Part squat, part splits, part dance move; Cossack squats feel a little different than your standard stretch or exercise. It’s also quite difficult, but it’s the key to a host of health benefits.
As someone interested in reaping these benefits—increased mobility, stronger hips, and better stability, to name a few—I decided to try doing at least 20 bodyweight Cossack squats every day for a week to see if this movement made any difference in how my body felt.
I incorporated the exercise into my warm-ups during gym visits and then practiced it at home on days I wasn’t working out.
How to do a Cossack squat
- Start in a wide stance with your toes facing forward. Keeping your back straight and your chest proud, push your hips back and lower them toward your right foot.
- Sink as far as you can into this side squat, then step through your right heel to return to the starting position.
- Repeat on the other side.
Benefits of Cossack squats
Before addressing the benefits of the Cossack squat, it is important to say that I had two options when performing this exercise.
One option was to use it as an unweighted movement to increase mobility. The other option was to gradually add more weight to the exercise, courtesy of dumbbells or kettlebells, with the goal of building strength and muscle.
For the purposes of this challenge I chose option one, as this would target my (lack) flexibility and allow me to do the exercise every day.
“If you are performing this exercise for muscular strength or hypertrophy [muscle growth] and adding weight, it is essential that you get enough rest between each training period. I would recommend training legs every two to three days at most,” personal trainer Jess Suthard of Goal Plans, powered by MuscleFood, told me.
“But the Cossack squat can be performed every day for mobility purposes, working on hip, knee and ankle flexibility. This can be extremely effective if you lead a sedentary lifestyle and have an office job, as it will help you move around more easily. your everyday life.”
Five things I learned from doing Cossack squats every day for a week
1. Cossack squats are not easy
Cossack squats are an excellent way to develop strength, flexibility and resilience in your hips and ankles. The first day I came to do them, I felt lacking in all of these areas.
I’ve done Cossack squats before, either as part of various dynamic warm-ups or as a one-off strength-building exercise, but never regularly, and it showed.
On the first day, my hips were tight and my ankles stopped cooperating as soon as my thighs hit the floor. As I tried to go deeper into the squat, I could feel my heels peeling off the floor and I immediately became wobbly as my balance left me.
The result? A kind of inelegant half-squat, without the depth or coordination of the immaculate Cossack squats that Google inspired. But I persevered and came back the next day ready for another race against them.
2. You see progress quickly
“You will find that, over the course of the week, your range of motion should have increased in the hips, knees and ankles, the exercise will be easier, and your mobility should have improved due to the recruitment of muscle fibers,” Suthard said. my.
She was also right.
A few days later, I realized that I was able to go deeper into the squat. The muscles in my hips felt less like they were being put through the wringer and more like a fairly well-oiled machine doing what it was designed to do.
I was even able to sit at the bottom of the squat with my heels on the floor (albeit with a deep stretch of my calf and ankle muscles, and a helping hand from a nearby squat rack for support).
I used several items, including a squat rack, table, and kettlebells (as pictured below) to support myself and help me sink deeper into the squat during the first few days of this challenge, before trying the exercise unassisted later in the week.
3. Activates underused muscles
During Cossack squats, I felt underused muscles in and around my hips and knees being brought into play.
Most of my training revolves around exercises that operate in the “sagittal plane” – moving back and forth. The Cossack squat counters this tendency by working in the “frontal plane,” challenging me to shift my weight sideways.
As a result, it recruits and strengthens the hip adductors, which play a role in maintaining posture and stabilizing the hip, as well as moving the leg inward.
4. Consistency is key
As I already mentioned, this was not my first rodeo on the Cossack occupation front. But that it was the first time I’ve added them to my fitness plans with any kind of consistency, rather than including them as a fun test or way to freshen things up every now and then.
By doing the movement every day, I saw my gradual improvements continue throughout the week. By the end of the challenge, I went from being able to complete a single Cossack squat to being able to do a few reps with pretty decent form.
5. Benefits other activities
After a week of Cossack squats, my hips felt stronger and more mobile, while my ankle flexibility also showed some incremental improvements.
This improved flexibility came in handy during everyday activities, whether I was bending down to pick something up off the floor or trying to keep tight hips (and any consequent back pain) at bay after sitting at a desk for hours every day.
All of these factors have also helped me in my broader CrossFit training and in my sporting endeavors on the padel court, running track and football field.
I especially noticed a difference when performing heavy barbell back squats. A few days before starting this challenge, I had stopped a squat-centric leg workout after feeling some twinges in my groin, but after a week of Cossack squats, that problem was nowhere to be found.
I love exercising regularly for both my physical and mental health, so being able to stay injury free and train consistently is a huge win for me.
Need help choosing your weights? Our guide to the best adjustable dumbbells can help
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