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Cannonball Squats [Exercise Guide]

cannonball squats

What Is A Cannonball Squat

Cannonball squats are a squat variation that is quite rare to see in the gym. The main difference in this exercise is the position of the legs. The feet should stand as close as possible throughout the whole movement. The distance between the feet should be chosen based on your usual starting position.

If you usually do squats with legs on the shoulders’ width, put your feet together. For those who squat from the leg position wider than the shoulders, narrow the stance to the shoulders’ width. If you’d want to see more muscle growth in your legs, increase your flexibility or just diversify your leg workout routine, you’ll benefit from cannonball squats.

What Muscles Do Cannonball Squats Work

The main muscles involved in the exercise are the quadriceps. This movement teaches your body to squat, relying mainly on the quads. That leads to overall form improvement and stress reduction out of your posterior chain.

Cannonball squats work the following muscles:

  • quadriceps
  • adductor magnus
  • gluteus maximus

Quadriceps are activated the most during the first phase of the movement, till your knees reach the 90 degrees point. It’s a group of four muscles (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius). In general overview, all these muscles pass the knee joint and extend the knee.

Adductor magnus is a massive muscle that makes up a large area on the anterior thigh. It has multiple origination, insertion points, and several roles. The muscle is activated during both flexion and extension of the hip. Also, the muscle is responsible for the leg’s adduction and stability.

Gluteus maximus originates on the ilium’s surface and the sacrum’s lateral border. The muscle travels down and inserts on your femur bone. The gluteus maximus doesn’t fully engage in the squat until your knees past 90 degrees.

With that in mind, cannonball squats are a compound movement that works almost every muscle in your body, either directly or indirectly. 

How To Perform Cannonball Squats

You can perform this exercise with or without additional weight like a barbell or a kettlebell. The technique remains the same. But be warned: it is much more challenging than it seems at first glance.

Step 1. Get into the starting position

Stand with your legs contacting each other. Keep your toes pointed out. Here is why the move requires exceptional flexibility—you’re putting many joints into significant flexion on a very narrow stance.

Step 2. Squat down

Squat down into a deep squat. The outer portion of your quadriceps will benefit from the additional pressure you exert on the outside of your foot. 

Step 3. Come back up

Return to the starting position, extending your legs. Perform the exercise with a light barbell at first or only with your body weight. You can add weight if your joints aren’t hurting as you go through the motion.

Benefits Of A Cannonball Squat

Betters squat form

The squat form is often poor because individuals hurry to lift the greater weight. Instead of such an irrational rush, take your time cannonball squatting. It will teach your quadriceps to work more and will make them stronger. Also, narrow-footed squats are an excellent way to improve your knee range of motion. This will help you to perform many more complex exercises.

Get stronger in the bottom portion of the squat

The bottom of the squat is where most people get stuck. Anterior leg weakness is a common reason for becoming trapped down there. Cannonball squats will help you change this unpleasant point by putting your muscles in very challenging conditions. To put it another way, if you can get out of a narrow-footed squat, your body will be able to carry greater weight in typical squats.

Reduces hip tension

You put your hips under great stress while practicing regular squats. You may get the needed relaxation by just keeping your feet together. Doing cannonball squats can be a crucial stepping stone to traditional squats with weight. Narrow-footed squats will help you reduce hip tension and fix the shifting issue.

Muscle growth

Now that we’ve established the obvious let’s go deeper. As we stated before, having a small base enhances the range of motion (ROM). And more ROM equals the maximum tension on quads during the whole motion. All the work is on the quadriceps till the moment you extend your hips and glutes come into the play. That means the exercise makes your leg muscles grow faster than other squat variations.

Enhanced core stability 

Your core is the driving force behind each physical activity. It provides stability for every workout. So it’s good news that cannonball squats work and strengthen the core. Due to the upright posture while descending into the squat, narrow stance squats emphasize the core.

Available and variable

Cannonballs squat can be with just your bodyweight, which means you can do it anywhere. You don’t need to spend a cent to enjoy all the exercise’s benefits. However, the movement has many alternatives and can be practiced with dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell.

5 Cannonball Squat Alternatives

1. Goblet Squat

A goblet squat is an excellent technique to strengthen your glutes and quads while relieving tension on your low back.

How to do a goblet squat:

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back straight
  • Hold the dumbbell with both hands in front of you around your chest level
  • Squat down while keeping a neutral spine. Pull your shoulder blades tightly together. The hips should be pulled back, similar to how you would sit on a chair
  • Extend your legs, returning to the beginning position

2. Cossack Squat

Cossack squat is a great way to build strength and flexibility in your lower body. It primarily works quads, adductors, hamstrings, and glutes.

How to do a Cossack squat:

  • Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, and step a bit aside. But don’t go too far
  • Hinge your hips back. Squat on one foot while you progressively lower yourself down, shifting your weight to one side
  • Keep the heel firmly planted on the ground while extending the toes of your other foot upwards
  • Squeeze your glutes and quads to help you come back up
  • Slide your leg back, and repeat the whole process with the other leg

3. Reverse Lunge

The exercise strengthens the lower body (primarily quads and glutes), builds muscle mass, and improves explosive power. The reverse lunges are great lunges variation cause it puts less pressure on your knees.

How to do a reverse lunge:

  • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Put your hands on your hips or behind your head
  • Step back and lower your leg to create a 90-degree angle with the floor. Keep your core tight, shoulders back, and chest up. Also, your joints should stay in alignment
  • Make sure your back leg is on the ball of your foot, and your knee is underneath your spine each time you step back
  • Switch to the opposite leg. Slow down the tempo if you want to focus on building muscles. Make reps quickly if you’re going to enhance your explosive power

4. Barbell Squat

The barbell squat is a foundational lower body exercise that works your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. The knee and hip joints, ligaments, and tendons are strengthened too.

How to do a barbell squat:

  • Put the weight on both sides of your bar. Come underneath the bar, grab it with a neutral grip shoulder-width apart, and get your back in the center.
  • Pull the bar up and let it rest on your back. Keep your elbows fixed, don’t let them fly back
  • Stand in your comfortable squat position (shoulder-width apart or slightly wider)
  • Squat down
  • Come back to the starting position

Ideally, you should start with a lightweight to let your body get used to proper form.

5. Leg Extension

Leg extensions are a tried-and-true isolation workout that concentrates all of your focus on the quadriceps. To perform this movement, you will need a leg extension machine.

How to do a leg extension:

  • Position your legs under the machine’s pad and put your hands on the sidebars. This is your starting point
  • Extend your legs as far as possible, but don’t go over 90 degrees. Pause in this constricted posture for a second
  • As you breathe in, return the weight to its previous position


What are cannonball squats good for?

Cannonball squats strengthen your leg muscles, strengthen the core, and improve balance and coordination. This workout trains and prepares lower body muscles for more challenging weighted exercises involving a squat.

What muscles do cannonball squats work?

The exercise targets the quadriceps, glutes, calves, hamstrings, core, and erector spinae. Such squats work best for enhancing and growing quadriceps. 

Are cannonball squats bad for knees?

Cannonball squats definitely place more stress on your knee joint than regular squats. Therefore, you should be very careful with this exercise and not rush with it in order to keep your knees safe.


Cannonball squats are a good option if you’re looking to combine balance training with your bodyweight squats and maybe some additional quadricep workouts. Powerlifters, weightlifters, and all those interested in improving their quads can expect maximum benefits from this variation. The narrow-footed squats increase leg muscle growth, improve core stability, minimize stress on your hips, and make the overall squat form better.

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