Sissy Squat: The Quad Building Exercise That’s Not For Wimps

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If you’re looking for an exercise that will help you build powerful quads, the sissy squat is a great option. This exercise is not for wimps; it’s an advanced-level exercise.

In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of the sissy squat, why you should use it in your training, and how to perform it correctly.

What is a Sissy Squat?

The sissy squat is a great exercise for building quad strength, especially the Vastus Medialis Oblique (VMO), otherwise known as the “tear-drop” muscle because it looks like a teardrop on the lower, outer part of the quad.

The sissy squat targets the quads by loading them in an unusual position that regular squats do not allow. Practicing the sissy squat also teaches you how much mobility you have at different joint angles, and shows you where your limits are so you can progress to the movements necessary for exercises like front squats and olympic lifts.

How to Do a Sissy Squat Safely

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of the sissy squat, let’s talk about how to perform this move correctly.

1) Standing with feet shoulder-width apart.

2) Begin the movement by bending at your knees.

3) Lean back so that your hips are extended. There should be a straight line from your knees, through your hips, to your shoulders.

4) Your heels will lift off the floor as your knees pass over your toes and you slowly lower towards the floor.

5 – Descend as low as possible before lifting back up again.

sissy squat setup

What Are the Benefits of Sissy Squats?

The Sissy Quad isolates the quadriceps in a way that is completely different to a lung or regular squat. As you can see, during the Sissy squat, the hips remain fully extended, so the entire movement occurs at the knee joint. This is in contrast to a lunge or regular squat, where the hips will also move through flexion and extension.

Because of the joint angles, it targets the quad in a unique way.

Think of it like using a leg extension machine except instead of using a piece of equipment, your own body is the machine. You’ll also have to use your core to maintain stability through your spine to provide an extra benefit.

Why Do People Hate On Sissy Squats?

The Sissy Squat has copped some heat over the years for being bad for your knees. And on first glance, it’s easy to see why, just look how far the knees pass over the toes.

However, the “knees shouldn’t go past the toes” rule does not hold true for everybody. While it is true that knee joint forces increase as you to go deeper into a squat, this does not mean that deep squats are inherently dangerous. Our bodies have an amazing ability to adapt to the loads and stresses.

The key factor here is that the loads that we expose our bodies to should be gradual, and progress slowly over time as our body adapts. The Sissy squat is an advanced exercise. If your body is unable to tolerate the loads of a sissy squat, then try an easier modification (listed below) or a different exercise. The same thing goes if you have pre-existing knee injuries. Although, if you have a knee injury, you may want to go with other exercises.

Sissy Squat – Modifications and Progressions

The sissy squat can be very difficult to perform at first, so here are some modifications to help you ease into it:

Banded Sissy Squat

A banded sissy squat is a great way to modify the sissy squat whilst still targeting your quads.

Here’s how to perform a banded sissy squat:

1. Start by tying a heavy loop resistance band around a squat rack or another sturdy object. Place the end of one loop around each knee. The band should be tight enough that there is some tension behind your knees before you begin the movement.

2. Place your feet shoulder-width apart, facing the squat rack with the band wrapped behind your knees.

3. From this position, lean back and lower yourself down into a squat.

4. Once you reach the bottom of the squat, press back up to the starting position. Really push against the band as you extend through your knees to target your quadriceps.

banded sissy squat banded sissy squat

Assisted Sissy Squat

Sissy squats are a great way to work your quads and glutes, but they can be tough to do on your own. Luckily, you can get a little help from an object like a chair, a stick, or a squat rack. Hold onto the support as you perform the sissy squat, taking some of your weight through support during the movement. With a little practice, you’ll be nailing sissy squats like a pro!

assisted sissy squat

Sissy Squat Machine

If you’re going to do sissy squats regularly, you could even try them by using a specially designed sissy squat machine. Sissy squats are one of the most effective exercises for developing strong, well-defined quads.

And while sissy squat machines are widely available in gyms, they often go unused because people don’t know how to use them properly. Here’s a quick guide to help you get the most out of this powerful exercise.

First, adjust the machine so that your knees are aligned with the pads, and adjust the machine so that your shins and ankles are locked into place. Then, lower your body slowly until your thighs are parallel with the ground. From here, explosively press through your heels to return to the starting position. Make sure to keep your back straight and your core engaged throughout the entire movement.

Getting Too Easy?

If you’re a beast in the gym and are finding the sissy squat too easy, then you could make this exercise even harder by holding some light dumbbells or kettlebells, or by using some blood flow restriction cuffs around your thighs for an extra pump.

Sissy Squat Alternatives

Want to try a quad-smashing exercise but not quite ready to give the Sissy squat a try? Try these alternative exercises to the Sissy Squat:

Reverse Nordic Curl

The reverse nordic curl is another great way to train your quadriceps. It can also help to improve your balance and coordination. The reverse nordic curl can be performed with or without weights, making it a versatile exercise that can be adapted to your fitness level. By performing reverse nordic curls regularly, you can help to prevent injuries and improve your overall athletic performance.

Zercher Squats

When it comes to lifting weights, there are a lot of different exercises that you can do in order to build strength and muscle. However, not all exercises are created equal.

Zercher squats are a type of squat that is often overlooked but can be incredibly beneficial, especially for those who are looking to add size and strength. Unlike traditional squats, zercher squats put more emphasis on the quads and less on the glutes and hamstrings.

This makes them ideal for those who want to improve their leg development. In addition, zercher squats also help to increase core stability and balance. Plus, they’re a great exercise for building grip strength. So if you’re looking for a way to mix up your workout routine and build some serious muscle, give zercher squats a try. You just might be surprised at the results.

Wrap Up

The sissy squat is a great exercise for targeting the quads and glutes, but it’s often overlooked in favor of more traditional moves like the squat or lunge.

However, the sissy squat can be a valuable addition to any lower body routine, and it offers a number of unique benefits. For one thing, performing a sissy squat forces you to engage your core muscles more than other exercises.

This can help improve your stability and balance, both of which are important for injury prevention. For those who experience hip impingement pain during squats as they move deeper into hip flexion, the sissy squat will minimize this aggravating factor by forcing you to maintain hip extension throughout the movement.

Additionally, sissy squats eliminate the possibility of using momentum to cheat your way through the reps. This means that every rep is truly working your muscles, which can lead to faster results. Finally, sissies squats can help improve your range of motion and flexibility. If you’re looking to add a new move to your leg day routine, consider giving the sissy squat a try.


About the Author

Dane Ford is the founder of Lift Physiotherapy and Performance in Sydney, Australia. Lift Physio aims to help you overcome injury, optimize your health, and unlock your full movement potential.

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