The sissy squat is an advanced version of the squat. It is definitely not for sissies. However, when you try to do it you may feel like one.
Sissy squats will work your quadriceps muscles and your core muscles at the same time. It will require a lot of strength and balance at the same time.
There is a controversy about this exercise. Some say it’s a great advanced exercise that will isolate your quads. Others say it’s dangerous. If you do it, you are risking a knee injury.
Let’s try to uncover who is right.
How to perform a sissy squat
Stand on a sturdy slightly elevated surface (around 3 inches) with your heels. Your toes and balls of your feet are on the ground. Your knees will be slightly bent.
You can place your hands on your waist or extend your arms straight in front of you. It will be easier to balance with your hands in front of you.
To start moving down, bend your legs at your knees. At the same time let your upper back go down towards the floor. Your body from your knees to your head should be in a straight line during the entire movement.
Keep on lowering down as much as you can. The movement will look a lot like a limbo dance.
To start moving up, extend your legs at your knees. At the same time lift your upper body back up. Keep on lifting until you reach the starting position.
Continue doing these movements for reps.
History of sissy squat
Monty Wolford was the inventor of this exercise. He wanted to continue his leg development past regular squats, which was his way of accomplishing this goal.
Vince Gironda was fascinated with Wolford’s leg development. He was the only man at that point in time known to have the same measurement of his upper and middle thigh. So, Gironda learned sissy squats from Mr. Wolford.
It was Vince Gironda who gave this exercise its popular name. Vince stated that this skill would make lifters doing only regular squats feel like sissies. This is how this name was coined.
This name stuck and the exercise is now known as sissy squat.
Sissy squats should be great if you want to reduce hamstring and glute use. Regular squats will work your hamstrings and glutes together with your quads.
Sissy squats will work more on your quads and abs. They will also need more balancing skills compared to regular squats.
You will also need to fight your fear of falling on your back. This can be a good or a bad thing. Depending on your point of view.
Sissy squats are also harder than regular squats. So they will provide an added level of difficulty.
Sissy squats muscles worked
Sissy squat will work all four heads of your quad. You will also need active support from your core to be able to do it.
Sissy squat muscles worked:
- Lower back
Sissy squat dangers
If your quads and your core muscles are still not strong enough, it’s better to avoid doing sissy squats.
The worst danger of sissy squats is injuring your knees. If you struggle with knee pain or have previous knee problems, you should avoid doing sissy squats. You should also avoid it if you want to avoid future knee problems.
Jeff Cavaliere is a physical therapist. He says sissy squats are the worst leg exercise ever. To learn more details, about why this is so, he has a great video:
Another thing that might go wrong with sissy squats is falling down on your back.
When I learned about those dangers, I crossed this exercise out right away. It will never be a part of my workout.
If you want to try it anyway, it might be a good idea to start with assisted sissy squats or a sissy squat machine. This will help you assess if you have needed strength and prevent you from falling on your back. At least until you get the feeling for the move.
Assisted sissy squat
Assisted sissy squats are used to prepare yourself for a full sissy squat. They will help you get a feeling for the move and assess the strength needed.
This will help you reduce the risk of injury. But, it will not eliminate it completely. Everything Jeff said in his video still stands.
This exercise is done like the full sissy squat while holding onto some sturdy object. This can be something like a doorway or a desk.
Sissy squat machine
Another way to reduce the balancing risk is by using a sissy squat machine.
This machine will help you improve your quads and core strength and prepare you for a full sissy squat. At the same time, it will help you reduce the odds of injury. Again, because of how it works, it will always overload your knees.
Sissy squat alternatives
If you want to work on your legs and don’t like this exercise, there are alternatives you can choose from. Since sissy squats are dangerous for your knees, you may want something more healthy.
Just about any other squat version is better for your knees. So, you will have plenty to choose from. But, there are limited options at this high level of difficulty.
Here are some options you can try:
- Deep squats
- Weighted lounges
- Bulgarian squats
- Levitation squats
- Pistol squats
If you choose just about any exercise from pistol squat progression, it will be better for your knees.
Sissy squat is an advanced skill. It’s used to load your quad muscles. It will also work your core.
It will help you improve your strength and balance at the same time.
But it also comes with a set of dangers you should be aware of. If you struggle with previous knee conditions, you should avoid it. If you don’t want to risk having trouble with your knees in the future, you should also avoid it.