Cannonball Squats: How To Do, Benefits,…

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There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing cannonball squats, what will the effects be?

Cannonball squats are a variation of regular squats where you stand with your feet together and toes pointing slightly outward. This modification challenges your balance more compared to regular squats.

Cannonball squats are often considered to be more quadriceps-focused too but studies do not always agree on this (1, 2, 3). This potential difference will likely not make a lot of difference for most people and their training goals.

The main downside of cannonball squats is that this different foot stance makes it harder to do the exercise with very heavy weights in terms of balance. To grow the strong muscles in your legs heavy weights are generally preferred.

So for the most amount of leg muscle gain in the least amount of time, there are likely better leg exercises. If you want to combine balance training with your bodyweight squats and potentially a bit more quadricep training you can consider cannonball squats.

Whether you should add cannonball squats or alternatives to your routine ultimately depends on things like your personal situation, personal preference, and training goals.

How to do a cannonball squat

To do a cannonball squat take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet close together and your toes pointing slightly outward.
  2. Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you ideally want your hips to be at or lower than your knee height. You will likely have to bend forward for balance but keep your back in a straight line throughout the movement.
  3. Push yourself up again into starting position by stretching your legs.

The main attention point when doing cannonball squats is keeping your back more or less straight. Especially if you do this exercise with weights.

How to do a cannonball squat

Cannonball squat variations and build-up exercises

The cannonball squat done with just your body weight and standing still is the standard version of the exercise. There are also a few cannonball squat variations, modifications, and build-up exercises that can make the exercise easier or harder or help you work toward a full cannonball squat.

Easier varations and build-up exercises

Some people are not ready yet for a full cannonball squat. You can also do other build-up exercises. The first example is a VMO dip. This is where you stand on the edge of an elevated platform with one foot in the air. You then bend the knee of the support leg just a small amount and raise yourself back up.

The vastus medialis oblique is a muscle that plays a role in knee health. If you can’t do cannonball squats because your knees hurt, strengthening this muscle with VMO dips may help you resolve this issue.

Another reason why individuals can not do cannonball squats (yet) is that their quadriceps, glutes, and other muscles are not yet strong enough to lift their full body weight.

If this is the case you can start by lowering your body only a small amount instead of going all the way down. This will help you train similar muscles but at a less challenging level.

Harder variations

If you are more experienced with leg resistance training, bodyweight cannonball squats may be too easy to build a lot of extra muscle mass fast. At this point, you need to turn to other leg exercises or make cannonball squats harder to keep growing your leg muscles a lot.

Making cannonball squats harder at the right points in your training journey can also speed up muscle growth compared to doing the bodyweight variation over and over.

The main way to do this is to do weighted cannonball squats. This is basically doing the same exercise but with extra weights or resistance to make it harder.

Some examples of leg equipment for weighted cannonball squats include a weighted vest, a barbell, resistance bands, kettlebells, dumbbells, etc. If you struggle with balance you can keep these weights low instead of your shoulders.

Cannonball squats muscles worked

Some of the primary muscles worked with cannonball squats include:

  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Calves

Some of the secondary muscles worked with cannonball squats include:

  • Hamstrings
  • Core
  • Erector spinae

Some people consider cannonball squats to be slightly more focused on the quadriceps (front thighs) compared to regular squats. However, not all studies reach similar conclusions (1, 2, 3). For most people this small difference will not be that important.

The way you build muscle in places like your legs is by engaging these muscles so that they get damaged enough. This may sound counterintuitive but this damaging makes it so your body repairs these muscles, and adds a bit more to be better prepared to exert similar efforts in the future.

If you stick to exercises with the same weight, as your muscles become stronger this same effort may not damage your muscles enough to promote extra muscle growth.

By adding extra resistance to exercises like cannonball squats with squat equipment you are better able to damage the muscles in a shorter amount of time.

If you don’t overdo it, give your body enough nutrients, and give your muscles enough rest this can in turn lead to faster and more leg muscle gain.

One downside of cannonball squats is that it can be hard to make the bodyweight version more challenging with a lot of weight because of balance reasons.

This means that for individuals more advanced with leg resistance training, other weighted squat options may be better to achieve a lot of muscle gain fast.

Depending on your personal situation, workout plan, and training goals, cannonball squats may be a good or bad addition.

Benefits of cannonball squats

Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding cannonball squats to your routine can offer you some amazing benefits.

While cannonball squats do engage your balance and potentially certain muscles to a larger extent, most of the benefits of this exercise are similar to regular squats. Some of the most important ones include:

  1. Stronger muscles: Cannonball squats are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your leg muscles.
  2. Can help with losing weight: Doing cannonball squats likely requires more energy than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass, especially the big muscles in your legs, also helps with burning more calories. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss.
  3. Improves mood: Exercise like cannonball squats promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
  4. Balance and coordination: Balance and coordination are fitness skills that can be improved by challenging them. Cannonball squats can help you with this.
  5. Improves sleep: Exercise like cannonball squats can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.
  6. Slows down aging: Cannonball squats won’t influence how many days have passed since you were born. However, exercise can slow down the progress of certain aging markers that are correlated with negative health effects.

While inevitably some workouts are better for some of these benefits than cannonball squats, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.

Potential risks

The main thing to keep in mind is that cannonball squats can be hard on body parts like your ankles, knees, hips, and back even if you implement the right technique.

If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any knee or ankle pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before implementing cannonball squats into your workout routine.

If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that cannonball squats are not (yet) for you.

Cannonball squat alternatives

While cannonball squats can be a good addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training similar areas of your physical health. Some of these cannonball squat alternatives include:

  • Other squat variations
  • Weighted leg extensions
  • Balance board exercises
  • Step-ups
  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts

Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.


Most people will benefit a lot from adding cannonball squats with the right technique to their routine. They can help you train your balance and potentially quadriceps slightly more compared to regular bodyweight squats.

That being said, for most people other bodyweight (single-) leg exercises will offer more benefits in a shorter amount of time.

If you do decide to implement cannonball squats you will likely want to do them with weights relatively soon because bodyweight cannonball squats will become too easy. Even if this makes the exercise harder when it comes to balance.

Keep in mind is that cannonball squats can be hard on body parts like your ankles, knees, hips, and back even if you implement the right technique.

If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any knee or ankle pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before doing more cannonball squats.

Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing cannonball squats is a workout you love, great. If not, regular squats, squat alternatives, and other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.

If you do decide to implement more cannonball squats make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.