Gym Equipment

3 Critical Sissy Squat Benefits To Enhance Your Lower Body Training

sissy squat benefits

What Is A Sissy Squat

A Sissy Squat is a compound exercise that primarily isolates and targets the quadriceps. It’s a challenging exercise that can be done freestanding or by using a dedicated sissy squat bench.

It takes a bit of practice to perfect the form however, when done properly, it offers many benefits and excellent carry over to other forms of strength training.

What Are The Sissy Squat Muscles Worked

The primary muscles worked when doing sissy squats are the quadriceps. You’ll also engage your glutes and core muscles which will work to help stabilize you throughout the exercise.

What Are The Main Sissy Squat Benefits?

Below are some sissy squat benefits:

You’ll Get Much Better Quad Isolation

If you happen to have well developed glutes and hamstrings and want to concentrate on your quads, then sissy squats are the way to go as they eliminate any recruitment of posterior chain muscles.

Strong quads can improve the stability of your kneecaps and protect your knee joints from injury, this makes it an excellent alternative to using a seated leg extension.

Improvements To Explosive Power Helping With Functional Strength

By focusing on your quad strength you will also see improvements when undertaking explosive movements such as box jumping and to your overall athletic ability, making it a great movement to incorporate into your training routine.

You’ll Improve Your Core Strength

The exercise will also improve your core strength and this is vital for improved posture helping with any back issues. 

A strong core is also good for balance and stability of your whole body and to minimize any strain on your muscles and joints.

Better Knee Health With Less Risk Of Injury

When performed correctly, sissy squats can help strengthen the muscles around your knee joint.

This added stability can reduce the risk of knee injuries and benefit you, especially if you weak knees or a history of knee issues.

How To Do A Sissy Squat?

The traditional sissy squat movement can be performed either freestanding or by using a Sissy Squat Machine.

To Do A Sissy Squat Freestanding:

  1. Start with your heels slightly elevated (approximately two to four inches) by using a block or even a small pair of dumbbells. It needs to be strong enough to withstand your weight and offer stability. Keep your feet hip width apart.
  2. Slowly begin to bend your knees as though you want them to make contact with the floor. If you’re new to this exercise it could be beneficial to use some support i.e. holding on to a power rack.
  3. Whilst lowering your knees, make sure to keep your body in a straight line (from your neck to your knees) this will help to prevent injury.
  4. When you have reached the bottom of the movement i.e. your knees will not go any lower, slowly start to push back up keeping the weight on the front of your feet and ensuring your body remains in a straight line.

Your quads are being worked hardest when you are at the bottom of the movement and with plenty of practice you’ll be able to work to a 90 degree angle.

To Execute The Movement With A Sissy Squat Bench

Many people are discouraged from doing the movement freestanding as it can be tricky to pull off and to do so safely and effectively.  This is where use of the Sissy Squat Machine comes in.

The sissy squat machine will also help with time under tension strength training allowing for even more muscle growth.  Time under tension workouts are great for breaking through strength plateaus and burning fat.

Here are the steps for using a sissy squat machine

  1. Place your feet on to the footplate of the machine with the rollers in front of you, these will lock your feet into place whilst your calves will rest against the rear pad.
  2. Keep your core engaged throughout the movement and slowly lower yourself back and, as with the freestanding method, ensure you keep your body straight from your neck to your knees.
  3. Begin to raise yourself back up but, not all of the way, this ensures you keep tension on your quads.

When you find that the movement is becoming easier and you’d like to progress simply hold on to a weight plate or a dumbbell during this workout.  This can be done with either the freestanding movement or when using the sissy squat machine.

Is The Sissy Squat Known By Another Name?

The Sissy squat name can sometimes be referred to as a roman chair squat which is somewhat confusing as a roman chair bench is a 45 Degree Hyperextension bench, which is primarily used to strengthen your lower back muscles and work your hamstrings.

Why Is It Called A Sissy Squat?

The name Sissy Squat is said to have originated from Greek mythology and that of King Sisyphus.  However this, as suggested, is a myth.

It’s original name was the ‘Monty Woolford Squat’. Monty Woolford was a competitive ‘Silver Era’ bodybuilder back in the 50’s and 60’s and was the inventor of the Sissy Squat exercise.

The name Sissy Squat actually originated from Monty stating that the movement would make a sissy out of the lifers that only performed the back squat.

After that, the name Sissy Squat stuck and has since gone on to become one of his most famous exercises.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Are Sissy Squats Bad For Knees?

With good technique and correct form, sissy squats are not bad for your knees. As long as you have the strength, mobility, and stability to perform them, they can improve knee health over time.

However, if you have a history of knee problems the additional stress placed on your joints could exacerbate those problems, especially if you’re new to the exercise.

That being said, if you want to focus on obtaining that teardrop look, sissy squats are absolutely one of the best ways of doing this and when done properly can actually benefit knee health.

The movement is isolated to a single joint (that being the knee), considering the leverages involved, it should not put any more stress on your knees than a traditional back squat.

However, you need to ensure you check with medical professionals if you have a history of knee problems or are unsure before undertaking this exercise.

Do Sissy Squats Help Build Glutes?

Sissy squats do not effectively target your glutes.  If you want to work your gluteus maximus you will see benefits from exercises such as barbell squats and hip thrusts.  Any of these exercises will develop your glutes far more efficiently.

Can Sissy Squats Work Your Calves?

You will get a better stretch on calves when undertaking free weight sissy squats. However, you will not get the full range of movement that you can with a sissy squat machine so there is a trade-off between using the machine when compared to freestanding sissy squats.

To effectively isolate your calf muscles the best exercises are those such as standing or seated calf raises. These can be done with or without a machine or even something more simple such as incline walking.

Can Anyone Perform Sissy Squats?

Whilst getting used to this exercise can certainly be tricky at first, with consistent practice your core and quad strength will improve dramatically allowing you to ramp up the difficulty level.

The sissy squat bench opens up this exercise to a wider range of users so even if you want to utilize the machine to begin with, as your core strength and stability improves, you can move over to freestanding squats.

Sissy Squats vs Free-Weight Squats

Regular squats are a sure-fire way of increasing muscle mass and strength to your posterior chain, for those that want to focus on building hamstring and glutes, regular squats are perfect.

However, sissy squats are much better for building up your anterior thigh muscles (your quads) so by incorporating both exercises into your workout you can be confident that you will build equal strength and symmetry.

By focusing on one exercise over the other could lead to injury to muscles that are not regularly trained, so it’s important to make sure all muscles are equally worked on.

What Is A Good Alternative To Sissy Squats

Below are some examples of sissy squat alternatives.

Heel Elevated Squats

By using a form of support such as a squat ramp you can elevate your heels and perform a regular back squat either with or without weight.  Whilst it won’t offer as much isolation as a regular sissy squat it will place more emphasis on your quads than if your feet were to remain flat on the floor.

You can read more about the benefits of heel elevated squats here.

TRX Sissy Squat

Simply undertake the movement as you would a freestanding sissy squat but make use of TRX bands.  These will encourage good form if you’d like to eventually do them without the bands. They keep your quads isolated and improve range of motion to the knees.

Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is single leg squat movement that requires you to stand approximately 2 feet away from an elevated platform, a flat bench for example, which will be behind you. 

Place one foot up on the bench and perform a lunge movement.   If you keep your foot, which is on the floor, closer to the bench you will target more of your quads.

The above are great options if you wanted to avoid doing Sissy Squats.

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