What is a Sissy Squat?

October 01, 2021 6 min read

What is a Sissy Squat? | Kustom Kit Gym Equipment

Contents

The Sissy Squat is a compound exercise that primarily isolates and targets your quadriceps whilst also working, to a lesser degree, your other posterior chain muscles and your core.  The movement requires a lot of mobility and body control. 

Despite its rather unusual name, it’s a challenging exercise but when executed properly can offer many benefits and excellent carry over to other forms of strength training.   

What are the Benefits of Sissy Squats?

Thanks to the almost complete isolation of the quads you will build both muscle and strength.  

If you happen to have well developed glutes and hamstrings and want to concentrate on your quads, then sissy squats are the way to go as they eliminate any recruitment of posterior chain muscles.   

Strong quads can improve the stability of your kneecaps and protect your knee joints from injury, this makes it an excellent alternative to using a leg extension machine

By focusing on your quad strength you will also see improvements when undertaking explosive movements such as box jumping and to your overall athletic ability, making it a great movement to incorporate into your training routine. 

The exercise will also improve your core strength and this is vital for improved posture helping with any back issues.  A strong core is also good for balance and stability of your whole body and to minimise any strain on your muscles and joints.

How should you perform a Sissy Squat?

The traditional sissy squat movement can be undertaken either freestanding or with a Sissy Squat bench.   

To execute the movement freestanding:

  1. Start with your heels slightly elevated (approximately two to four inches) by using a block or even a small pair of dumbbells. It needs to be strong enough to withstand your weight and offer stability. Keep your feet hip width apart.
  2. Slowly begin to bend your knees as though you want them to make contact with the floor. If you’re new to this exercise it could be beneficial to use some support i.e. holding on to a power rack.
  3. Whilst lowering your knees, make sure to keep your body in a straight line (from your neck to your knees) this will help to prevent injury.
  4. When you have reached the bottom of the movement i.e. your knees will not go any lower, slowly start to push back up keeping the weight on the front of your feet and ensuring your body remains in a straight line.

Your quads are being worked hardest when you are at the bottom of the movement and with plenty of practice you’ll be able to work to a 90 degree angle. 

To execute the movement with a Sissy Squat bench:

  1. Place your feet on to the footplate of the machine with the rollers in front of you, these will lock your feet into place whilst your calves will rest against the rear pad.
  2. Keep your core engaged throughout the movement and slowly lower yourself back and, as with the freestanding method, ensure you keep your body straight from your neck to your knees.
  3. Begin to raise yourself back up but, not all of the way, this ensures you keep tension on your quads.

When you find that the movement is becoming easier and you’d like to progress simply hold on to a weight plate or a dumbbell during this workout.  This can be done with either the freestanding movement or when using the sissy squat machine. 

What are the benefits in using a Sissy Squat Machine?

Many people are discouraged from doing the movement freestanding as it can be tricky to pull off and to do so safely and effectively.  This is where use of the Sissy Squat Machine comes in.

It offers stability throughout the exercise ensuring it’s done properly.  This is thanks to the rollers and rear leg pad, they allow you to do the sissy squat movement whilst essentially holding you in place.  This will also give you more confidence as you’re less likely to lose form.    

The sissy squat machine will also help with time under tension strength training allowing for even more muscle growth.  Time under tension workouts are great for breaking through strength plateaus and burning fat.

Are Sissy Squats bad for your knees?

If you have a history of knee problems, jumping into sissy squats can cause you some issues if you’re not careful.  By putting additional stress on the knees you could exacerbate those problems, especially if you are new to this movement.

That being said, if you want to focus on obtaining that teardrop look, sissy squats are absolutely one of the best ways of doing this and when done properly can actually benefit knee health. 

The movement is isolated to a single joint (that being the knee), considering the leverages involved, it should not put any more stress on your knees than a traditional back squat.  

However, you need to ensure you check with medical professionals if you have a history of knee problems or are unsure before undertaking this exercise.

Sissy Squats vs Free-weight Squats

Regular squats are a sure-fire way of increasing muscle mass and strength to your posterior chain, for those that want to focus on building hamstring and glutes, regular squats are perfect.

However, sissy squats are much better for building up your anterior thigh muscles (your quads) so by incorporating both exercises into your workout you can be confident that you will build equal strength and symmetry. 

By focusing on one exercise over the other could lead to injury to muscles that are not regularly trained, so it’s important to make sure all muscles are equally worked on.  

Can anyone perform Sissy Squats?

Whilst getting used to this exercise can certainly be tricky at first, with consistent practice your core and quad strength will improve dramatically allowing you to ramp up the difficulty level.

The sissy squat bench certainly opens up this exercise to a wider range of users so even if you want to utilise the machine to begin with, as your core strength, and thus stability, improves you can move over to freestanding squats. 

Are there any alterantives?

Listed below are some examples of sissy squat alternatives.

Heel elevated squats; by using a form of support such as a Squat Ramp you can elevate your heels and perform a regular back squat either with or without weight.  Whilst it won’t offer as much isolation as a regular sissy squat it will place more emphasis on your quads than if your feet were to remain flat on the floor.

TRX Sissy Squat; simply undertake the movement as you would a freestanding sissy squat but make use of TRX bands.  These will encourage good form if you’d like to eventually do them without the bands.  They keep your quads isolated and improve range of motion to the knees.

Bulgarian split squat; this is single leg squat movement that requires you to stand approximately 2 feet away from an elevated platform, a flat bench for example, which will be behind you.  Place one foot up on the bench and perform a lunge movement.   If you keep your foot, which is on the floor, closer to the bench you will target more of your quads. 

The above are great options if you wanted to avoid doing Sissy Squats. 

Do Sissy Squats help build glutes?

Sissy squats do not effectively target your glutes.  If you want to work your gluteus maximus you will see benefits from movements such as regular barbell squats, Nordic curls and hip thrusts.  Any of these exercises will isolate your glutes far more efficiently. 

Can Sissy Squats work your Calves?

You will get a better stretch on calves when undertaking freeweight sissy squats.

However, you will not get the full range of movement that you can with a sissy squat machine so there is a trade-off between using the machine when compared to freestanding sissy squats.

To effectively isolate your calf muscles the best exercises are those such as standing or seated calf raises, this can be done with or without a machine or even something more simple such as incline walking.

Is the Sissy Squat known by another name?

The Sissy squat name can sometimes be referred to as a roman chair squat which is somewhat confusing as a roman chair bench is a 45 Degree Hyperextension Bench, which is primarily used to strengthen your lower back muscles and work your hamstrings. 

How did the Sissy Squat get it's name?

The name Sissy Squat is said to have originated from Greek mythology and that of King Sisyphus.  However this, as suggested, is a myth.

It’s original name was the ‘Monty Woolford Squat’. Monty Woolford was a competitive ‘Silver Era’ bodybuilder back in the 50’s and 60’s and was the inventor of the Sissy Squat exercise. 

The name Sissy Squat actually originated from Monty stating that the movement would make a sissy out of the lifers that only performed the back squat. 

After that, the name Sissy Squat stuck and has since gone on to become one of his most famous exercises.


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