evolving category representation.

This strategy, known as “semi-supervised learning” (SSL), has been documented extensively in machine learning. Labeled examples provide an initial outline of a category, and subsequent, unlabeled examples flesh out that outline, making sure it represents a broad range of category members.

Northwestern researchers asked whether this efficient strategy also was applicable to 2-year-olds. To do so, they showed infants six objects from the same novel category, one infants had never seen before. They then varied whether and how these objects were labeled (“Look at the dax!”). Infants for whom all six objects were labeled successfully learned the category, but those who heard no labels failed. Critically, infants in the semi-supervised condition — for whom only the first two objects were labeled — succeeded, learning the new category just as successfully as if all the objects were labeled.

“These results suggest that semi-supervised learning can be quite powerful. Seeing just two labeled examples jump-starts infants’ category learning. Once they’ve heard a few objects receive the same label, infants can learn the rest on their own, with or without labels,” said Alexander LaTourrette, the lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate in cognitive psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern.

Moreover, the timing of the labeling mattered. If the two labeling episodes came at the end of the learning phase, after infants had already seen the unlabeled objects, they failed to learn the category. This tells us that infants can use semi-supervised learning. They use the power of labeling to learn more from subsequent, unlabeled objects.

“This insight from machine learning sheds light on a paradox in infant development. How can labels be helpful to infants if they’re so rare? In semi-supervised learning, labels exert a powerful influence even if they are rare,” said Sandra Waxman, senior author of the study, director of the Infant and Child Development Center, faculty fellow in Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research and the Louis W. Menk Chair in Psychology at Northwestern. “Naming objects certainly does promote early language and cognitive development. This new works shows how efficiently infants link objects and the words we use to describe them. Like our most powerful computers, infants do not need us to name every single object they see.”

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People can handle the truth (more than you think)

Most people value the moral principle of honesty. At the same time, they frequently avoid being honest with people in their everyday lives. Who hasn’t told a fib or half-truth to get through an awkward social situation or to keep the peace?

New research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business explores the consequences of honesty in everyday life and determines that people can often afford to be more honest than they think.

In the paper, “You Can Handle the Truth: Mispredicting the Consequences of Honest Communication,” Chicago Booth Assistant Professor Emma Levine and Carnegie Mellon University’s Taya Cohen find that people significantly overestimate the costs of honest conversations.

“We’re often reluctant to have completely honest conversations with others,” says Levine. “We think offering critical feedback or opening up about our secrets will be uncomfortable for both us and the people with whom we are talking.”

The researchers conclude that such fears are often misguided. Honest conversations are far more enjoyable for communicators than they expect them to be, and the listeners of honest conversations react less negatively than expected, according to the paper, published in the Journal of Experiment Psychology: General.

For purposes of the study, the researchers define honesty as “speaking in accordance with one’s own beliefs, thoughts and feelings.”

In a series of experiments, the researchers explore the actual and predicted consequences of honesty in everyday life.

In one field experiment, participants were instructed to be completely honest with everyone in their lives for three days. In a laboratory experiment, participants had to be honest with a close relational partner while answering personal and potentially difficult discussion questions A third experiment instructed participants to honestly share negative feedback to a close relational partner.

Across all the experiments, individuals expect honesty to be less pleasant and less social connecting than it actually is.

“Taken together, these findings suggest that individuals’ avoidance of honesty may be a mistake,” the researchers write. “By avoiding honesty, individuals miss out on opportunities that they appreciate in the long-run, and that they would want to repeat.”

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Demi Lovato’s Mom Describes What It Was Like to Get the Call That her Daughter Overdosed

At the end of July, news broke and quickly spread that Demi Lovato had been hospitalized for an apparent overdose. It spread so quickly, in fact, that Lovato’s own mother almost found out about her daughter’s hospitalization from a gossip website, as Dianna De La Garza shared in an interview on Tuesday’s episode of Newsmax TV.

In the interview, De La Garza’s first since the event, she talks through the events of that day and gives an update on Lovato’s health and her own subsequent determination to fight the opioid epidemic.

“It’s still a really difficult thing to talk about. I literally start to shake a little bit when I start to remember what happened that day,” De La Garza said. She explained that, minutes after TMZ published an article about Lovato’s overdose, her phone was quickly flooded with texts from people offering condolences and prayers—before she even knew what they were praying for.

“I was in shock,” she said. “My heart just dropped.” Right before she was about to check TMZ, De La Garza got a call from her daughter’s then-assistant, who explained the situation, told her which hospital Lovato was in, and said the pop star was “conscious but she’s not talking.” “I knew at that point that we were in trouble,” De La Garza said.

Lovato’s sister Dallas drove De La Garza and her other daughter, Madison, to Los Angeles’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where they immediately ran to be by Lovato’s side in the emergency room.

“She just didn’t look good—at all. She was in bad shape. But I said to her, ‘Demi, I’m here. I love you.’ And at that point she said back to me, ‘I love you, too,'” De La Garza recalled. “From that point on, I never allowed myself to ever think that things weren’t gonna be OK. I prayed, of course, all the way to the hospital, and my faith is strong. And I think that’s one of things that got me through the next couple of days, when she was in critical condition. We just didn’t know for two days if she was going to make it or not.”

She added, “I just feel like the reason she’s alive today is because of the millions of prayers that went up that day, when everybody found out what was happening. I don’t think she would be here if it hadn’t been for those prayers and the good doctors at Cedars-Sinai. They were the best. I couldn’t have asked for a better team of people to save her life.”

De La Garza said that now, Lovato, who gave her mom her blessing to do the interview, is “doing really well.”

The singer reportedly entered a treatment facility recently. “She’s happy. She’s healthy. She’s working on her sobriety, and she’s getting the help she needs. And that, in itself, encourages me about her future and about the future of our family,” De La Garza said.

For her part, the mom of three has since become a vocal advocate against the ongoing opioid crisis. “You don’t see it coming, and that’s the scary thing, you know. The opioid crisis in America is at an epidemic level, and people don’t understand that until they start researching it,” she said. “It’s something that, if it has not touched your family’s life right now, before this gets any better, it has every chance of doing that.”


13 SELF-Care Essentials You Can Get at Bed Bath & Beyond

Self-care means different things to different people. For runners, it might mean tending to aching feet and sore joints while training for your first half-marathon. Or maybe you’re traveling for work and want to recreate the comforts of home with your favorite robe. Self-care can be as simple as spending some me-time with a sheet mask and a good book.

We here at SELF are very into self-care—however you want to practice it—which is why we put our name on these self-care essentials you can buy at Bed Bath & Beyond. Each product is $35 or less, so you can turn any day into self-care Sunday.

Where you live might influence how you measure up against your peers

Social comparison is one of the most ubiquitous features of human social life and a fundamental aspect of human cognition. The fundamental human tendency to look to others for information about how to think, feel and behave has provided humans with the ability to thrive in a highly complex and interconnected modern social world.

A recent study in social psychology conducted at the University of Cologne and London Business School has for the first time shown that social comparison is linked to two fundamental features of human society: tightness, or the strength of social norms and the punishment for deviance from them, and collectivism, or the human tendency to define oneself in relation to others. Dr. Matthew Baldwin from the Social Cognition Center Cologne (SoCCCo) and Professor Dr. Thomas Mussweiler (London Business School) found out that people generally compare themselves more strongly to others in situations of social tightness, in which correct behavior is clearly defined (such as a job interview), or in collective, interdependent social situations (for example at a party). This is the case across individuals, situations and cultures. The results of their series of three representative surveys has now been published in the article, “The culture of social comparison,” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

In the first two studies, conducted online using Amazon’s MTurk, Baldwin and Mussweiler surveyed a total of approximately 1.000 Americans. The results showed that people who experience socially tight situations (job interview) and interdependent situations (party) tend to compare themselves more strongly to others. “We noticed that the responses of people who lived many miles away from each other, and did not know each other, were remarkably alike,” says Matthew Baldwin. “This means that the link between cultural tightness, interdependence and social comparison is built into the social world, not just a matter of individual perceptions.”

In a final study, the two psychologists analyzed publicly available data from Google using the online tool Google Correlate. For each state in the USA, they downloaded search frequencies for a variety of emotion words that indicate social comparison (e.g., jealous, pride). A high value for a state shows that people in that state search for the words more than people in other states. The results show that as states become more culturally tight and interdependent, they tend to search for more social comparison emotions.

For an interactive map of the researchers’ findings across the USA, please see: http://www.mattwbaldwin.com/blog/the-culture-of-social-comparison-map.

Scientists still know very little about the relation between social comparison and broad patterns of social life. Baldwin and Mussweiler’s study is an important step towards understanding the origins of social comparison and the essential role of comparison for the development of social life.

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Getting help with parenting makes a difference — at any age

A new Oxford University study finds that parenting interventions for helping children with behaviour problems are just as effective in school age, as in younger children.

There is a predominant view amongst scientists and policy-makers that, for greatest effect, interventions need to be applied early in life, when children’s brain function and behaviour are thought to be more malleable. However, according to new Oxford University research, it’s time to stop focussing on when we intervene with parenting, and just get on with helping children in need of all ages.

Just published in Child Development, the study is one of the first to test this age assumption. Parenting interventions are a common and effective tool for reducing child behaviour problems, but studies of age effects have until now produced mixed results.

A team led by Professor Frances Gardner of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention analysed data from over 15,000 families from all over the world, and found no evidence that earlier is better. Older children benefited just as much as younger ones from parenting interventions for reducing behaviour problems. There was no evidence whatsoever for the common belief that earlier interventions are more powerful — and this was based on combining data from more than 150 rigorous trials.

What’s more, their economic analysis (based on a UK and Ireland subset of the data) found that interventions with older children were actually more likely to be cost effective.

Professor Gardner commented: “Where there is concern about behavioural difficulties in younger children, it is important that our findings are never used as a reason to delay intervention, as children and families otherwise will suffer for longer.” She continued, “With respect to common parenting interventions for reducing behaviour problems in childhood, rather than believing ‘earlier is better’, we should conclude, ‘it’s never too early, never too late’.”

The study draws the conclusion that it makes sense to invest in parenting interventions for children at all ages showing signs of behavioural difficulties, as they are no more likely to be effective in younger than older children, at least in the pre-adolescent range, 2-11 years.

Of course, there’s more work to be done. The trials examined were limited to pre-adolescents, to shorter-term effects, and parent-reported assessment of child outcomes.

Future studies are needed that focus on adolescents, longer-term outcomes, and using multiple sources (e.g. observations; father reports) for assessing child behaviour problems.

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Difficult people have most to gain from practicing compassion

The most disagreeable individuals, who are also the least likely to be kind, can benefit most from behaving more compassionately, a York University study has found.

More than 640 people who were mildly depressed took part in the study which tracked the results of online compassion training. Researchers asked the participants, who were on average in their mid-30s, to take part in one of three online compassion intervention exercises including a control condition. They were asked to complete their exercise and report back via an online platform every other day for three weeks.

Two months later, disagreeable participants who performed acts of kindness in close relationships showed the greatest reductions in depression and greatest increases in life satisfaction.

“Everybody needs people,” says lead author Myriam Mongrain, Professor of Psychology in York’s Faculty of Health. “As a result of their hostility and lack of cooperation, disagreeable types risk getting rejected or ostracized. There is a lot of conflict in their relationships, and they suffer the consequences. We found that providing concrete suggestions to those individuals, giving them ways in which they could express empathic concern in their close relationships was tremendously helpful.”

Highly disagreeable people often lack empathy, even in their close relationships, said Mongrain.

“Implementing these new behaviours might have left them feeling affirmed and liked in their close social circle. This might have been the anti-depressant ingredient in this group,” she said.

Mongrain adds the findings are particularly noteworthy given that the interventions were administered online and only required 10-15 minutes every other day. In other words, it was easy to implement, could be administered worldwide and had profound effects for some individuals.

In another exercise condition involving Loving Kindness Meditation, participants were asked to spend up to 10 minutes meditating on nurturing phrases such as “May you be happy” or “May you be safe.” This exercise was of benefit to participants as a whole. However, when examining interactions effects with the disagreeable personality variable, the researchers found that it was the Acts of Kindness exercise that was most helpful for this subgroup.

Researchers say the results could have immediate practical applications for social scientists, policymakers, psychology researchers, and health practitioners. The widespread application of compassion interventions could contribute to a more humane and kinder society, particularly when targeted at those prone to hostility.

“It’s like at the end of the story of the Grinch,” says Mongrain. “When he took people in they said his heart grew three sizes bigger, and he also became happy. You can’t be an island unto yourself. Sometimes those who are hostile say they don’t need people, but at the end of the day, it does affect mood. People get very drained from disagreements with their spouse for example, so the toll that it takes is not to be minimized. This kind of intervention could be an antidote for those who are lacking in compassion.”

The study is published in the journal, Translational Issues in Psychological Science.

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How to Pick the Best Pears

While everyone is busy getting pumped for apple season, I’m thinking about how to pick pears. Remember: There’s another equally delicious fall fruit that deserves your attention, too. Pears may not get as much hype, but they’re just as tasty, snackable, and fun to cook with as any old apple. The one downside to this oft forgotten fruit: They’re just as tricky to shop for. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it can be nearly impossible to tell the good pears from the bad when you’re at the supermarket.

As is the case with apples, there are no obvious clues that will tell you if a pear is good or not, but there are a handful of really subtle ones that’ll point you in the right direction. Here, Randy Davidson, global produce field inspector at Whole Foods Market, tells SELF about all the little things you should be on the lookout for. Along with the fact that a bruised pear isn’t always a bad thing, this is everything you should know.

There are many different kinds of pears, but just a few common ones.

During peak pear season (from September to January), you’ll see many, many, many different kinds of pears at the farmers market, but for most of the year, Davidson says you’ll only really see three at the supermarket: Anjou, Bartlett, and Bosc. Less common varieties that you may also encounter outside of peak pear season include Golden Russet and Comice.

Bartlett pears are green with a red blush and a sweet and creamy flavor that makes them equally great for snacking on and adding to salads, Davidson explains. He calls Anjou pears “America’s favorite pear,” because they’re super sweet and juicy, perfect for baking or grilling (yes, grilled pears are a thing, and they are amazing). They can be either green or red. And finally, Bosc pears are brownish-yellow, and they’re also great for snacking on or adding to salads because they have an excellent spicy-sweet flavor.

As for those less common varieties, Golden Russet pears are copper colored and very sweet (a favorite of Davidson’s!), and Comice pears are extremely delicate, with very thin, fragile skin and juicy, silky, sweet flesh. Since these types are less common, you’re best off enjoying them as they are.

Since pears have very delicate skin, light bruising isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Though it’s generally not a good thing when a piece of fruit is bruised, Davidson says it’s not that big of a deal when it comes to pears. Because Comice pears are more tender than most, he explains that light bruising commonly occurs during production. He assures me these marks are purely cosmetic, though, adding that they don’t normally affect the pear’s interior.

Though light bruising is fine, dark spots or punctures are not.

Avoid any pears with large dark or mushy spots and tears in the flesh. He says those are the common indicators of a bad pear, and they mean that the fruit will decay faster than normal.

To find a good pear, you’ll need to get a little touchy-feely.

“The best way to tell if a pear is ripe is by feel,” says Davidson. Start by gently applying pressure to the neck (the area where the stem is). If it yields, that means its ripe. “Pears texture should be fairly firm and consistent, but with more give near the stem end when ripe,” he explains. “Harder fruit is less ripe.”

If you accidentally buy an unripe pear, know that it will continue to ripen.

Like apples, pears release a large amount of ethylene, the gas that causes fruit to ripen. If you buy a pear and it’s still really hard, you can ripen it until it’s soft by storing it in a brown paper bag—this will trap the ethylene and expedite the ripening process. Alternatively, Davidson says you can also store them in a fruit bowl at room temperature and they will eventually come around. Once they’ve reached your desired ripeness, he recommends storing them in the fridge to increase their lifespan.

Use your peak season pears in these recipes.

Cinnamon Pear Cottage Cheese

Andrew Purcell; Carrie Purcell

This may not seem like an obvious flavor combo, but it’s all you’re going to want to eat this fall after you try it. Get the recipe here.

Quinoa and Spinach Salad With Pear and Goat Cheese

Andrew Purcell; Carrie Purcell

Pears add an excellent crunch and sweetness to all kinds of different salads. Get the recipe here.

Pear With Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip

Andrew Purcell; Carrie Purcell

This fall snack is simple, yet satisfying. Get the recipe here.

The 2 Exercises You Need to Help You Master Jessica Biel’s Challenging Pistol Squats

Right now, Jessica Biel has bragging rights on multiple fronts. Her lead performance in The Sinner earned the actor her first-ever Emmy nomination. She and husband Justin Timberlake topped “Best Dressed” lists at Monday’s award ceremony with their wedding-inspired attire. And perhaps most impressive of all, Biel mastered an extremely tough, expert-level exercise: the pistol squat.

The 36-year-old actor shared an Instagram video over the weekend of her demoing this one-legged squat, made even more difficult with the addition of front dumbbell raises. Her trainer, Ben Bruno, whose other famous clients include Kate Upton and Chelsea Handler, shared the video as well, with a caption explaining the epicness of this feat.

“These single-leg squats from @jessicabiel are seriously, seriously impressive,” Bruno wrote.

You can check out the video via @benbrunotraining here:

Pistol squats are extraordinarily challenging for several reasons.

“It’s one of the hardest variations of the squat,”Mark DiSalvo, NYC-based certified strength and conditioning specialist, tells SELF. “It’s a cross-section of mobility and strength in a squat. You have to have both.”

On the strength front, much of the difficulty comes from the fact that, as mentioned, you’re only squatting with one leg. When compared to a standard two-legged squat, this one-legged variation requires one leg to be strong enough to support all of the body weight that is normally supported by two legs, Stephanie Mansour, Chicago-based certified personal trainer, tells SELF. That makes the move exponentially harder.

To perform this one-legged move safely and correctly, you need a baseline level of strength in your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and hips as well as “everything below the knee,” says DiSalvo, including your calves, feet, and the stabilizing tendons and ligaments around your ankle joint, adds Mansour. In other words, essentially every muscle—big and small—in your lower half needs to work.

On the mobility front, you need a high level of dorsiflexion in your ankle, says DiSalvo, which is the ability to flex the foot up toward the shin. You also need a high degree of hip flexion, he adds. And lastly, you have to have strong coordination and balance.

Biel makes the move even harder (!) by adding an upper-body component.

In some cases, adding weight to a squat can, counterintuitively, make the movement easier, says DiSalvo. That’s because it counterbalances your bodyweight and can help you sink lower into the squat. But this only works if the weight is on the heavier side (typically, 10 pounds or more), and it’d most likely be one weight (like a kettlebell, for example) held in a fixed position as you perform the squats.

Because Biel is holding a set of lighter weights and raising them out in front, “she probably doesn’t need the weights for counterbalance,” says DiSalvo, and instead, is likely using them as added resistance, he explains.

This added resistance works her upper back, deltoids (especially the anterior deltoids, which are the top portion of the shoulders), and the stabilizing muscles along her spine, explains Mansour. This makes the already-tough move even more demanding, strength-wise. “It’s a front body and back body total burner,” Mansour says.

Doing pistol squats on a high box, like Biel demos, is a modification that can help if you don’t quite have the hip flexion required for the on-the-ground version.

By pistol squatting atop a tall box, Biel doesn’t have to straighten her lifted leg to a 90 degree angle in relation to her torso, an extreme level of mobility that would be necessary if she were performing the move on the ground. “That’s another thing that makes the pistol squat so hard,” says DiSalvo. “You have to have really great hip flexion on the leg that’s off the ground.”

The box allows her to perform the movement within her current range of motion, while still demanding the same high-level strength that would be required if she were on the ground, says DiSalvo.

Because pistol squats are so challenging, here are two more beginner and intermediate exercises from DiSalvo (move number one) and Mansour (move number two) that deliver similar benefits.

The first move focuses on the single-leg element of the pistol squat, and specifically works the skill of staying controlled as you lower yourself down. “Lowering yourself with control is the key to the pistol squat for most people,” says DiSalvo. “This move is cross-training for that.” The second move focuses on the depth required for the pistol squat—plus it includes upper-body work.

1. Classic Step-Ups

  • Grab a box or step that comes up to about knee height (or lower), and position it directly in front of you.
  • Step your right foot on top of the box and firmly plant it.
  • Push through your right heel and straighten your right leg, standing up on top of the box. Keep your left leg hanging next to the right.
  • Bend your right knee to slowly lower yourself down as your left leg extends straight behind you. Go slow enough that it takes you 4 to 5 seconds until your left leg reaches the ground.
  • Pause at the bottom of the movement and then push off your right foot (avoid pushing off your left leg) to raise yourself back up to the top of the movement.
  • This is 1 rep. Do 6 to 8 reps.
  • Switch legs and do 6 to 8 reps with the left leg leading.

Make sure to go slow and maintain control throughout this movement, says DiSalvo. “It’s not about how high the box is,” he says. “It’s really just about nailing the control.”

Once 8 reps becomes easy, you can up the ante by holding light dumbbells, or by increasing the height of the box or step, says DiSalvo.

Then, when you’re proficient with this movement, try standing on the side of a box or step and performing the same slo-mo lowering from this positioning, says DiSalvo. This will more closely mimic the pistol squat, as it allows you to also add on and practice moving your ungrounded leg up and forward.

2. Deep Squats With Front Dumbbell Raises

  • Grab a pair of light dumbbells, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold one weight in each hand.
  • Keeping your spine straight, squeezing your core, and bending your elbows slightly, hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs (palms facing in toward you) and then slowly raise the weights straight out in front of your body until they reach shoulder level as you simultaneously push your butt back and bend your knees to lower into a deep squat.
  • Once you’ve reached your full range of motion in the squat, push through your heels to return to standing as you simultaneously and slowly lower the weights back down in front of your thighs.
  • This is 1 rep. Do 10 reps.

As you squat, make sure your toes are pointing straight and your knees aren’t caving in or out, says Mansour. When performing the lateral raise, keep your arms out directly in front of you, not on a diagonal. “You don’t want to lift your arms out to the sides,” says Mansour. “You want them to come straight out from the shoulder joint.” Lastly, if your lower back hurts as you perform the squats, you may have a tight lower back, says Mansour. Protect it from extra stress by reducing the depth of your squat.