Cossack Riding the Coronal Plane

Just like various cultures, there’s a lot that we can learn from different forms of human movement and apply it to our own specialization.  Weightlifting can learn from endurance, football from martial arts, powerlifting from gymnastics; the more we learn about each discipline the better rounded we become as athletes. 

In fact, the more we apply this mantra to other parts of our lives, the better-rounded we potentially become as people in general.  In this post, we’ll look at a might peoples and their indirect contribution to modern strength and conditioning.

The Mighty Cossacks of the Crimea


The people of the Crimea have been influenced by Greeks, Iranians, and Russian-Slavic cultures.  They’ve experienced incredible linguistic influences from Arabic to Latin to Cyrillic and most of all for this blog post, their incredible horsemanship.

cossacks crimea
The Cossacks of the Crimea came from a long history of horse-back peoples. Strong adductors were in their genetics.

Horsemanship is no joke, especially to a culture with such historic ties to nomadic life.  Traditionally, the Cossacks and their ancestors of the Crimea lived by the horse and it was central to their culture.  Riding with great showmanship, they developed great hip strength.  Riders say that nothing will chafe your adductors like a long horse ride.

The Hopak:  The Cossack Dance of Choice

Cossack pistols Hopak
Can you pistol with a smile?

Hear the chatter of the roaring crowd as they watch the spectacle of the Hopak dance.  Clad in colorful robes, the spectacle of high, mid-air leg splits and low squat pistols in an arching, spectacle of movement, is phenomenal.

Imagine front kicking while in a pistol squat as you move forward, alternative kicks with each leg.  Now move from there to an elegant yet explosive mid-air front split.  Its a mastery of pelvic control.

The Cossack Squat

As we’ve mentioned earlier, what’s the one thing these people and their culture bring to us non-dancing, horse-riding, non-nomadic folks?  Hip Mobility.  Enter the Cossack squat. Ever wondered why it was named that?  It’s important.  I mean Coach Joe Defranco has it as part of his Limber 11 lower body warm up for his high performance athletes. 

The Cossack squat helps us kick ass by opening up the hips and lengthening the adductors.  A lot of times we narrow down the wide range of movement of the hip to only the sagittal plane.  As you’d imagine, this leads to various imbalances.  The Cossack squat can potentially change this issue by forcing us to train in the coronal plane (laterally).  

Now enough of this mobility mumbo-jumbo, the meathead inside us beckons a question:

“How do we overload it?”

The Progressively Overloaded Cossack

Add kettlebells that you hold in the front rack position and you challenge thoracic spine strength:  posture and hips.  Imagine yourself trying to lunge laterally with two big, black, dainty, 60 pounder round shot cannon balls like a Colonial brigadier general in the Crimean War.

In all, our hips are important, we can learn a lot about different facets of movement and culture.  In fact, we’re missing out.  Who knows, you might find something else from the Hopak or other seemingly irrelevant movement that improves your own training. There’s more out there then the sagittal plane folks.  Open your mind to other movement.