What is a Cossack Squat | Steps and Benefits

by Mouli Chakraborty
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Have you ever seen an athlete performing a deep squat with a single leg, and the other leg is in the posture of the one-half split? Well, that’s how you should begin for cossack squat.

These types of squats help you regain your body flexibility or acquire a significant amount of strength in the lower body.

As per trivia knowledge information, Cossack squats are inspired by cultural folk dance steps performed by the Cossacks of Eastern Europe. 

If you feel interested in knowing more info about cossack squats benefits, how to perform tips, and more, follow this article until the end. 

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What is a Cossack Squat? 

Deviating from the traditional squat forms, the Cossack squat is a deep squatting type where the barbell is not on your back.

Rather this kind of squatting is done with the help of your whole body weight or with the support of a kettlebell or dumbbell for regular lifters. The single-leg variation is followed by cossack squats, where any one leg upholds the weight of your body at a time. 

Cossack squat is different from the lateral lunge. In the case of Cossack squats, the individual performing it has to maintain a wide stance throughout the exercise.

But such is not true for lateral lunges, where the performer can step their legs in and out in between reps. 

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Which Muscles Are Involved While Performing Cossack Squat? 

Mainly Cossack squats are considered a leg warm-up exercise, but several other body muscles are also worked out side by side. This one-leg variant squat tries to activate more of your quads, obliques, hamstrings, Gluteus medius, calves, and side abs.

While doing cossack, the flexible movement of your knees is primarily feasible because of the active involvement of the quads. And the main role of obliques in such squats is to restrict twisting your body to avoid injury during the exercise. 

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Cossack Squats Benefits

Cossack Squats Benefits
Cossack Squats Benefits

The posture for cossack squats is interesting, isn’t it? Every time you would try this side to side squats, you would be reminded of dancing to the tunes of Cossacks from Eastern Europe.

In case you are curious about learning some of the common benefits of such side squatting, check here – 

Improves Joint Health 

Often in your thirties, you may feel the problem of weakening bones and joint strength. But cossack single-leg variant squatting would make poor joints feel better.

While squatting, you have to bend your alternative legs, which go deep to the knee, hip, and ankles. And the other straight leg would realize the real stretch in the abductors and hams.

While repeating the legs in and out pose, you comfort yourself from the chances of soft tissue injuries connected with the joints. 

Acts as a warm-up for other variants of exercises 

During sports events, many athletes and weight lifters choose cossack as a warm-up variant to their field of sport.

Working out cossack as a warm-up exercise also stimulates smaller muscle groups like glute medius in activating the major prime movers.

For example, it ensures the knees remain on track and do not curve inward while sprinting. 

Side-to-side squats help weight lifters vigorously stretch the lower body muscles, which otherwise remain stiff and give them a hard time in performances. 

Increase in jump heights

Practicing the Cossack exercise often resolves the problem of short vertical jump height. Specifically, for athletes, such a squatting exercise is a pure blessing that reassures them from their height insecurities. However, excessive practice for teens can lead to excessive muscle cramps or tissue injuries which may prevent the natural growth of their height. 

Be more flexible

Regularly training your body with cossack squats would boost the flexibility of the lower body, particularly of your ankles, hips, and knee.

Eventually, you won’t face any difficulty in sitting with your opened-up hips, and you can experience the extra stretchiness of your legs. Having a flexible lower body would benefit you in your day-to-day lifestyle activities and easy mobility to outdoor spaces. 

You would also possess the ability to motor control which is purposefully directing your body. You gain such ability after consistent Cossack squat training where you no longer can afford movement deficiencies as it would make the squatting process harder to complete.  

Fixes imbalances between the right and left legs

Physiotherapists and health enthusiasts identify the cossack squat as a unilateral exercise playing a significant role in fixing the left and right leg imbalances. The lower body movements would improve when you bent one leg and slope the other leg. 

Acquire extra strength

Unlike any regular traditional squats, one of the Cossack squats benefits lies in their potential strength-building capacity. While doing Cossacks, you are expected to flex your hips, knees, and ankles more intensely in comparison to two legs regular squatting.

So, it, by default, tests your strength when you complete the Cossack side-step squat. Further, you would gain more strength when you add weights along with the Cossack squats. 

These six cossack squats benefits are convincing enough to inspire you with your daily side-by-side squats. Besides that, with Cossacks, you can add variety to your daily exercise schedule, so why not? 

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Adding variations to Cossack Squats

Cossack Squat Variations
Cossack Squat Variations

Cossack squat is a form of side-to-side squats, but you can make it extra special by adding variations while performing. 

  1. Side bent with lifting extra weight. When you master the basic cossack squats, you can take them to a higher level by lifting extra weight. Try weighing a dumbbell or kettlebell with both hands while continuing with the basic movements. For both your arms, excess weight lifting adds isometric contraction. 
  2. TRX cossack squat. For those who can’t endure cossack squat with your present mobility level of strength then, TRX assistance may help you. Try to fix the trx straps at the chest level and extend both your arms to complete the movement. With this, you can achieve greater depth. 
  3. Overhead single-arm cossack squats. You can also try one, or two-arm varieties of such side step squats. Try lifting a light dumbbell with the arm opposite to the squatting leg for one arm. And then reach the overhead position to finish the cossack squat movement. You can swap the weight to another arm once you complete the reps. 

Cossack Squats: How To Begin? 

Cossack Squat exercises can be a little bit extra challenging for beginners because they require more body endurance and strength than other lower body squats.

So, take the threshold step by only lifting your body weight. You can advance with different mediums when you are comfortable with the exercise. 

Step 1. Stand in such a way that it relatively makes a wider stance. The recommended opening position should be standing with your heels at 3-4 feet at a distance, and your toes should point straight or inwardly. 

Tip: whatever the stance is, make sure that you are comfortable with it and, at the same time, are confident that you can finish the exercise without movement compensations. 

Step 2. Stand with your body in an upright position with your hands at a significant distance from your body, easing your movement. 

Step 3. To start the squatting, rely on your body weight on any of the legs, lunge sideways, and maintain the knee over the toe. Your heels of both the legs should remain in contact with the floor throughout the leg movements. 

Step 4. Straighten the other leg and try to rotate it externally. This would enable your toes to come off the floor while the heels are in touch with the floor. 

Step 5. By testing your maximum strength, try to reach as much as possible for you. Then, retain the posture for 5-10 seconds. 

Step 6. After that, you can press onto the floor with the help of your bent leg and then try to relax the posture and compose yourself to the starting position. 

Step 7. After a few seconds, continue the exercise by following the same procedure with the other leg. 

Few Common Mistakes While Doing Cossack Squat

A few common mistakes are better to avoid while performing the side step squat cossack. Those are- 

Trying to make quick moves 

Always note in your mind that performing cossack is not about the competition that you would have to finish in the specified period. Instead, any squatting workouts need patience.

You should patiently observe and correct your posture while doing it and try your best to prevent any injury. Slow moves work the best with cossack. 

Always center the heels on the ground

While you bend the legs or even if you make movements, the heels and the foot should stick around the ground. In the beginning, you will find it hard to root your legs always in the ground, but as soon as your lower body becomes flexible, there won’t be an issue for you. 

Tip: if you are a beginner, then, in that case, you can lower the body to the maximum possible without raising your heel from the ground. 

Avoid leaning forward

To correctly maintain the posture, you should not lean forward; instead, keep your back upright while performing side-to-side squats. 

Tip: imagine that you are sitting with the support behind the wall while exercising. Balance with your weight on your back while doing movements. 

Be Patient! 

To sum up, it became apparent that, unlike traditional squats, performing Cossack squats is not done overnight. It takes time for a learner to become comfortable with Cossack squats. So, the keyword here is to have patience. Continue practicing, and side by side, engage with other workouts to enhance your hip, knee, and ankle mobility. Besides that, try to hold an object or wall before you while doing such an exercise. Remember, mastering the Cossack squat takes time, so don’t lose hope. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q.1. What is a Cossack Squat good for? 

Answer- Cossack squats enhance your lower body flexibility, mainly your knees and ankles. Having a flexible lower body would benefit you in your day-to-day lifestyle activities and easy mobility to outdoor spaces. 

Q.2. Are cossack squats effective? 

Answer – Cossack squats are effective for the motor control ability of your body with which you can purposefully direct your body. Other than that, cossack squats are also good for gaining extra body strength, boosting the lower body flexibility, giving you healthy joints, and also helping to maintain the balance between your two legs. 

Q.3. Why are cossack squats so hard? 

Answer – Compared to other traditional squats where you don’t need to move the legs laterally, Cossack squats are difficult to perform. In this form of exercise, you have to move your legs vigorously sideways to each rep. In this situation, the glute medius performs its best to facilitate the particular movement pattern. These lateral movements make cossack squat a lot tougher. 

Q.4. Is there a difference between a Cossack squat and a lateral lunge? 

Answer- With Cossack squats, you have to maintain a wide stance during the whole exercise. But in the case of the lateral lunge, the leg can be positioned in and out in between the reps.  

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