Sissy Squat: How to Perform, Benefits, & Tips 

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The sissy squat is an underrated exercise that can help you accelerate your leg growth and bust past plateaus when done correctly.  

However, the sissy squat can be a little difficult to get right without proper guidance – this is why it is left out of most training programs. 

In reality, the sissy squat is easier to perform than most people assume, and we are going to be going over sissy squat form, the benefits that come with performing the sissy squats as well as some useful tips and tricks that can speed up your progress.  

What Is a Sissy Squat? 

A sissy squat is a lower-body exercise that primarily targets the quads. 

In spite of its name, the sissy squat is actually pretty difficult to perform.  

Unlike most other squat variations, the sissy squat revolves around isolating the quads, taking the glues (the biggest muscle group in the body) out of the equation.  

This makes sissy squats an incredible exercise for quad strength and growth, and this is precisely why many bodybuilders and powerlifters use it as an accessory exercise to improve other lifts and get additional leg hypertrophy.  

How Do You Do a Sissy Squat? 

To do a sissy squat, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing forward. 

Lower your body by bending your knees until they are almost touching the ground. 

Lastly, push yourself back up using your quads and return to the starting position. 

This is all there is to it.  

Of course, there is a lot more to sissy squat form if you want to perform it perfectly, and this is something we are going to talk about in a second.  

But the basic outline is quite simple.  

How to Perform the Sissy Squat with Perfect Form  

The Setup  

To perform a sissy squat, begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward.  

Place a barbell across the back of your shoulders, holding it firmly with both hands. 

 Alternatively, you can hold dumbbells by your sides or hold a barbell plate in front of you. 

Keep your core tight and your chest lifted throughout the exercise. 

The Descent  

Lower your body by bending at the knees and leaning forward slightly.  

Keep your heels on the ground as you lower your body until your knees are almost touching the ground.  

Your weight should be distributed evenly between your heels and the balls of your feet.  

Make sure your knees stay in line with your toes. Keep your back straight and your chest lifted throughout the descent. 

The Ascent 

To come back up, push through your heels and straighten your legs as you lift your torso back up.  

Keep your core tight and your chest lifted as you come back up.  

At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes to engage your posterior chain muscles.  

Pause briefly before repeating the exercise for the desired number of reps. 

Sissy Squat Sets and Reps 

For most people, sissy squats should be used as an accessory exercise that is performed after other exercises like squats or deadlifts. 

Because of this, it is important that you do not overdo it with sissy squats or you could take away from your other lifts. 

This is why we generally recommend doing 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps of sissy squats after doing squats or deadlifts. 

If you do not do traditional squats or deadlifts or do not have the ability because you work out from home, then bump this up to 4-5 sets of 8-12 reps.  

What Muscles Does the Sissy Squat Work? 

Quadriceps 

One of the primary sissy squat muscles worked is the quadriceps.  

The quadriceps are the huge group of muscles at the front of your leg, and they play an essential role in overall strength.  

They also make up a significant portion of the leg, meaning you will be directly increasing the size of your legs by working them.  

Rectus Femoris 

The rectus femoris is a muscle that plays a vital role in hip flexion as well as extending the lower leg at the knee.  

Sissy squats work this muscle much more than other squat variations, which makes them a great pick as an accessory exercise to increase strength on other lifts.  

Core 

Somewhat surprisingly, the sissy squat works the core quite well. 

If you want to get a strong and well-developed mid-section, sissy squats will help you get there.   

Ankles 

Last but not least, sissy squats work the ankles and calves.  

These muscle groups are notoriously neglected by gym-goers, so if you are looking to bring up your weak muscle groups, then adding sissy squats to your routine is a must. 

Are Sissy Squats Dangerous? 

Sissy squats aren’t dangerous when done with correct form.  

In fact, the sissy squat can actually help with injury prevention.  

The only exceptions are if you practise bad form or have an injury that does not sit well with sissy squats. 

However, for the vast majority of people, sissy squats are going to be perfectly safe.  

Are Sissy Squats Good For The Knees? 

Yes, sissy squats are good for the knees. 

Despite what you may think, sissy squats can actually help prevent knee injury and strengthen key tendons around the knee. 

However, if you do experience knee pain while doing sissy squats, you might want to look for a different alternative. 

Everybody’s body is different, and sissy squats could aggravate knee problems if you practise poor form.  

Should You Use Weights For A Sissy Squat? 

Whether you use weights or not for sissy squats is entirely up to you.  

Sissy squats can be quite challenging on their own, so when first starting out, you will likely not even need to use weight for a considerable period of time. 

However, as you progress and develop specific strength for the sissy squat, you may want to begin adding weight to increase the difficulty.  

The most common way of adding weight to sissy squats is to simply hold a barbell in front of you.   

This method is extremely tailorable, as you will be able to progressively add weight in small increments.  

However, if you do not have any barbell plates and want to work out at home, feel free to come up with your own solution.  

Anything that is heavy enough to make sissy squats challenging again will do.  

Benefits of the Sissy squat 

Quad Development 

One of the most significant sissy squat benefits is its ability to grow huge quads. 

Sissy squats are one of the few exercises that are able to isolate the quads efficiently, meaning they are one of the best exercises for building quad muscle.  

Bulletproofs Your Knees 

In spite of what many people think, the sissy squat is actually great for strengthening the knees.  

By incorporating sissy squats into your routine, you will be much less likely to injure your knees or experience any problems with them in the future.  

Improves Balance, Proprioception, And Core Strength 

Another reason why the sissy squat is one of the best squat variations is because of its ability to improve balance, proprioception, and core strength.  

The sissy squat is much more demanding than regular squats in terms of balance, and proprioception, meaning you will develop these traits to a much greater degree than with regular squats. 

Sissy squats are also great for core strength due to the additional stress they put on the midsection.  

Not An Isolation Exercise After All 

While sissy squats are most commonly referred to as an isolation exercise (and for good reason), this isn’t quite the truth. 

Like almost all squat variations, sissy squats also work the glutes, hamstrings, core, and calves in addition to the glutes. 

If you do sissy squats on a regular basis, you will see growth in these areas too.  

Sissy Squat Progression 

Treadmill Backward Walk 

If you are a sissy squat beginner, this exercise will help you develop the strength you need to perform sissy squats.   

This variation involves walking backward on a treadmill while performing sissy squats. It increases the difficulty of the exercise by adding an element of instability and balance. 

Rep Scheme: 

3-4 sets of 12-15 reps. 

Medball Hamstring Curls 

This progression involves lying on your back and placing a medicine ball between your feet. You then curl the ball towards your buttocks, engaging the hamstrings. 

Rep Scheme: 

3-4 sets of 12-15 reps. 

Heel-elevated Squats 

This variation involves elevating the heels on a small platform or weight plates, which puts more emphasis on the quadriceps muscles. 

Rep Scheme: 

3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.   

Reverse Nordic Curls 

This is an advanced variation that targets the hamstrings and requires significant strength in the posterior chain.  

It involves lowering the body slowly towards the floor while keeping the feet in a fixed position.  

Rep Scheme: 

3-4 sets of 6-8 reps. 

Nordic Curls 

Similar to the reverse Nordic curl, this variation involves raising the body from a kneeling position using the hamstrings.  

Rep Scheme: 

3-4 sets of 6-8 reps. 

Assisted Sissy Squat 

This progression involves holding onto a sturdy object or using a resistance band to assist in performing the movement.  

It is helpful for those who are still developing strength in the quads and/or have limited mobility.   

Rep Scheme: 

3-4 sets of 12-15 reps. 

Negative Sissy Squat 

This variation involves focusing on the eccentric (lowering) portion of the movement, which can help build strength and stability. 

 It can be done with or without added resistance.  

Rep Scheme: 

3-4 sets of 8-10 reps. 

Common Sissy Squat Mistakes 

Progressing too fast 

Progressing too quickly can result in poor form and increased risk of injury.  

It’s important to gradually increase the difficulty of the exercise over time to allow your body to adapt and build strength. 

Hips unlocking 

When performing a sissy squat, it’s important to maintain proper form and not allow your hips to unlock or shift forward.  

This can place undue stress on your knees and lower back. 

Knee alignment 

Proper knee alignment is essential when performing sissy squats. Your knees should track over your toes and not cave inward or outward.  

This helps to prevent knee pain and injury. 

Neglecting mobility 

Sissy squats require a good range of motion in the ankle, knee, and hip joints. 

Neglecting mobility can result in poor form and decreased effectiveness of the exercise.  

Incorporating mobility exercises into your warm-up routine can help improve your range of motion. 

Not Bracing Your Torso 

Bracing your torso helps to maintain proper form and stability during the exercise. 

Neglecting to brace your torso can lead to a loss of balance and increased risk of injury. 

Inhibiting Knee Travel 

Allowing your knees to travel forward over your toes is important when performing a sissy squat. 

Restricting knee travel can place undue stress on your knees and result in poor form. 

Leaning Too Far Back 

Leaning too far back during a sissy squat can place increased stress on your lower back and decrease the effectiveness of the exercise.  

It’s important to maintain an upright posture throughout the movement. 

Sissy Squat Variations 

Banded Sissy Squat 

The sissy squat with band involves using a resistance band to increase the difficulty of the movement.  

The band is looped around a stable object behind the exerciser and placed around the waist, providing additional resistance as the person performs the sissy squat. 

Weighted Sissy Squat 

In this variation, weights are added to increase the resistance and make the exercise more challenging.  

This can be done by holding a weight plate, dumbbell, or kettlebell while performing the movement. 

Landmine Sissy Squat 

The landmine sissy squat involves using a landmine attachment, which is a weightlifting accessory that allows for greater range of motion and stability.  

The landmine is placed in a corner or anchored to the floor, and the exerciser holds the other end of the bar while performing the sissy squat. 

Kneeling Sissy Squat 

This variation is performed on the knees instead of the feet, which puts more emphasis on the quadriceps and reduces stress on the knees.  

The person starts on their knees with their feet secured under a bench or other sturdy object and then leans back to perform the squatting motion. 

Sissy Squat Alternatives 

Leg Extension Machine 

This is a machine that isolates and targets the quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh.  

The exercise involves sitting on the machine with your legs extended and then lifting a weight with your lower legs by extending your knees. 

Leg Press 

This is another machine-based exercise that targets the lower body muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.  

The exercise involves pushing a weight away from your body using your legs while sitting on a platform that is tilted at an angle. 

Smith Machine Squats 

This is a variation of the traditional barbell squat that involves using a Smith machine, which is a piece of weight training equipment that uses a barbell on a fixed vertical track.  

The exercise involves standing under the barbell and squatting down, keeping your back straight and your feet flat on the ground. 

Barbell Squats 

This is a compound exercise that targets the lower body muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.  

The exercise involves standing with a barbell on your shoulders, then squatting down while keeping your back straight and your feet flat on the ground. 

Bulgarian Split Squats 

This is an exercise that targets the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. The exercise involves standing with one foot on a bench or platform behind you while keeping your other foot flat on the ground.  

Then, squat down while keeping your back straight and your front knee over your ankle. 

Spanish Squat 

This is a squat variation that involves standing with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointed out.  

Then, squat down while keeping your back straight and your knees pointing out to the sides. 

Cyclist Squat 

This is an exercise that targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.  

The exercise involves standing with one foot in front of the other, and then squatting down while keeping your back straight and your front knee over your ankle. 

Pistol Squat 

This is a challenging bodyweight exercise that targets the quadriceps, glutes, and core muscles.  

The exercise involves standing on one leg, then squatting down as low as possible while keeping your other leg extended in front of you. 

Equipment Needed (If Any) 

One of the best things about sissy squats is that they require no equipment.  

You can do a sissy squat without machine or with a machine – it really does depend on personal preference. 

The only exception where you would need additional equipment would be if you wanted to do weighted sissy squats, in which case you would require some barbell plates or a similar alternative.  

Who Should Do the Sissy Squat 

Bodybuilders 

The sissy squat is a great exercise for bodybuilders. 

Sissy squats are one of the few exercises that isolate the quads to a noticeable degree, and because of these, they can be incredibly useful for amateur and professional bodybuilders who are trying to sculpt their legs. 

Those Without Gym Access 

If you do not live near a gym or just cannot afford/don’t want to sign up to a gym, then sissy squats are going to be your best friend.  

Sissy squats can be quite difficult with just bodyweight alone, meaning you will be able to build heaps of muscle by doing sissy squats at home. 

Bodyweight Trainees 

For calisthenics athletes, sissy squats are a must.  

It can be difficult to sufficiently load bodyweight exercises to make them challenging enough to build muscle, but sissy squats provide a great solution to this by being quite difficult even without doing more difficult variants.  

Sissy Squats for Size and Strength 

Sissy squats are a great exercise that have a ton of benefits; but are they good for size and strength in general?  

Well, yes and no. 

If you know how to program sissy squats and do not allow this exercise to take away from your other lifts, then yes, sissy squats can most definitely build size and strength.  

However, for the majority of beginner to intermediate lifters that are already following a decent workout routine, incorporating the sissy squat is not likely going to be the best idea.  

The only way you could add sissy squats into your routine without interfering with recovery is by taking sets off other exercises like squats, and this is going to lead to inferior results. 

You should only consider adding sissy squats into your routine if you are an experienced lifter or know how to create good training programs.  

If not, then adding sissy squats to your routine may actually do more harm than good.  

Sissy Squat – FAQs 


What Are Sissy Squats Good For? 

Sissy squats are good for isolating the quad muscles and for helping weightlifters get past plateaus on regular squats.  

Do Sissy Squats Damage Knees? 

No, sissy squats do not damage knees – they can actually help strengthen the knees when done correctly. 

However, if you experience knee pain during sissy squats, you should make sure you are practising good form and consider switching to another alternative.  

Can You Build Big Legs With Sissy Squats? 

Yes, you can build big legs with sissy squats. 

Sissy squats are one of the best exercises for building quads. 

However, the sissy squat does not do a good job of incorporating the glutes, so you would need to supplement with other exercises for full leg development.  

What Is a Sissy Squat? 

A sissy squat is a lower-body exercise that primarily targets the quadriceps.  

Are Sissy Squats Bad For My Knees?  

No, sissy squats are not bad for your knees. Sissy squats can even help those with poor knees. 

However, if you do experience knee pain when doing sissy squats and are practising good form, then you may want to look for an alternative.  

Can I Do Sissy Squats With Weight?  

Yes, you can do sissy squats with weight. 

The most common way that people load sissy squats is by holding a barbell plate in front of them.  

Is The Sissy Squat Safe For Beginners? 

Yes, the sissy squat is safe for beginners. 

As long as you practise good form and do not get too far ahead of yourself, you will be able to do sissy squats with no issues. 

Is The Sissy Squat Bad For The Knees? 

No, the sissy squat is not bad for the knees.  

If you do experience knee discomfort when performing the sissy squat, either make sure you are practising good form or find an alternative that you can do pain-free.   

How to Achieve a Sissy Squat? 

To achieve a sissy squat, shift your weight onto your toes as you lean back then lower your body as far down as you can while bending your knees and keeping your back straight.  

Is the Sissy Squat an Isolation Exercise? 

Yes, the sissy squat is an isolation exercise. 

While the sissy squat does technically incorporate multiple muscle groups, it only works the quad to a noticeable degree.  

Do I need Equipment for the Sissy Squat? 

No, you do not need equipment for the sissy squat. 

The sissy squat is a bodyweight exercise.  

Why Is It Called a Sissy Squat? 

The sissy squat gets its name from Greek mythology.  

King Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra who was sent to the underworld as punishment.  

For his punishment, the Greek gods commanded Sisyphus to push a massive rock to the top of a mountain. 

Is There a Sissy Squat Hack Machine? 

No, there isn’t a sissy squat hack machine. 

Although, sissy squats can be performed on a regular hack machine.  

Is There a Sissy Squat Smith Machine? 

No, there isn’t a sissy squat smith machine.  

You can, however, perform sissy squats on a smith machine.   

We hope this article will be of use to you.  

The sissy squat is an exercise that can transform your leg growth when done right, and you would be surprised at just how helpful it can be when it comes to getting past tough plateaus.  

If you would like more fitness advice, don’t be afraid to come over to MovingForwards to check out our other content.  

See you next time!