The Sissy Squat: An Underrated Exercise For Stronger Quads

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Sissy Squat

The sissy squat is an underrated exercise that can add more intensity to your lower body workout routine.

It targets the quads, hip flexors, and core, and can be performed with or without weights.

How To Do The Sissy Squat

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointing slightly outward.
  2. Elevate your heels off the ground.
  3. Bend your knees forward and squat down while leaning backward with your upper body.
  4. As you squat down, raise your arms out in front of you for balance, Keep your heels elevated off the ground and your chest up.
  5. Once you reach the bottom of the squat, hold for a count of two and then slowly stand back up, while keeping tension on your thighs. Repeat for 10-12 repetitions.
Sissy Squat Demonstration

Tips For Execution:

  1. If you’re having trouble keeping your heels raised try placing a weight plate under them while performing the sissy squat.
  2. Squat down until your butt is at or past 90 degrees in relation to your lower legs.
  3. Perform sissy squats without weight at first because they may place unnecessary stress on your knee joint.
  4. Focus on holding and maintaining a straight line position through your upper body and knees while squatting, if you can keep balance.
  5. Keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement.

If you want to make the sissy squat more challenging, try doing the weighted sissy squat for added resistance using either a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell.

Sissy Squats: Benefits

Standard benefits:

  • Stimulation focused on the quad muscles
  • A great alternative to the leg extension machine
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Keeps constant tension on the thighs
  • Improved Core Strength

Emotional benefits:

  • Makes you feel powerful and in control
  • Boosts your confidence after being able to perform such a challenging exercise

Implementing Sissy Squats Into Your Workout

Because this exercise is a quad-dominant movement, performing it in conjunction with exercises like hamstring curls, stiff leg deadlifts, or other glute and hamstring-focused movements is a good idea to build well-rounded legs.

Here is an example of how you might develop a workout that incorporates the sissy squat.

  1. Hamstring Curls: 3×20
  2. Leg Extensions: 3×15
  3. Sissy Squat: 4×12,12,10-12,8-10
  4. Leg Press: 5×10-12,8-10,6-10,8-10,10-12
  5. Walking Lunges: 3×20 paces
  6. Seated Calf Raise: 3×10
    • Stretch your calves at the bottom of each rep for 10 seconds

Performing a hamstring exercise before you squat is a useful way to warm up your knee joints.

We are also performing an exercise like leg extensions before the sissy squat to make sure our quads are pumped and primed to establish a better mind-to-muscle connection.

Sissy Squat: Muscles Worked

Sissy squats work multiple muscle groups including the quadriceps, hip flexors, hamstrings, core muscles, and glutes.

However, the main muscle group that heavily dominates during this movement is the quadriceps.


The quadriceps are a group of four muscles located in the front of the thigh.

They are responsible for extending the leg and helping to control movement.

The quadriceps are used in many activities, such as running, jumping, and climbing stairs.

They can be injured easily, so it is important to properly warm up and do dynamic stretches before exercising.

The four quadriceps muscles are the rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and vastus lateralis.

Hip Flexors

The hip flexors are a group of muscles that allow you to flex your hips. These muscles are important for many activities, such as walking and running.

Core Muscles

The core muscles are a group of muscles that make up the torso. They include the abs, obliques, and lower back muscles.

These muscles work together to stabilize the spine and pelvis and enable us to move our arms and legs.

Strengthening these muscles can help improve posture and reduce the risk of injury.


The hamstrings are a group of muscles located in the back of the thigh.

They help to extend the leg and are responsible for bending the knee and rotating the hip.


The glutes are a group of three muscles that make up the buttocks: the gluteus Maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.

These muscles are responsible for hip extension, which is why they are often engaged in activities such as running and jumping.

Strong glutes can also help to prevent injuries to the knees and lower back.

Are Sissy Squats Good For Knees?

There is no definitive answer to this question.

Some people believe that sissy squats are beneficial for strengthening the knees, while others believe that they can cause knee pain and damage.

More research is needed to determine the long-term effects of sissy squats on knee health.

In the meantime, if you’re considering doing sissy squats, be sure to consult with a certified personal trainer or physical therapist to see if they’re right for you.

It’s important to note that the free-standing version of this exercise does require good ankle mobility to perform properly.

Sissy Squat Variations and Alternatives

Below is a list of variations and alternatives for free-standing sissy squats.

Sissy Squat Machine

The sissy squat machine, also called a sissy squat bench, is a great way to reap the benefits of the sissy squat with reduced pressure on the knee joints.

They also don’t require as much ankle mobility as the free-standing sissy squat. Making them one of, if not the best sissy squat variations.

  1. Start by securing your feet into the machine with your calves tight against the support pad.
  2. Lean backward and begin squatting while keeping your core braced and spine neutral.
  3. Bend your knees and squat down as far as you can comfortably go, then slowly return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Smith Machine Sissy Squat

  1. Set the Smith machine bar at about knee height
  2. Place the back of your legs against the bar
  3. Lift your heels off the ground
  4. Begin squatting while leaning backward, and trying to maintain a neutral spine during each rep.
  5. Once your butt is at about 90 degrees to your calves, reverse the motion back up.

Leg Extension Machine

Leg extensions are very similar to sissy squats in regards to the quads being the prime muscle group.

  1. Sit in the machine and adjust the seat so that your knees are level with the axis of rotation.
  2. Place your feet under the pads and grip the handles.
  3. Extend your legs to straighten them out. Focus on squeezing your quads in this position for a few seconds.
  4. Return to the starting position slowly and repeat.

Resistance Band Sissy Squats

  1. Wrap a heavy resistance band around a secure anchor at about knee height.
  2. Place one leg through each band loop, while facing toward the anchor point.
  3. Put your feet at about hip-width apart and step far enough back so the band is tightly pulled, and free of slack.
  4. Elevate your heels, and lean your body backward while maintaining a neutral spine.
  5. Squat down by bending your knees forward until you’re butt is at about 90 degrees to your calves and then return to the standing position.

Close Stance Leg Press

  1. Sit down on the leg press machine and select the weight you wish to use.
  2. Place your feet closer than shoulder-width apart on the footplate in front of you.
  3. Take a deep breath and begin pressing the plate away from your body, extending your legs fully.
  4. When your legs are straight, reverse the motion and slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

When straightening your legs make sure not to over-extend them, this may cause hyperextension.

Close Stance Leg Press

Hack Machine Sissy Squat

  1. Set the desired weight on the hack squat machine.
  2. Stand on the hack squat machine, and place your feet pointing slightly outwards, with the heels tight together.
  3. Keeping your shoulders under the pads, lift your back off from the machine.
  4. Elevate your heels off the footplate.
  5. Bend your knees and hips forward and slowly lower yourself down until your knees are bent over your toes at about 90 degrees in relation to your calves.
  6. Keeping your back straight, push through quads, and extend your legs to return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Traditional Squat

  1. Place your feet about shoulder-width apart and point your toes slightly outward.
  2. Bend your knees and sink your hips as if you’re sitting in a chair.
  3. Keep your back straight and don’t let your knees go past your toes.
  4. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly rise back up to the starting position.

This exercise can be performed in a squat rack using a barbell, in a smith machine, using dumbbells, or by utilizing just your body weight.

Try The Sissy Squat!

Sissy squats are a great way to target quads without as much hamstring or glute involvement in comparison to doing traditional squats.

They can be performed with just your body weight or with added resistance in the form of a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell.

The sissy squat can be done at home or in the gym. You don’t need any special equipment to do this exercise.

However, you can purchase a sissy squat machine that will provide ankle and calve support.

If you’re looking for new and challenging leg exercises to add to your leg day routine, give the sissy squat a try!

Eric De Cremer
Eric De Cremer

Eric is an NCCA-accredited Certified Personal Trainer and competitively trained powerlifter. Feel free to contact him anytime at!