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Freeletics Exercises: Cossack Squats


Basic squats are one of the most popular bodyweight training moves, but as you look to expand your exercise repertoire you’ll discover variations of the squat which can offer additional benefits and help you to switch up your workout regime. Freeletics Training and Nutrition expert David Wiener gives us the lowdown on Cossack Squats.

What are Cossack Squats?

The Cossack Squat is the name of the squat where you descend with the majority of your body weight on one leg, while the other leg is kept out straight and to the side. In addition to building strength and endurance, much like an ordinary squat, the Cossack Squat is brilliant for helping to enhance flexibility and develop mobility.

What muscles do Cossack Squats target?

Brilliant for targeting your adductors, quads, glutes, upper back, and hip flexors, the Cossack Squat can also be used to reverse the negative effects of sitting at a desk all day or spending too much time sitting down, which limits the mobility in our hips and can lead to long term stiffness or joint pain.

The Cossack Squat is pretty unique because it targets a specific area of function that most leg exercises do not, offering a side-to-side movement which trains your lower body in a different direction than it’s likely used to, helping to prevent imbalances and improve multi-planar performance.

How do I properly perform Cossack Squats?

Training Tip: Instructional videos on all the Freeletics exercises, including Cossack Squats, can be found in the “Single Exercises” section of the app, in the “Explore” tab. There we’ve included enhanced tutorial features to help you master these exercises.

To perform the Cossack Squat correctly, start standing with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, and your toes slightly turned outwards.

In the starting position your legs should be straight and your torso fully upright, with your hands away from the body for the duration of the move.

To begin, shift your weight onto one foot and bend and lunge to one side (like a side lunge), keeping the other leg straight. With your bent leg, lunge down until your hip is below the knee, focussing on sitting down instead of pushing your hips back, with your chest upright and hips down.

When you are ready, alternate lunging legs, counting one rep when you return back to the starting position, with one side counting as one repetition.

Designed to be performed in a slow and controlled fashion, the Cossack Squat can help you to build lower body control and increase strength and power in that area.

Additional things to keep in mind when training

Incorporating the Cossack Squat into your training offers a plethora of health and fitness benefits. Not only is it perfect for building strength and endurance, but it can also help to prevent future joint pain and stiffness, as well as prevent injury by restoring range of movement and training your body in a different plane of movement than it’s probably used to.

One of the advantages of the Cossack Squat is that it can be performed using your body weight only. If you find the Cossack Squat isn’t challenging enough and you want to increase the difficulty you can progress to the Assisted Pistol Squat, or even the Pistol Squat.

As a beginner, you may find this exercise quite uncomfortable to perform, however this discomfort is normally because of a lack of mobility or tightness in the lower limbs.

Performing Cossack Squats regularly and stopping before reaching the pain threshold will help overcome these mobility issues and increase your range of motion, so stay committed to doing them and you will progress and reap the benefits in no time.

Exercise overview by Freeletics Training and Nutrition Specialist, David Wiener
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