Strength Training

The best lower body exercise you’re probably NOT doing!


I wanted to write a quick blog post about an invaluable exercise that very few coaches and trainers use; yet I feel it should be a staple in all gyms – especially if you’re working with athletes!

The exercise that I’m referring to is the “Cossack Squat”. This lateral squat movement is an “all-star” when it comes to developing dynamic flexibility in the hips, groin and hamstrings, as well as ankle mobility. It also develops specific strength in the quads, glutes and hamstrings, as well as core strength and stability.

Check out the video below of my friend and colleague, Jim “Smitty” Smith of the Diesel Crew, performing this movement with chains. (I suggest performing this exercise with just your bodyweight in the beginning. As your strength and flexiblity improve, you can add weight by draping chains around your neck, or holding a dumbell or medicine ball at chest height.)

Here are some bullet points to help you perform this exercise properly:

  • Start by taking a wide, “sumo” stance with your toes pointing out
  • Squat down and then start the motion by shifting your weight to one side
  • Make sure your knee tracks over your toes and the foot on the “working side” stays flat on the ground. The opposite leg should be straight and you want to lift your toes off the ground and point them to the ceiling as the heel remains on the ground. (This provides an incredible stretch on your adductors!!)
  • I prefer the “slide” technique, as opposed to standing up, as you go from side to side. “Sliding” basically means staying down and level, insteading of coming up and down with each rep. Sliding keeps constant tension on the legs and provides an insane stretch on the adductors (where most athletes are horribly tight)! You will literally feel this stretch from high up in your groin, all the way down to the inside of your knee!


Remember that all sports are played in “three dimensions”. If you only have your athletes perform traditional “up & down” squats, you are doing them a disservice and increasing their chances of injury on the athletic field – especially groin pulls (which are very common…and also a pain in the ass to heal)!

Need more convincing?

Check out the photos below and tell me if you think they look like a familiar position???

Our very own Stephanie Roco made a smooth transition from high school to college volleyball thanks to her much-improved strength & flexibilty!





Try starting your lower body strength (or speed) workouts with 2-3 sets of 10 reps of this exercise. You will be amazed at how much better you feel after you complete your sets/reps. You will be able to squat deeper (with less pain), improve stride length when sprinting and be in less overall “pain” when training due to the added flexibility and range of motion surrounding your hips!

BOTTOM LINE: Add this exercise to the list of “staples” in your program…NOW!!!

-Joe D.

One Comment

  1. Nice post, Joe.

    The Cossack Squat is definitely an underutilized exercise. We like recommending it to powerlifters and weightlifters as a way of fending off injury. When squatting, pulling, and pressing large loads, it’s easy to be in positions that can result in injury. It’s a great warm-up for any athlete.

    Keep it up!

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