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Cossack Squat [Exercise Guide]

What Is A Cossack Squat?

The Cossack squat is a single-leg squat variation that can help develop stronger and more flexible legs. The best thing about this exercise is that there are no additional weights or equipment required. So, it can be performed pretty much anywhere. It’s also a great way to add something new to your leg workouts.

The Cossack squat is used by many different types of athletes for many different purposes, but it’s most often used to improve strength and flexibility in the hips, groin, and hamstrings. It can be added to any leg workout as part of an “assistance exercise” such as after squats or deadlifts.

What Muscles Does A Cossack Squat Work?

The exercise unilaterally loads your quads and glutes on one side when squatting while simultaneously eccentrically loading your hamstrings and adductors on the opposing leg.


The quadriceps are completely flexed in the Cossack squat and are used as the main force that helps you get to the top position, which places a high demand on them compared to traditional bodyweight squats.


During the lowering portion of the Cossack squat, the adductors get an eccentric load. Not only that, but they will also get stretched, which is another bonus since adductors are often weak and tight in many people as they spend long hours sitting every day.


The glutes are responsible for extending the hip out of its fully flexed position at deep squats, especially in the lower portion of the squat


The hamstrings are stretched in a similar way as the adductors are during the downward part of the action. They also play an important role in stabilizing your body in the lower positions during the exercise.

How To Perform The Cossack Squat

All you need for the Cossack squat is your own body weight. However, you may also use additional weights like a dumbbell or a kettlebell to add resistance.

  • Step 1. Stand up with your feet spread wide open. Don’t go extremely far with your stance, you need to have a wide stance and also be able to shift your weight to one side and perform a squat on that leg
  • Step 2. Shift your weight to one side and slowly lower yourself down by squatting on that foot.
  • Step 3. Keep your plant foot’s heel on the ground while allowing your other foot’s toes to extend upwards.
  • Step 4. Drive up to the starting posture by contracting your glutes and quads.


The Cossack squat is can be a challenging exercise for beginners. If you are one, try performing 3-4 sets with 12 -15 reps each set without any additional weight. Use something like a side of a couch that you can grab on to for support. Once you master this move, try adding some weight to the exercise by using a dumbbell or a weighted vest.

Advantages Of The Cossack Squat Exercise

Improved Balance And Stability

The Cossack squat is a fantastic exercise to help improve your balance and stability, thus helping you lift more weight in exercises like squats or lunges. This exercise improves balance and stability because they train deep stabilizing muscles in the core and all-around your trunk.

Improved mobility and range of motion

The Cossack squat improves hip, knee, and ankle mobility and flexibility by opening your hips and stretching your hamstrings. Squat strength can be hampered by a limited range of motion, which also puts you at risk for injuries like hamstring or groin pulls. Cossack squats can help you increase the lower-body range of motion which will result in better performance during other exercises or even various sports games.

Improves muscle imbalances

Because the weight of your body during the exercise is placed on one leg, this can help you expose some of your muscle imbalances (one leg may be stronger than another). And since you’re training one leg at a time with the Cossack squat, your weaker leg will get a more intense workout and will slowly start to “catch up” to the stronger leg.

Reduces risk of joint and muscle injuries

Performing a full-depth Cossack squat will increase joint and soft tissue resiliency and health. Your knee, ankle, and hip are fully flexed during the Cossack squat, while the straight leg’s hamstrings and adductors are stretched. Being able to securely and controllably enter and exit these postures benefits joint health and minimizes the chance of soft tissue injuries like groin or hamstring pulls.

5 Cossack Squat Alternatives

If the Cossack squat seems too difficult to perform, there are other options that you can take. Here are five alternative exercises that will help strengthen your core and legs without requiring quite as much balance and coordination.

1. Step-Up

The step-up is an excellent exercise for strengthening your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, and it is a lot easier to perform than the Cossack squat. Start by standing behind a bench or a box with your feet shoulder-width apart. Then step up onto the box with your right foot. Maintain a firm grip on the platform with your right heel. Tighten your glutes and abdominal muscles to lift your body onto the platform. Finish by bringing the left foot next to the right foot. When rising yourself onto the box, keep your posture upright and don’t allow your knee to slide beyond your ankle. Step down with the right foot and return to the starting position with the left.

2. Stiff Leg Deadlift

The stiff leg deadlift targets your glutes and hamstrings and requires a bit less stability and range of motion than the Cossack squat. You can perform this exercise with light or heavy weight, depending on what you feel is most appropriate for your fitness level. Standing in front of a barbell on the floor, take an overhand hold on the barbell. Keep your head up, your lower back tucked in, and your knees straight. Slowly lower the bar by hinging in hips and not bending your knees. Once the bar reaches the floor, engage your glutes and hamstrings to pull the weight back up.

3. Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is an excellent alternative to the Cossack squat because it allows you to use more weight, which means greater strength and muscle development. It also helps you open up your hips, which will result in better mobility. You can perform it with either dumbbells or kettlebells. A goblet squat requires both hands to hold the weight at your chest and your feet to be hip-width apart. Then squat down while tightening your core. As if you’re holding a cup, tuck your elbows in. Hold a dumbbell vertically if you’re using one.

4. Reverse Lunge

The reverse lunge, like the step-up, works well at strengthening your quadriceps and glutes while requiring less balance and coordination than the Cossack squat. Also, depending on your fitness level and experience with this exercise, you can add weights for a more challenging workout. To begin, stand tall and brace your core muscles. Then, with your left foot, take a big stride backward. Lower yourself down by controlling your weight with the leg that is in front. Once you reach about a 90-degree angle in your knee, push yourself back up through the same leg to your starting position.

5. Bulgarian Split-Squat

This exercise is another great leg strengthening move that does not require as much balance and coordination as the Cossack squat. And it’s another lower body exercise that you can add weights to and increase the difficulty of. Place one leg on the back of the bench, laces down. Squat down with your standing leg until your following leg’s knee is close to touching the floor. To go back to the starting position, push up via your front foot.


1. What is the difference between a Cossack squat and a lateral lunge?

With Cossack squats, you maintain a wide stance throughout the exercise. With the lateral lunge, you step the leg ‘out’ and ‘in’ between repetitions.

2. Why are Cossack squats hard?

The Cossack squat makes use of more glute medius. Because the legs dynamically swing out to the side of each rep during the Cossack squat, the glute medius has to work harder to enable this movement pattern than in a regular squat. It also challenges one’s flexibility and mobility which can be hard for some people.

3. Is there any reason that the Cossack squat is called “Cossack” instead of just a regular squat?

They mimic a popular folk dance maneuver previously done by the Cossacks of Eastern Europe, and the exercise is a good mixture of strength and agility. They’re also a great motion to include if you’re looking for a well-rounded leg exercise.


Since the Cossack squat is effective for all training levels, you should experiment with it and blend it into your workouts. Make sure you start light not to injure yourself and as you get more comfortable you can start adding weights.

If your objective is to build muscle mass, then this exercise can be a good addition. You can use it as a separate exercise or as a part of a drop set or a superset if you’re more advanced.

However, bear in mind that this exercise is not suitable for everyone. If you suffer from back pain or hip problems, make sure to contact your doctor first.