How Sissy Squats Really Strengthen Your Quads

cable hamstring curls

Don’t let the name fool you into thinking these are for the weak.

When it comes to leg day, many of us have consistently done the same exercises over and over again. We all do squats, the leg press, and extensions, but rarely do we ever explore the unknown world of advanced bodyweight exercises. The sissy squat is one such exercise that is intricate and requires a certain degree of focus and sheer will to even attempt. Once you start to develop strength and size with these, there will be no turning back.

Don’t let the name fool you, for these are by no means for the weak-minded. In fact, the name actually comes from Greek origins about an old tale of Sisyphus and a punishment he endured. Whether or not this is true, its entertaining and for our sake of enjoyment with such a hard exercise, we’ll play along.

While this exercise may cause unwanted knee pain for those willing to try them, the benefits to your quad and overall leg growth are enormous and will make you want to at least give them a go.

Let’s take a look at the sissy squats and see what the hype is all about. From what they are, to muscle worked, and the many benefit surrounding sissy squats, we will dive into this advanced bodyweight exercise so you know exactly what you are getting into.

What Is The Sissy Squat?

The sissy squat is a bodyweight exercise designed to target the lower thigh area and requires a certain level of advanced fitness to endure. It is one of those often overlooked bodyweight exercises that has great benefits to isolating your quads to make those legs pop.

Aside from the benefits to strength and size, with proper form and a real level of resistance, those who choose to endure the sissy squat will work on mobility in areas like the ankles, back, and hips, as well as develop better coordination and balance that can assist with other big lifts.

A downside to the sissy squats is the knee pain that arises from performing the physical movement. As fragile joints that require the utmost care, those with existing pain in their knees should most likely refrain from doing this activity, but it is all a preference on what you can handle without leading to unwanted pain and injury.

Muscles Worked

When it comes to muscles worked, this is a serious lower body brutalizer. Immediately, you will feel this in your quads, which will start to work wonders for that tree-trunk aesthetic. But this exercise will also target your calves, hamstrings, and glutes, all essential for helping you stay balanced and upright for whatever comes your way.

For those upper body muscles, your low back will feel some resistance as a point of connection for these larger leg muscles, and your abs will feel a bit of a burn as you squeeze them to stay engaged.

strong legs

Benefits Of The Sissy Squat

The benefits of the sissy squats will work to effectively produce those large leg muscles that we all seek, while giving you benefits in terms of other areas of strength, mobility, and posture to handle your every day goals that seem to fall short. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits of the sissy squat:

  • Serious Leg Growth: Work those quads and other lower body muscles effectively with an advanced bodyweight exercise to see some serious leg growth (1).
  • Good Core Burn: Since your core is essential for maintaining balance and good posture, you will feel a great burn with these squats.
  • Increase Mobility: Mobility is key in advancing all movements and this will work to improve that to assist in other big lifts (2).
  • Develop Posture Through Strength: By strengthening your hips, and giving your low back some attention, you will develop better posture, thus increasing your confidence.

How To Perform This Exercise

Her are the steps for performing the sissy squat exercise:

Stand with your feet at around shoulder width apart and keep your core engaged. Bend at your knees and continue to lower your body until your torso starts to bend backwards. As you reach your limit, work to push yourself back to the starting position, using your core and leg muscles to get you there effectively. Reset and repeat for your desired number of reps.

strong legs

Sissy Squat Tips & Tricks

This exercise can be painful on your knees, so if you do start to feel pain, switch it up, take a break, and look for other exercises until you can rehab it. There’s no point in pushing your knees to a limit they can’t handle because you’ll ultimately put yourself out of the gym longer than you have to. Really be cautious of range of motion. You don’t want to bend lower than you can and risk unwanted pain and injury. Keeping your core engaged with this will prove to be great in the long run as you will effectively work to nail this exercise down for great gains.

Sissy Squat Variations

For those interested in a few variations or added ways to perform the traditional sissy squat, here is a list of a couple for you try once you perfect the sissy squat.

  • Elevated Squat: Similar to the traditional sissy squat, the elevation will add an extra level of difficulty with more range of motion.
  • Weighted: Grab a dumbbell, kettlebell, or weighted vest to add some weight and great resistance.
  • Aladdin Squat: A bit of a wider version of the traditional sissy squat.
  • Narrow: Slightly more isolation depending on exactly what you’re looking for.

Wrap Up

When it comes to the sissy squat, what you’ll find is a great exercise to target your quads and lower body to really make it pop. This is challenging and is an advanced bodyweight exercise not for the weak-minded. But that shouldn’t deter you, because challenging yourself can prove to be really great in the long run for your gains. Try the sissy squat and see what this bodyweight brutalizer can do for you.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

*Images courtesy of Envato


  1. Harrison, Jeffrey S. (2010). “Bodyweight Training: A Return To Basics”. (source)
  2. Langton, Becky; King, John (2018). “Utilizing Body Weight Training With Your Personal Training Clients”. (source)
Austin Letorney
Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.