What is a Sissy Squat?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Voight
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 January 2020
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Contrary to its name, the sissy squat is a very challenging type of squat exercise used to build size and tone and define the quadriceps muscles. A sissy squat is performed from a standing position with heels resting on a block several inches high. While holding onto a wall or heavy furniture with one hand for balance, the knees should bend and come forward while the head, torso, and upper legs lean back while staying in a straight line with each other. As the knees bend, the upper torso will be in a diagonal line, leaning slightly back from the knees, resembling a limbo move.

As the sissy squat is such a challenging move, proper form is essential to prevent injury to the knees. Feet should be shoulder width apart, pointing slightly outward. As the knees bend and come forward, the shoulders should be directly over the heels. The move should primarily involve the quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh.

As the athlete gains strength, he or she can hold a barbell plate or dumbbell against the chest for added resistance or go deeper on the movement to make it more difficult. Some athletes add a traditional squat move at the bottom of the movement by bending the hips and bringing them backward before returning to the starting position.


This bodyweight movement can be performed by athletes who do not have access to weights or a gym or who do not care to wait in line for gym machines. Although it can build strength, the sissy squat is primarily a mass-building exercise that adds definition by almost completely isolating the quadriceps muscles. A traditional squat recruits help from other muscles in the hips, gluteus maximus, and hamstring muscles, while the sissy squats eliminates the involvement of the helper muscles and isolates the quadriceps.

Some sources claim that the sissy squat got its name from the mythical Greek king Sisyphus, who was given the task of moving a large rock to the top of the highest mountain each day. Every night the gods would roll the rock back down so he must start again. In Greek art, Sisyphus is typically depicted as a muscular man with very large quadriceps.

The sissy squat is a very intense move that puts a lot of strain on the knees. Exercisers should always warm up before attempting this or any other strength exercise. Knee pain is a signal to stop the exercise.


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