FAQ: Are Sissy Squats Bad For Knees? (Plus 3 Alternatives)

By Walter Oconner | Fitness & Exercises


In this article, we will talk about sissy squats. Those of you who are old-school probably know about this exercises that is almost completely forgotten. If you haven't heard about it before, no worries. In this post, we will tell you what this exercise is, and we will answer the question "Are sissy squats bad for knees?". Let's go!

What Is The Issue With Sissy Squat?

As you guessed from the title - sissy squats are dangerous for knees. When you think about the regular squat, here are some cues you hear the most often:

  • Keep your weight over your heels, or the middle of your foot
  • Don't let your knees go past your toes (too much)
  • Keep your torso upright

Sissy squat is exactly the opposite. The whole point of it is to stand on your toes, move your knees forward and arch your torso backward. The issue is that there is a reason why you should put the weight over your heels or at worst, the middle of your foot, and it isn't just stability. That way, the force is distributed through the center of your body. Remember, you are moving weights (or your bodyweight) through space, but always against gravity. Sissy squat will put your knees, especially your kneecap and patellar tendon in a compromised position, where the whole generated force is going through that small area of your knees.

Health First

Putting unnecessary stress on your knees is not a good idea. Besides the hip and shoulder, the knee is the most important joint, and knee injuries are serious and hard to heel. Having bad knees will ruin not only your gym-time, but your everyday activities, and it is something to avoid at all costs.

And look - lifting should never jeopardize your health, it should supplement it. Whenever an exercise attracts such bad rep, you are probably better off without it; it's not worth the risk, especially when there are so many alternatives.

There are exceptions, like the deadlift - it is a common misconception that it will hurt your lower back. The truth is that it will hurt your lower back when performed incorrectly, and with too much weight.

The problem with sissy squat is that it can hurt you even when done with the perfect form, which is similar to the leg extension. These exercises simply put too much stress on such a vital part of your bodies - your knees.

There are simply many other better ways to target your quads than doing sissy squats, and in the next section, we will mention a few.

Sissy-squats-bad for-knees-3

Sissy Squats Alternatives

Sissy Squat Machine

Sissy-squats-bad for-knees-4

If your gym has one, you can switch both sissy squats and leg extension with a sissy squat machine. This apparatus supports your ankles and holds your shins upright through the whole movement. You will still use only your quads to perform the exercise, and you will still put pressure on your knees, but because you move vertically, much less force will go through your patella and kneecap. If you have to do sissy squats, do this version, but if you ask us, do something else instead.

Hack Squat

Sissy-squats-bad for-knees-2

This is often called hack deadlift since you lift the bar off the floor. But because this movement targets your quads hard, especially the middle portion of them, it is a squat.

Load a barbell and place it behind you, next to your calves. You can use 1 pound plates to lift your heels a little bit, to make the movement more comfortable. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, push through your heels, and lift it up. Reverse to the starting position.

This exercise is hard, so don't use too much weight. Also, try using wider plates, as it will lift the starting position, making the movement more comfortable, especially if you are not flexible enough.

Front Squat

Sissy-squats-bad for-knees-1

The bar position of the front squat forces your knees to travel slightly more forward, and your torso to be upright, both of which puts increased stress on your quadriceps, and less stress on your posterior chain. What's more, front squats are great for your posture, as they promote thoracic extension since you need to keep your chest up in order to keep the bar over your shoulders. It's a great exercise, and if you are lifting for general health, you should consider completely switching to the front squat.

One tip: if you lack the wrist, elbow or shoulder mobility to hold the bar with your fingers, cross your hands over it, it will feel much better.


While the sissy squat will definitely overload your quadriceps, the movement is just far too risky to perform, especially on a regular basis. Putting your knees on that much pressure will not do them any favor, especially long term. There are just so many other ways you can hit your quads that are both safe and effective. So don't gamble with sissy squats, your knees will appreciate it.

Reference links:





About the Author

Hi everyone, I am Walter, Main Editor of CareHappiness.com and a Fitness Trainer with over 4 years of experience. I’ve also been promoting clean eating, a healthy lifestyle, and Organic products.