How to Do A Sissy Squat (Videos) + Benefits

sissy squat starting position image

For the same reason you wouldn’t judge a book by its cover (we hope), you shouldn’t judge Sissy Squats by their name – there’s nothing Sissy about them! 

The traditional squat is the holy grail of lower-body exercises. They do wonders for your quads, adductors, calves, and glutes. Squats are awesome because they tone and build these muscles in your lower body and strengthen your core muscles too.

Squats are admired for their ability to work several muscles equally and effectively. But what do you do when the regular squat isn’t working your quads quite as much as you’d like? You find out how to do a Sissy Squat! 

Check out this article for our how-to videos which will show you exactly how to do a Sissy Squat and variations.

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Sissy Squat VS Leg Extension

We know what you’re thinking – why would you choose a Sissy Squat over the ultimate quad-isolating exercise that is the leg extension? Here’s why!

sissy squat benefits for quad muscles graphic

We can forgive you for thinking that the leg extension machine is the best exercise for strengthening your quads, but we prefer Sissy Squats.

Extensions are really effective for building the strength and size of your quad muscles as they are one of very few, if not the only, leg exercises which completely isolate the quads.

But, by isolating the quads, the move puts a lot of pressure on the knee joint because the hamstring muscles, which usually support knee flexion, are not active.

If you don’t have an existing knee injury, you can minimise this pressure on the joint by doing the move with low weight and higher reps. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that the move isn’t damaging your knee in the long run, which should have you questioning – is it really worth it?

When it comes to exercises which emphasise quad development, Sissy Squats are definitely one to rival the controversial leg extender machine.

The Sissy Squat increases the function of the quads more than regular squats by reducing the role of the glutes and the hamstrings, but, they don’t completely isolate the quad muscles like extensions.

According to the findings of a scientific study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, the leg extender machine is ineffective in activating the Rectus Femoris (the big muscle in the middle of the quads). 

sissy squat benefits rectus femoris graphic

Unlike the rest of the quad muscles, the Rectus Femoris is also responsible for hip flexion and anterior pelvic tilt. These extra functions are not trained on the leg extender, but they’re more involved in the movement of the Sissy Squat.

Sissy Squats are also the more accessible exercise out of the two as the movement is equally as effective without a machine. On the other hand, you’d need to head down to the gym to really see results from extensions.

So, not only are Sissy Squats safer than the Quad-isolating leg extender, they also have a few added benefits – what’s not to like?!

What is a Sissy Squat? 

how to do sissy squats image

It’s the ultimate quad-focused squat variation! They are perfect for developing strong quads whilst doing a little work for your core stability and balance, too.

Named after King Sisyphus, the Sissy Squat made its first appearance in a legend of Greek Mythology 

The legend goes that as a punishment from Zeus, King Sisyphus was made to roll a huge boulder up a steep mountain. Unaware that Zeus had enchanted the boulder so that it would roll away from Sisyphus before he reached the top of the hill, King Sisyphus spent his eternity trying to get the boulder to the top of the mountain.

sissy squats pushing boulder graphic

Why are we telling you this? Because you should see his quads! In ancient Greek and modern art, Sisyphus is showed with bulging thigh muscles.

If you want your quads to look like they’ve been sculpted by gods, Greek gods at that, SissySquatsare the exercise that you need to try.

We can’t stress enough that a Sissy Squat is not easy – stop being fooled by the name! 

The move relies on the quads to do pretty much all of the work, so if you’re not already doing regular squats, lunges or any other quad-strengthening moves, it’s best to start with these first.

If you think you’re up to the challenge and you want to see some major quad development, check out our how to do a Sissy Squat tutorial video and step-by-step guide.

How to Do A Sissy Squat 

Set-Up and Equipment:

Grab a block or a step that’s around 3 inches high (pretty much anything that can hold your weight and won’t move whilst you’re performing the exercise is fine, a dumbbell or a weighted plate would work). This will help you to keep your ankles raised throughout the movement.

Starting Position: 

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your heels raised on a block or a step.
  • Your toes should be on the floor, pointing straight forwards.
  • Put your hands on your hips.
  • Bend your knees slightly and tilt your body backwards so that there is a straight line from your knees to your neck.
  • Engage your core, it will help to keep your body straight.


  • Lower your body into a squat by bending your knees and leaning your body backwards.
  • Squat as low as you can without losing your balance.
  • Hold the position for 3 seconds.
  • Push yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat.

Main Muscles Worked: Quads

Secondary Muscles Worked:  Core Muscles

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Don't Over Do It 

sissy squats knee damage graphic

This exercise is quite tricky and trains the knee extension movement, so it is best to keep the resistance low. We recommend that everyone starts with a bodyweight version. If you want to turn up the resistance, we’ll reveal how to do the weighted Sissy Squat variation shortly. 

And this might go without saying, but if you have an existing knee injury, or you feel any kind of pain in your knee joint during the movement, skip this exercise.

Straightening Your Knees at The Top of The Move 

During a set of Sissy Squats, be sure to avoid locking your legs at the top of the move. Keep a slight bend in your knee. This will spare you from injuring your joints and ensure that your muscles stay engaged throughout the set.

Keep Your Form  

how to do a sissy squat form graphic

It’s really important that you maintain the straight line of your body from your knees to your neck from the starting position, throughout the entire execution of the exercise. Keeping this form will ensure that the move works your quads. 

If you let your hips bend, you will be training a hip extension. This will shift the focus of the move from your quads and put more of the load onto your posterior-chain muscles instead.

Brace Your Core 

Bracing your core during this movement will help you to keep your body in the correct position. Working on your core strength and stability during a SissySquatwill also improve your balance, which will make it easier for you to hold and execute the move.

Sissy Squat Benefits 

Quad Development

Sissy Squats have huge benefits for your Quads. Holding your body in a straight-line reduces the role of the posterior chain muscles.

sissy squat benefits for posterior chain muscles highlighted graphic

The posterior chain refers to the group of the muscles which are on the backside of your body. These include the glutes, hamstrings, calves and the lower back muscles.

Regular squats are great if you want to train the posterior chain muscles. On the other hand, the position of the Sissy Squat reduces these muscles to a supporting role. By reducing the emphasis of the posterior chain muscles, the position forces the quadriceps to do the majority of the work. 

This means that you’ll really feel the burn in the front of your thighs from this exercise, but it will all be worth it!

Strengthen your core 

sissy squat benefits for core strengthening image

As well as the obvious benefits for your quads, there are Sissy Squat benefits for developing strength in your core too. 

The reduced role of the posterior chain muscles means that the core muscles have to work to keep your body in the straight-line position.

The movement also incorporates your core muscles for stabilisation and balance as you push yourself back up from the squat. 

The Move Can Be Adapted to Suit Your Level 

Because it requires sufficient quad and core strength in order to hold the position and execute the movement correctly, Sissy Squats can be quite difficult to get the hang of it first. 

Fortunately, one of the key sissy squat benefits is that the exercise can be adapted to make the move easier (or more difficult) depending on the strength of your quads and your core muscles.

Keep reading because we’re about to explain how to do some easier variations of the move before we get onto how you can add more resistance to get the ultimate quad-killing results.

Assisted Sissy Squat 

If you think you’ll struggle to maintain your balance during this move, you’re best starting off by trying an Assisted Sissy Squat– here’s how.

Set-Up and Equipment:

As well as a raised block, you’ll also need something to hold on to for this variation. If you’re at the gym, find the squat rack so that you can hold on to the beam. If you prefer to exercise from home, anything that is sturdy – like a table – will work.

Starting Position:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your heels raised on the block.
  • Your toes should be on the floor, pointing straight forwards.
  • Put one of your hands on your hip and use the other to hold on to the beam.
  • Bend your knees slightly and tilt your torso backwards so that it forms a straight line.
  • Brace your core.


  • Holding on to the beam, squat down by bending at your knees and leaning yourself backwards.
  • Hold the position for 3 seconds.
  • Push yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat!

Supported Sissy Squat 

Another way to overcome poor balance is to try doing the movement on a Sissy Squat machine. It’s really is more a piece of equipment than a machine, so we prefer to call it a Sissy Squat Bench.

The bench is designed to secure the feet and the ankles during the movement which helps you to keep your balance and will stop you from worrying that you’ll fall backwards!

If your gym doesn’t have a Sissy Squat bench, you can always try the variations above. But, if you’re a little apprehensive, there are tons of reasonably priced options available on Amazon.

We recommend this one from Mirafit. It’s a really good quality piece of kit with some great reviews. If you check out their YouTube channel, they show you exactly how to use it!

Weighted Sissy Squat 

Ok, so you can handle the regular, bodyweight, Sissy Squat? Time to add some more resistance!

Set-Up and Equipment:

Again, you’ll need a block or a step to make sure that your heels stay elevated throughout the movement. Or you can do this on a Sissy Squat machine.

You’ll also need some weight! A weight plate or a dumbbell are ideal.

Starting Position:

  • Position your feet shoulder-width apart and stand partly on the block so that your heels are raised, and your toes are on the floor.
  • Grab the weight and hold it on top of your chest.
  • If you find it hard to keep your balance, you can use one hand to hold onto a beam (like with the variation above) and the other to hold the weight.
  • As with the regular Sissy Squat, bend your knees slightly and tilt your body back.
  • Make sure that your core is engaged. 


  • Holding the weight, bend your knees to lower your body, whilst leaning your torso backwards.
  • Hold this squat position for 3 seconds.
  • Rise up to the start position.
  • Repeat.

Before you go!

Are you a fan of the Sissy Squat? We hope you are by the end of this article...

Interested in becoming a Personal Trainer? Go check out our Level 3 Personal Training course here, or download our latest prospectus to find out what you could be learning! 

Written by Abbie Watkins

Fitness Content Executive, OriGym

Join Abbie on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Holding an MA Marketing Communications and Branding as well as a BSc Psychology from the University of Liverpool, Abbie’s experience encompasses the retail, hospitality and fitness industries. Since joining OriGym, she has become a qualified Personal Trainer and gone on to complete a specialist qualification in advanced Sports Nutrition. Abbie’s main focuses cover staying up to speed with YouTube fitness influencers, identifying successful and innovative content formats. She has contributed to various publications, including the Daily Express. Beyond OriGym, she describes herself as a ‘work-hard, play-hard’ type going on scenic runs and upbeat exercise classes, and often found on the front row of a Saturday morning spin class. 

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