Exercise Demo: The Cossack Squat
Variations on Squats
What is it:
A Cossack Squat is the name of a squat which has you move in a descending position on one leg while the other leg remains straight to the other side.
Why I like it:
It works your mobility and stability of your entire lower limbs and allows quick progression
I started doing the movement in 2016 thanks to my trainer, Andy, who added it to give me an additional mobility/stability movement in my programme.
The first time I did it, it was horrific and not fun. Most clients find them quite unpleasant when they start them too.
This discomfort is usually due to a lack of mobility or tightness in ankles, knees, adductors, abductors, hips - basically everywhere in your lower limbs. A lot of us have tightness in these areas thanks to the ol' desk job and modern life in general.
My progression in my mobility while doing this movement was rapid and I see similar improvements with my clients.
Being a unilateral movement, it helps you be really targetted.
How is Mobility different from Flexibility?
Flexibility - the ability of your soft tissues (muscles) to stretch
Mobility - a combination of elements that contribute to movement with full range of motion, including the muscle tissue, joints, joint capsules, soft tissue and motor control
Both are important to work on.
Flexibility can be improved with static and dynamic stretching. I use Yin Yoga to focus on my flexibility. It can be easier to hold stretches for long periods of time in a class environment rather than on your own. In my Yin Yoga classes we might do holds in a position for 3-5mins (eeek! It's harder than you think!), plus it's great for calming the mind and a good exercise for pain management through breath techniques.
Mobility is improved by using more dynamic movements such as the Cossack Squat and has the added bonus of working on your stability. You can also look at adding a more dynamic yoga style to your schedule to help you improve your mobility.
In the end, we all have to start somewhere so don’t be afraid to give it ago!
How to do Cossack Squats
Start in a wide stance, legs wide apart, toes slightly angled out. If you're really tight, you may need to try different angles for your toes at first and then progress them further outwards.
Squat down and to the left, tracking your knee towards and over your toes - this is great for your ankle mobility.
Drive your knee outwards to the side, making sure it doesn't move inwards.
Try to keep an upright, neutral spine.
Keep your other leg straight, role onto your heel, turn your foot out and flex your toes if you can.
Beginner tip: If you're starting out, get a bench or sofa in front of you and hold onto it for balance to help you get into the stretch and build towards your optimal range.
If you don't have a bench, put your hands flat on the floor in front of you and then walk them over to each side as you move through.
Progression: Once you get proficient, you can try weighted options with a kettlebell or a bar. As always, make sure your form is on point and don't move to the progression too early. You may want to get some help when you move to a weighted option.