First thing; do not misunderstand ‘sissy squat’ because of its name. There is nothing sissy about it.
Rather, it is probably one of the most challenging squats you could practice. Because it doesn’t just require you to squat but also to lean back while doing so. Can you imagine how challenging it could be, especially if you don’t have enough balance, stability, and flexibility?
Let's learn more about it in detail.
What is a sissy squat?
Most variations of the traditional squats that you do with or without weights help you target your quads, adductors, calves, glutes, and hamstrings. They are great for building and toning your lower body muscles.
But, if you want to build noticeably visible quadriceps like Arnold Schwarzenegger, these exercises won’t be enough. You will have to do sissy squats, an old-school bodybuilding exercise that most athletes and celebrities practice to build greek-god type quads and core.
As mentioned above, to isolate, target, and build the quadricep muscles, you will have to lean backwards and bend your knees just as you do while squatting. You will have to lean and bend down as much as you can, hold yourself for a second or two and then bring yourself up to the starting position.
As you can guess from the image above, sissy squats are not that easy. If you do not have enough flexibility, balance, and control, they could be risky for you. So, before you start doing them, make sure you improve your flexibility and control.
Wondering why it is called a sissy squat?
Yes, we hate that name too and if there is any way we could get it changed, we would be happy to do that.
The name is not just funny to pronounce but also quite misguiding. The word ‘sissy’ means something cowardly, so anyone would expect sissy squats to be an extremely easy form of exercise that only lazy people would want to do. But, that's not the case. Rather, as we have said above, it can only be done by people who are already in good shape.
So, why is it called a sissy squat and not something better?
Well, this squat variation is named after the Greek king and legend Sisyphus. He practiced these squats to build stronger thighs, so he could push a huge rock to the top of a high mountain and set himself free from punishment. He indeed had enviable quads, which is why people named these squats after him.
What muscles do sissy squats work on?
Image courtesy: Fits-me
As you would have guessed by now, sissy squats majorly engage and strengthen the quadriceps muscles of your legs. The glutes and hamstrings are involved too but not as much as they do in traditional squat variations.
But, what you don’t know is that these exercises also target the core muscles. To keep yourself balanced while leaning back and squatting, you should have a really strong and stable core. Plus, when you practice sissy squats, you will be able to burn excess belly fat and build those 6-pack muscles you always dreamt of.
Benefits of doing sissy squats
Strengthening the quadriceps and abdominal is the most obvious benefit of sissy squats but there are a few others that most of us do not realize.
Sissy squats can help improve your balance and flexibility
Do you think it is that easy to lean back while bending your knees? It requires a lot of balance and stability.
But, don’t worry. If you are just getting started and are not confident enough, you could start with holding on to something such as a squat rack or a bench or maybe a pillar/post in the park. With practice, you will be able to improve your balance and reach a stage where you won’t have to hold anything.
Soon, this balance, stability, and flexibility will help you do other workouts more effectively and in correct form.
Sissy squats do not strain your knees and back as much as the traditional squats do
If you are already suffering from back or knee injuries, weighted squats could worsen your situation. But don’t worry, sissy squats can help you get stronger legs without impacting your knees or the back. This exercise takes your knees to a level of flexion that is not common for them. This helps strengthen the muscles around the knees, which further helps make your knees stronger and healthier. The same is the case with the lower back muscles.
Please note: Squats are not joint-friendly exercises but if you still want to practice them, you can use a smith machine.
These machines have a barbell attached to the cage. So, you don’t have to focus on staying safe because that's well taken care of by the machine. All you need to do is to try squatting with proper form and technique. Our article on ‘what is the best smith machine for home gym’ will provide you with more information.
Risk involved with sissy squats
Since sissy squats are challenging, they are risky too. If you don’t have enough balance, you could lose control and end up hurting your knees, ankles, or back.
But, don’t worry. All you need to do is to go slow and be careful. Our tips on how to squat should help you.
To avoid any injury, start your training by leaning and bending your legs by just a few degrees. Start with a few reps and keep increasing the degree and the number of reps gradually. Take your time and let it happen naturally as and when your body is ready.
If you start losing your balance, do not hesitate to hold on to something or maybe you buy a dedicated sissy squat machine. We will talk about it later.
If you are a beginner, your leg muscles may not be strong enough to let you do this advanced version of squats. In that case, you should start with basic leg strengthening exercises such as leg presses. Also practice exercises that boost ankle, lower back, and hip mobility.
Sissy squats are definitely challenging but if you ever experience extreme pain and discomfort, stop practicing immediately and wait for a few days before resuming.
Smart progression will help reduce the chances of strain and injury.
How to do sissy squats
The above video will help you understand how to do sissy squats. Here are some of our tips that should help you further:
- While doing sissy squats, you will have to raise your heels for 2”-4”. You can do it unassisted just the way the trainer in the video is doing but having something to support your heels is definitely going to ensure more balance and support. You can use anything that is highly stable such as dumbbells or weight plates. But we would recommend Iron Bull Strength Squat Wedges, which are smaller, firmer, and more reliable than other options.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. The toes should be on the floor, pointing forward whereas the heels should be raised by a few inches.
- Once you are ready, bend your knees and lean your body back as much as you can comfortably do.
- Make sure your spine is in a neutral position. The best way to ensure this is to see that your body forms a straight line from your head to the knees.
- Hold your position for a few seconds and return to the starting position.
- Repeat it as many times as you comfortably can.
- While doing sissy squats, make sure you do not lock your knees during the reps.
Weighted sissy squats
Bodyweight sissy squats are more than enough for anyone but, if you want to really challenge yourself, you could hold weights in your hands.
Dumbbells are good but weight plates such as the Fringe Sport Black Bumper Plates are better because they will help keep your arms wide open. Plus, they are quite comfortable and grippy to hold, so you don’t have to worry about the plates slipping off and falling on your toes.
You might even use a resistance loop band to make sure your knees go straight out and not at an angle. Here are some of the best resistance loop bands that we recommend. If you are a really strong person, you may go for the Rogue fitness bands, because they provide much more resistance than the affordable ones.
Weighted sissy squats are quite challenging, so make sure you attempt them only if you are 100% sure.
Assisted sissy squats
If you do not have enough balance, don’t worry, you can still do sissy squats safely. As mentioned above, all you need to do is to hold on to something.
But, you will be surprised to know that there are dedicated sissy squat machines that you can use to safely do this challenging workout.
Sissy squat benches and machines cost somewhere between $100 and $250 or maybe more. They are good for bodybuilders and athletes who really want to work on their thighs. But, if you are someone who just wants to stay fit from the comfort of their homes, having extra equipment in your already cluttered home gym isn't a good idea, especially because sissy squat machines serve a very specific purpose..
Sissy squat benches and machines that we recommend
This sissy squat bench has adjustable length, adjustable height, adjustable angle, and adjustable foot pads. It can also be folded flat for compact storage. It has received 4+ star ratings from 90% of the buyers and thousands of buyers have stated that if sissy squats are your favorites, this is going to be a good investment for you. You can also use it for a couple of other exercises.
This sissy squat machine is not as well-designed as the one we have listed above but it is much cheaper and better for people who need something basic that they can use a couple of times a week. It also offers some form of adjustments but that's not enough for people taller than 5.6’. There are holes for adding resistance bands and there are push-up handles for people who love to add more challenges to their workouts. However, this sissy squat machine is not foldable.
This is also an affordable product that offers fewer levels of adjustments compared to the more expensive options. But, it is more than enough for most of us who need something basic and reliable to prevent accidents. Most buyers have stated that the soft cushioned area for supporting the calves is shorter than what they would have loved but works for people shorter than 5.6’.
We hope this article has appropriately addressed all the questions you might be having regarding sissy squats. If we missed something, please let us know and we will add it here.
Before you go, do check out our other informational articles on How Much Space Do You Need for a Home Gym, Can You Put a Home Gym on the Second Floor, How To Have the Best Home Gym Lighting, and What Color Should You Paint a Home Gym.