Bodyweight Sissy Squats

Bodyweight Sissy Squats


Execution Cues:

- I prefer to use a barbell for stability, so my first step is always to set the bar up at roughly my sternum height. Some will find it easier or more convenient to just use a post or pole. The biggest takeaway is to have something rigid that will be able to support you especially at the bottom of the rep where your tissues will be the most vulnerable. 

- Once you have your space set, take a narrow stance with feet slightly turned out. This will allow you to abduct your thighs comfortably and keep your knees in line with your toes. 

- Before beginning, hold onto your support, fully extend your hips, shift your hips out of anterior tilt and into neutrality, and brace your abs. 

- Now you can start to shift your weight into the balls of your feet and slowly drive your knees forward over the toes. Allow the heels to come off the ground. Use your upper body to provide balance but avoid "pulling" if possible. 

- Continue along this path pushing the knees further forward while maintaining the same hip/pelvic positioning (fully extended and neutral) until your quads are experiencing a strong stretching sensation. 

- Once you've reached a terminal end point to the ROM (defined by the inability of the quads to further lengthen without compromising your positioning), carefully begin to reverse the motion by extending at the knees and shifting your weight back. 

- The rep will be considered over when you are standing upright again with both heels on the floor and knees locked out. 



- Knee Pain

- Low Back Pain

- Ankle-Foot Pain

- Poor Hip Mobility (Tight Hip Flexors)

- Poor Ankle Mobility

- Weak Glutes and Abs



- Machine Leg Extensions (hips extended)

- Seated DB Leg Extensions

- Heel Elevated Spanish Squats

- Feet Elevated Quadruped Banded Knee Extensions



- Reverse Nordic Curls

- Banded Leg Extension Sissy Squats

- Sissy Squats (with apparatus and hips extended)

- Unassisted Bodyweight Sissy Squats

- Weighted Sissy Squats 


Volume Parameters:

- Up to 10 sets per week

- Up to 4 sets per session

- 8-20 rep range


Applicable Intensity Techniques:

- Supersets (Especially with shortened->lengthened supersets where the sissy squats would be performed after something like a machine leg extension_

- Mechanical Drop Sets

- Myoreps

- Rest Pause 

- Cluster Sets

- Eccentrics


Programming Considerations:

If you were to sit down and watch any videos of the 1970s bodybuilding idols, chances are you you'd probably see them doing some weird shit. 

Granted, there was a lot of work that needed to be done in the fields of kinesiology and exercise science, but even without the retrospective insight we have today, a lot of what was considered normal back then would raise more than a few eyebrows today. 

Was it that Arnie and Franco and Lou and Platz were just silly meatheads riding the coattails of their one-in-a-billion genetics? That they were unknowingly doing tons of stuff wrong? That if only they had access to the luxuries of modern periodization and equipment and LA Fitness locker-room talk then maybe they would have been able to monetize their physiques and capture the awe of the world as the personification of mythical gods (oh wait)?


Or MAYBE they knew something we don't...


It's hard for our hubris to admit that there might be some things that can't be easily explained by scientific revelations. We clearly have a strong case of recency bias especially when it comes to anything fitness and health. It makes sense that everything should improve with more time and more understanding and more really smart people dedication their brain power to solving these problems, but not everything is that cut-and-dry. Things fall through the cracks. 

One such victim of this phenomenon has been in how we approach the delicate balance between training hard while staying healthy. Our forefathers were much more likely to experiment with techniques and exercises that might have seemed dangerous or risky at first glance. It's not that they were reckless; they just didn't have nearly as many preconceived notions about what "safe" training actually was. 

Walking into Gold's Gym back in the 70s would've sent a 2020s physical therapist into a frenzy. Rounded-back deadlifts, guillotine presses and cheat curls were just a few of the movements considered standard back then that would probably have you excommunicated from any commercial gym these days lest someone catch a glimpse of your audacity. Granted, there are likely safer and more sustainable alternatives to achieve similar, if not better, effects. But the point stands...

Bubble-wrapping our training has pushed us out to the margins on the risk/reward spectrum towards now being overly cautious. We've collectively handicapped our abilities to problem-solve through experimentation. 


Look no further than the vilification of "knees-over-toes". 


This witch hunt sought to eradicate everyones' knee issues by a simple prescription: don't allow your knees to translate over your toes during squat patterns. And the thing was, it made sense. More forward knee movement meant more torque on the joint meant higher probability of sheer patterns developing long-term. The math certainly adds up even now. 

But what the proponents of this theory failed to consider was that sometimes the human body just doesn't make much sense. As it turns out, the heretics actually had it right all along. And not only did they have it right, but the pendulum swung so far back the other way that it is now considered good for your knee integrity to allow forward translation! Award a point to the non-conformists!

This realization sparked a revolution over the past few years. One that has inspired everyone from professional athletes to hardcore bodybuilders to re-evaluate what they thought they knew about lower body training. Hell, there is even a dude named "Knees Over Toes Guy" and he has millions of followers! We're beginning to put the pieces back together. 


A symbol of this movement has been the Sissy Squat. Mostly because of the explicitly clear imagery it imparts (it's the epitome of knees over toes) but also in its clear efficacy—not many other exercises require so little in the way of equipment while reciprocating so much back to us. 

Though there are clear problems with sweeping implementation—a population with already degraded knees being at the forefront. It's just not responsible as of right now to recommend to billions of people that they jump right on the Sissy Squat bandwagon. For most, this is going to be a long, carefully-staged process to reverse so many shitty patterns and compensations. Regressions and limitations will have to be put in place to start. Despite patience not exactly being a virtue of fitness and health, the eventual pay-off of stronger knees, bigger quads and healthier hips is more than worth the wait. 


Arnie and Platz would be proud of how far we've come. 


Primary Use Case:

- Hypertrophy of the Quads

- Improved Knee integrity

- Increased flexibility of Quads (especially hip flexors)

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.