A Cossack squat is a squat variation which is used to increase mobility and strength. It’s a great exercise which develops hip mobility and leg strength, and it’s something you should do more often!
Simply described, the Cossack squat is when you descend and squat with one leg and the other leg is extended outwards and in-line with your hips – it will be extended to the side with your heel on the ground and your foot pointed upwards. Typically your hands and arms are extended out in front of you to counterbalance yourself. You then shift your weight and alternate between legs.
Although it’s a great squat, rather than doing the Cossack squat for reps to build strength and endurance, its best application is when it’s used to increase mobility or during dynamic warm-ups.
How to Do a Cossack Squat Properly
The goal during the Cossack squat is to get as low down as possible. Much like any squat, they need to be deep squats to get you the best gains. Initially, if you struggle with balance or depth, you can use a fixed object to help hold your balance and position. Another option is to use a medicine ball or bumper plate to hold out in front of you to help counterbalance.
You want to keep your squatting leg’s heel flat on the ground – i.e. where you do not come up onto your toes as your descend to full depth. Rather work on getting deeper into the squat over time than getting deep but lifting your heel.
At the bottom of the squat, especially if you manage a deep squat, with the Cossack squat it’s easy to round the bottom of your back – i.e. to get that butt-wink. You need to maintain a straight back throughout the movement. Although it is typical to lean forward more than in a normal squat, because this allows you to counterbalance effectively, you need to keep your chest upright as much as possible.
The goal is also to track your knee over or just outside of your toes, however, with the Cossack squat you may not be able to maintain that perfectly and that’s not a major problem. Just ensure you’re driving your knee outwards and over time you can better that knee and foot position.
You want to get to a point where your extended leg gets closer to being flat on the ground. As the depth of your squat increases, the easier it will be to get that leg flatter. Keep in mind that the entire time you heel with be on the ground and your foot will be facing upwards, almost trying to point towards your head.
Finally, once you’ve mastered the Cossack squat in terms of depth, you can than work on a more advanced variant, where you get down to depth and then sit on the floor with your extended leg still out to the side. From there you can work on getting back up and into the squat to swaps sides to do the same there. Initially you might need to use you hand to push yourself off the floor to get up, but over time you can work on doing it unassisted. Eventually, you’ll do this holding kettlebells and you’ll be at the peak of your mobility and strength in this regard.