Sissy Squats – What Are They? How To Do Them? Why Are They Called That?

Sissy squats.. what the heck are those and why are they called that?

For years, this exercise has been overlooked and underestimated and just now has it started to gain some popularity back in the bodybuilding world.

But are they really for sissies or are they just called that?

Here we are going to go over this exercise, tell you how to do it, and tell you why they are named Sissy Squats.

What Are Sissy Squats?

When it comes right down to it the sissy squat exercise is one that is designed to make sissies out of strong individuals, hence the name. They are an exercise that is not for the faint of heart, as they will require you to be in somewhat physical shape before even thinking about jumping on one of these machines.

And before you get on the sissy squat machine you are going to want to practice doing the exercise on your own without the machine first.

Of course, there are methods that you can employ when first starting to make the entire workout a bit easier, but they are by no means intended for the beginner.

How To Do Sissy Squats?

For most people that partake in sissy squats, it is the problem of knee pain that arises. This is also one of the reasons that this exercise was not intended for the beginner. This is why a lot of people have to utilize the support of a bench or a similar device.

That being said, the very best way to start mastering this exercise is by starting with the small steps.


Start by standing up straight with your legs shoulder width apart. Now, reach out and hold onto something like a fixed bar with your right arm. Holding on like this will not only help you maintain balance as you perform the exercise, but it’ll help you with your form.

It’ll help you when you are trying to go all the way down because this is one of the hardest things about the exercise. In fact, even holding on like this, you still might not be able to make it all the way down because this requires an immense amount of core, lower back, and glute strength.

In essence, you want to be able to perform this exercise without holding on to anything, but it likely won’t be possible at first.

During this progression, the heels of your feet will also need to be elevated. You can usually achieve this by sliding dumbbells under the back of your heels. You can also use a block, but whatever you use, it should be 2 to 4 inches high, tough enough to support your weight, and something that won’t slip out from under you while you are leaning back.


Once you are in this position with your arm affixed to a sturdy pole while standing on wooden blocks or dumbbells, you will be ready to start the motions. The goal here is to bend the knees and take your body lower until your torso is bent at a near 90-degree angle.

It is likely that you won’t be able to make the 90 degrees, but remember you are just starting out. 5 reps for this exercise should be more than enough.


After you have accomplished step 2, you’ll want to move on to what is known as the burlesque bump. You’ll do this by squatting and pushing your hips very fast. You’ll want to repeat this about 5 times as well


The last step is to just repeat steps 2 and 3 until you’ve completed 5 reps of both. This is much harder than it sounds.

What Muscles Do Sissy Squats Work?

Sissy Squats with machine

As you can see the sissy squats are just another iteration of the traditional squat. They are a squat that was designed to target your calves, lower back, hamstrings, and glutes. In fact, they’ll make these areas so soft and sore that you’ll feel like a sissy by the time you are done. One major difference between this exercise and the traditional squat is that this one was also designed for strengthening and enlarging the quads.

The sissy squats also put a lot of emphasis on major muscle groups like the calves, hamstrings, and lower back, so they can actually help you gain muscle as well as learning advanced movements that’ll come in handy for later bodybuilding techniques.

Sissy Squat Alternative Exercise – The Step Up

There is no denying that the sissy squat is an excellent workout that can target a diverse range of muscle groups. The only problem is that this exercise is difficult. Even with the assistance of a machine or post, it is an exercise that can cause a lot of pain in the knees.

This is why some individuals opt for different exercises that are less strenuous on the body but target the same muscle groups.

One such exercise that can couple the sissy squat is the step up.

The step-up is a great way to challenge muscles throughout your entire body and challenge your balance at the same time. Another great thing about the step up is that it can be done in different variations to add more challenges and benefits.

Some people do then with weights and some people do then while stepping up on taller objects. Whatever the situation is, the premise of this exercise is the same and you can benefit from any variation.


To start this exercise, you are going to need a step, box, or bench. This is going to be the object that you are stepping upon. You’ll want to start by standing, facing the step, box, bench, or whatever object you are going to be stepping upon.


You’ll now want to interlock your finger and place your hand behind your head. After doing this, you’ll pull your elbows back in line with the back of your head.


Now arch your back as far as you can without causing too much discomfort.


Step up with your right leg on the object that you chose to use.


Lift your left leg until your knee is at the same height as your opposing hip. This should make a 90-degree bend at the knee and hip. While doing this try to keep your ankle at a 90-degree bend with your foot flexed.


Step back down to the floor with your left leg and return the right leg to the floor.


Repeat this same exercise with the opposite leg.


Continue to alternate this exercise until you’ve done it for 20 reps each.

Is It Better To Perform Sissy Squats With A Machine Or Not?

Sissy Squats

It is entirely possible to do a sissy squat without a machine, but some will argue that it is impossible to do the perfect sissy squat without a machine. In fact, if you plan on truly growing your quads to the max, you’ll want to take advantage of a sissy squat machine.

Not only this, but these machines can also help with form, which will also help reduce the chances of injuries. If you want to do this exercise without suffering from ailing knees and joints, you’ll need the proper form. A machine could be just the device to help you achieve that proper form.

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  • Kelly Clanton

    Hi there! I'm Kelly Clanton. I am an educated fitness coach with a master degree in Sports Education, and more than ​9 years of working in fitness industry. I love doing and teaching fitness because in my own little way, I am able to encourage people to take health back into their own hands. I'm a Mom,Wife, Fitness Instructor at Fitness Instructor.

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