How To Do Cossack Squat

Girl doing cossack squat

How To Do, Muscles Worked, Benefits, Variations, And Mistakes To Avoid

Hip-specific exercises and stretches will be your best friend if you wish to fight the ill effects of sitting all day.

The Cossack squat is a single-leg squat variation that tests not only your strength but also your hip, knee, and ankle mobility and thus develops mobility, flexibility, and strength in the frontal plane. Cossack squats can benefit beginners and advanced lifters as they target the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and hip adductors while also working your core, including your abdominals and lower back. 

Looking deceptively straightforward, this move can be challenging for beginners and often requires modifications to be done effectively when you first start with them and definitely worth integrating into your routine.

How To Do Cossack Squat

Man doing Cossack Squat
Credit: throwsuniversity.com
  1. Assume the starting position by widening your stance(wider than shoulder-width apart), your toes should be pointed straight ahead and take a big step to the side, like with a side lunge
  2. Inhale as you bend your right knee and sit back as far as possible, keeping your weight on your right leg.
  3. Your left leg should remain straight as your left foot rolls on your heel, toe up.
  4. Your torso should remain upright and your right heel should stay on the ground..
  5. Pause for a brief moment, then exhale and push yourself back up to the starting position.
  6. Inhale and lower your weight onto your left leg, repeating the above steps once more.

Muscles Worked

While Cossack squat uses much of the same musculature that you would see in the squat, it primarily targets the knee and hip extensors on the leg that performs the deep squat and eccentrically loads the hamstrings and adductors on the straight leg. To a certain degree, it emphasizes muscles targeted during stiff leg deadlifts too

The main muscles worked by the Cossack squat are:

• Quads

• Glutes

• Hamstrings

• Adductor Magnus (Inner Thigh)

• Obliques (side abs)

• Calves

There are certain muscles that are more activated in the Cossack squat compared with the traditional squat: here’s a brief summary

Adductors

The adductors are trained eccentrically during the Cossack squat’s lowering phase. The adductors will benefit from doing Cossack squats since they improve eccentric strength, muscle fascicle length, and flexibility. Adductors are incredibly important and yet are frequently neglected. The Cossack squat has a positive training effect on the adductors, which is enough to recommend it to your clients.

Hamstrings

The hamstrings are trained in the same manner as the adductors — they are lengthened during the downward phase of the movement. Rotating the foot of the straight leg changes where the stretch is focused, shifting it from adductors to hamstrings. When your foot is turned up, the hamstrings are stretched to a greater degree.

Quadriceps

In the Cossack, the deep knee bend of the squatting leg puts the quadriceps in a completely flexed orientation. As a result, your quads must work to pull you out of the deep squat as you push down into the ground in order to get back to the start.

Glutes

The glutes extend the hip out of the fully flexed position at the bottom of a deep squat.

Benefits of the Cossack Squat

Cossack squats have numerous benefits.

The first is its plane of movement. In a cossack squat, you’re operating in the frontal plane, which means you are moving from side to side.

The sagittal plane, or front to back, is where most leg exercises take place, such as squats, lunges, and deadlifts.

This implies lateral movements, such as cossack squats, are frequently an asset since they work different muscle groups and joints from a different perspective.

Squatting in this manner also has several health and fitness benefits, including increased flexibility and stability.

Cossack squats are an excellent way to increase your hip, knee, and ankle range of motion. And, you’ll surely enhance the flexibility of these joints far better if you perform cossack squats regularly (and correctly!).

Cossack Squat Variations 

To do perfect Cossack squats, you’ll need a lot of practice. The majority of people are unable to execute a Cossack squat without first increasing their range of motion and control. If you want assistance or something more difficult, try these variations on a Cossack squat.

TRX Cossack squat

If you’re having a tough time completing a cossack squat with your current strength or mobility, start with a TRX assisted version.

To complete the cossack squat movement, follow these steps: Hold the handles, extend your arms, and lower into a cossack squat.

The TRX straps will assist you in reaching the full depth.

Front-loaded Cossack squat

Add some counterbalance in the form of one or two kettlebells or dumbbells to help you maintain your torso upright if you’re having problems doing it alone.

Holding them out in front of your chest and lowering down is a good idea. You should have no trouble remaining vertical.

One-arm overhead Cossack squat

There are a few variants of the overhead cossack squat, including one-arm and two-arm versions.

The one-arm version is simpler than the two-arm variation, and it’s advisable to try this with a light dumbbell or kettlebell in the hand opposite of your squatting leg.

Extend your arm overhead and repeat the cossack squat movement.

Switch the weight to the other hand after you’ve completed your reps on this side and then go through the same motion on the other side.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

The two common mistakes that occur during a Cossack squat are:

Not Arching Your Back

If you’re inflexible in your hips, your torso will want to protrude forward and your lower back will arch as you descend into the cossack squat movement.

You can counter it by lowering down only as far as your flexibility allows.

You may also stand with your hands on the ground in front of you as a stabilization measure until your flexibility improves.

Keeping your heel on the ground

This is also a question of flexibility. You’ll be tempted to lift your heel off the ground to squat deeper into the posture if you don’t have an adequate range of motion in your ankle.

Lower yourself until you can go no farther without your heel lifting. In the meantime, work on some ankle mobility exercises.

The Cossack squat challenges your mobility and strength in a unique manner. Your body will benefit from a new range of motion when you incorporate them into your leg day as a warm-up or an add-on to weighted leg exercises. Begin by performing it with only your body weight, then add weight as you get more comfortable. For those who lack flexibility, the full Cossack squat may seem unattainable at first; but with time and perseverance, you will get there and see excellent results.

The Bottom Line

The Cossack squat challenges your mobility and strength in a unique manner. Your body will benefit from a new range of motion when you incorporate them into your leg day as a warm-up or an add-on to weighted leg exercises. Begin by performing it with only your body weight, then add weight as you get more comfortable. For those who lack flexibility, the full Cossack squat may seem unattainable at first; but with time and perseverance, you will get there and see excellent results.

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