Sissy Squat – Don’t Let The Name Fool You

By Steve Hall

April 7, 2021

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The name sissy squat is hardly any indication of the level of gusto required to perform this quad trembling feat. In fact there isn’t anything sissy about this movement.

It’s also probably one you have never even heard of or even tried. The sissy squat is one of the best exercises for building massive quads, while strengthening your core and hip flexors. It’s an exercise that isolates your quads far better than any barbell or dumbbell lift by eliminating the glutes and hamstrings.

If you’re struggling to build bigger quads give the sissy squat a try.

Origins Of The Sissy Squat

Where did the sissy squat come from? How did it get its name? It’s origins are less than modest. Story has it that the sissy squat is actually named after the greek god Sisyphus, king of Corinth. Turns out Sisyphus was somewhat of a douchebag!

After annoying one too many people the shizzle finally hit the fan and Zeus exiled Sisyphus to Tartarus, the lowest of the low. He told him that if he could he pushing a giant boulder up the mountain he would free him. Just as he would reach the top however Zeus pushed the rock back to its starting point resulting in Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the mountain every day for eternity!

The result of all this? The biggest quads ever! Hence the Sisyphus 'Sissy' squat was born.

Sisyphus sissy squat

What Is A Sissy Squat

The sissy squat is an isolation exercise for building the quadricep muscles. It also puts emphasis on the core and hip flexors. It involves locking your feet in a fixed position and leaning back, placing tension on the thighs, before bringing yourself up again. Because it is an isolation exercise the sissy squat reduces the involvement of the glutes and hamstrings allowing.

quadriceps muscle

Known as an old school exercise made famous during the golden era of bodybuilding, there’s a reason why the sissy squat is still around. It's because it works... really well!

There are three basic variations of this exercise. You can perform them with your bodyweight, any form of resistance as well as a smith machine. Just note that while all variations of the sissy squat target and isolate the quads, they do place stress on the knees.

Are Sissy Squats Bad For Your Knees?

With your knees extending past your toes, the extra weight is transferred to them, some people say that sissy squats are bad for your knees and can lead to knee pain or injury to the patellar tendon. 

Some people do experience knee pain when performing sissy squats but this has less to do with the exercise and more to do with weakness in the quadricep muscles.

The sissy squat is safe but be aware that it is considered to be an advanced exercise. As such you your quads already need to be in a great shape to do this properly. If you have reasonably strong legs to begin with and you can perform the sissy squat in slow, controlled manner then you shouldn't have any problems.

Sissy Squat Benefits

The sissy squat isolates the quads better than any other dumbbell or barbell exercise. The glutes and hamstring involvement is reduced as much as possible. This exercise lets you focus on the different muscles of the quadricep and carve out the coveted tear drop shape.

Another benefit of the sissy squat is that you can go all the way down into a sit up position (if you are using a sissy squat machine. Which forces your quads and core to handle the entire force when you come back up.

According to research done by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, other exercises are inefficient in activating the big muscle in the middle of the quads known as the Rectus Femoris. The Rectus Femoris helps hip flexion and anterior pelvic tilt. These extra functions are more involved in the movement of the sissy squat than other leg exercises. They are also a more accessible exercise since no equipment is necessary unless you want to go deeper as mentioned above. 

To sum things up the sissy squat:

  • Trains your tricky hip flexors which are tough to target.
  • Builds muscle and definition in the quads.
  • Is efficient in targeting several muscles in a single move.
  • Can be progressive starting with just your bodyweight.

How To Do The Sissy Squat

Does all of that sound enticing? I hope so! I mean why wouldn’t you want to start performing this exercise?

With all those added benefits you’ll be able to start building those lagging quads, strengthening the hip flexors and tightening up the core all at the same time while kicking out those overly dominant glutes and hamstrings from the party. If you’re ready to mix it up (and maybe get some strange looks at the gym) let's throw the sissy squat into your routine.

sissy squat meme

Before we get started just like any other training program or exercise routine, knowing your strengths weaknesses and limitations is essential for reaching success. This information can be exposed in a fitness assessment.

It’s also important to note that this movement requires a degree of core strength and stabilization. So as mentioned above make sure you have reasonable strong legs to begin with. The sissy squat requires proper form and adherence to technique so don’t just jump in and get yourself hurt if you are not ready.

When first learning to do the sissy squat start with your bodyweight. Don’t go grab a weight plate, dumbbell or any other item and hold it to your chest. I said it before and I’ll say it again—proper form is key to successful execution of this movement. If you want to see results do it right.

Check out the video below that shows you the proper form and the correct progression from assisted sissy squat to the full on unassisted sissy squat.

Once you've mastered the proper form, you can progressively overload the muscle tissue and introduce some form of added resistance by either holding a dumbbellbarbell or 45 lb plate across your chest.

For added stability you can use one of your arms to hold on to something upright if desired or you can look into purchasing a sissy squat bench

Stand with your heels elevated shoulder width apart on a block or something that will not move while you perform the exercise. The heel elevation is what allows for the isolation of the quads.

From there:

  1. Slightly bend backwards creating a straight line with your body from knees to neck.
  2. Lean backwards as you bend going as low as you can without losing balance.
  3. Push back up to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets.

If you want to try using a machine to do the sissy squat check out the following video.

Conclusion

Adding the sissy squat into your leg routine will help you build bigger, stronger and more defined quads in no time. It is very challenging at first so don’t be alarmed if you feel your quads burning and pumping up like an air mattress! Like anything else it takes work and some getting used to. But before you know it, the sissy squat can help you turn your twigs into trees.

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Steve Hall

Steve is a strength training fanatic who geeks out over the best, most efficient workouts, nutrition and gear to help get you stronger and healthier!

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