In Part 1 we discussed the benefits of the Pistol Squat for BJJ players. A close relative to the Pistol is the Cossack Squat, which yields many of the same benefits like single-leg strength, mobility, balance, and injury prevention. The Cossack has one major difference however, which provides even more benefit to the Jiujitiero; movement in the frontal plane.
Single Leg Strength
Jiu Jitsu is an unpredictable sport that happens in all planes of motion – front to back, side to side, and rotational. Most traditional exercises, however, like the Deadlift, Bench Press, and Pull Up only occur in the Sagittal or front to back plane of motion. These are great for building strength, however you need to be strong in all planes of motion for BJJ. The Cossack Squat provides the demand to create this strength.
We noted in the previous article how the Single-Leg Squat pattern is recurrent in a typical BJJ match. More specifically, the Cossack Squat shows itself even more than the Pistol. Spider Guard, Knee-On-Belly, and passing from Reverse De La Riva all require a Single-Leg Squat in the frontal plane a la Cossack Squat.
To be a well rounded BJJ player you need the strength-endurance to hold this position for continued pass attempts from RDLR, and the bodyweight strength to stand up in a split second to counter a sweep or change direction on a pass. Doing the Cossack Squat for reps will develop these qualities and strengthen all of the small muscles around your hips and the deep rotators near the hip socket.
The Spider Guard requires a Cossack of a different kind -one that’s flexible, mobile, and can quickly switch from leg to leg at any moment.
Mobility and Flexibility
Where the Pistol Squat surely demands and forces mobility, the Cossack Squat does so in a way that seems even more applicable to BJJ. After a few reps of the Cossack you’ll feel noticeably more loose around your hip sockets and inner thighs, two areas that are heavily taxed while playing guard and passing from a low position.
While performing the Cossack, the squatting leg is being mobilized while the inner thigh of the out-stretched leg is being stretched. So, you can use the Cossack as either a post-workout cool-down stretch held for time, or as an extremely functional dynamic warm-up, moving back and forth between sides.
Regardless, performing the Cossack regularly will give you the mobility and flexibility to have a dynamic and hard-to-pass guard, as well as the ability to stay super low when passing or maintaining Knee-On-Belly. When done correctly, it also mobilizes your ankles and thoracic spine.
Although the Cossack can be used itself to stretch and mobilize, there are some prerequisite positions you want to own to eventually get the most out of the exercise. First, spend some time foam rolling your inner thighs, lower calves, upper back, and hips. This will loosen and prep those areas for work.
Then, make sure you can reach rock bottom in a Goblet Squat and a Squat with feet together. This will ensure that you can reach the bottom of the Cossack with the squatting leg.
Then, perform Side Lunges trying to get your hips low while driving your knee outward. You can use your hands on the ground for base.
Move on to Assisted Cossack Squats, holding on to a support in front of you like a doorknob or Squat Rack. This will allow you to feel the bottom position in the Cossack while maintaining your heel down and chest up.
Then advance to the Cossack Squat with hands on the ground. This will be more forgiving on mobility and allow you to ease into the position.
Finally, perform the full Cossack Squat with arms out in front and an upright chest.
To advance the exercise, try it with your hands behind your head and finally with load.
*For an awesome hamstring warm up, do the Cossack Squat side to side but keep your upper body low and bent over on the transition, allowing your hips to rise between sides.