Skip to main content

How To Do The Cossack Squat

(Image credit: Unknown)

In This Series

Think back to the very first time you tried an unweighted squat. Was it like ours? A bit tentative with your thighs going nowhere near parallel? But of course that was a long time ago, and now you, like us, are bottoming out well below that marker.

The reason we mention it is that you’ll probably get deja vu if you ever try the Cossack squat. We did when this squat variation came up when we were trying a class at the new Barry’s Bootcamp location at St Paul’s (opens in new tab) in London. Once the class was over, we checked in with Barry’s to find out more.

“The Cossack squat is a squat variation used for mobility and strength,” says Barry’s Bootcamp master trainer Tee von Zitzewitz.

“Perform it using just your bodyweight first and then once the move is mastered, you can add weight. Doing the full Cossack squat might seem unachievable for those who lack flexibility at first, but over time, with patience and determination, you will get there and you'll see great results.”

How To Do The Cossack Squat

“Start with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and take a big step to the side, like with a side lunge,” says Von Zitzewitz. “Shift your bottom back and tilt slightly forwards from the hips. You should feel your glutes activate immediately. Keep your weight through the heels at all times, and imagine spreading the floor outward with your feet.

“If this feels comfortable, start to take your feet wider and move your weight further back into the heels and bottom. Your bodyweight should always be on one side with the opposite leg extended. If comfortable, start to lift the toes up on the foot of your extended leg, keeping the heel firmly on the floor. As with all exercises, progression takes time, and you should only add weight once the basics are mastered and form is correct.”

As Von Zitzewitz suggests, the Cossack squat is similar to the side lunge, but differs in that you don’t come up to standing between reps: rather, you maintain a wide stance, and you drop deeper with the exercise than you do with a side lunge. In the Cossack squat, the foot of your extended leg is also only grounded by the heel, rather than planted on the floor as in the side lunge.

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.