12 Best Sissy Squat Alternatives (For Stronger Quads)

Sissy squats are excellent for strengthening the legs, but they're challenging to get right without good joint mobility and adequate muscle strength. This can make building an effective exercise routine time-consuming and de-motivating.

To help solve this problem, we’ve created this guide with 12 sissy squat alternative exercises you can use to build a satisfying workout routine.

In this section, we’ll be covering 12 of the best alternatives to sissy squats. Sissy squats require strength and mobility in the joints. If you’re not at the right level yet, you can pick from the ones on this list. We recommend testing them out one by one and then making a suitable workout routine.

1. Tiptoe Squats 

Tiptoe squats are similar to traditional squats, but they focus on your quads and calf muscles, making them an ideal sissy squat alternative. One excellent thing about tiptoe squats is you don't need any equipment. 

Here’s how to do them:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, on your tiptoes, and lift your heels off the ground.  
  • Perform a squat by keeping your back straight and lowering yourself down until your hamstrings are parallel with the floor.  
  • Return to a standing position. If you can’t balance on your toes, you can also elevate your heels using a block or a weight.  
Tiptoe Squats

2. Bulgarian Split Squats 

Bulgarian split squats are another suitable sissy squat substitute. They’re great for targeting your quads to improve balance and overall strength. For this exercise, you’ll need a platform about knee-high, e.g., a workout bench.

To make this exercise more challenging, you can add weights to each hand or wear a heavy backpack. If you want to make it easier, you can focus on doing the exercise slowly and hold on to something like a chair for extra balance.

Here’s how to do them:

  • Face your back to the bench, then put one foot on the bench behind you, so you're standing on one leg.  
  • Squat down with your standing leg. Your knee of the leg on the platform should almost touch the ground.  
  • Keep your back straight and your core engaged throughout the exercise, and return to a standing position.  

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Bulgarian Split Squats

3. Barbell Hack Squat 

Barbell hack squats are a good substitute for sissy squat exercises because they cover a comprehensive range of muscles. These include the abs, adductors, glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.

The primary muscle targeted is the quads, as with many squat exercises. It requires a barbell, but you can pick the weight you’d like to start with. Because it’s a compound exercise, you’ll be exerting yourself heavily across each set, making it great for high-intensity workouts.

Here are some steps:

  • Place the bar behind your calves and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.  
  • Grab the bar with a pronated grip and stand as if you’re doing a deadlift.  
  • Now move your torso to a more vertical position. 
  • Breathe in and drive your feet into the floor, bringing up the bar. 
  • Stand tall and extend both the hips and knees to lock out the bar.  
  • Lower the bar and repeat.  
Barbell Hack Squat

4. Overhead Barbell Wall Squats 

The overhead barbell wall squat is a more advanced sissy squat alternative for weightlifters looking to strengthen their legs. It brings in extra muscles because the barbell rolls up and down a wall while you’re in a kneeling position.

But it’s also more comfortable because it helps you maintain your form while lifting the bar. This makes it a decent exercise for beginners.

Here are the steps:  

  • Place the barbell against a wall. 
  • Kneel and grab the bar using a pronated grip. 
  • Roll the bar upwards as you rise, keeping your back pushed out but straight. 
  • Keep going until you’re vertical, and then move in reverse to lower the bar. 
  • Repeat as many times as desired.  
Overhead Barbell Wall Squats

5. Goblet Squat 

The goblet squat is a great exercise that can challenge beginners and advanced lifters alike. It’s a step-up from the bodyweight squat but with no added barbell. It’s a suitable sissy squat alternative for several reasons.

Firstly, it’s easy to perform correctly. Secondly, the weight at the front means you’re targeting the same quad muscles as you do when you sissy squat. Finally, the goblet squat provides fitness benefits for the whole body.

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Start with a kettlebell or dumbbell. 
  • Hold the weight at chest height in front of you.  
  • Squat down and explode back to a standing position. 
  • Keep your back straight and your core engaged throughout the exercise.  
Goblet Squats

6. Hack Squat 

The hack squat is a sissy squat alternative that uses a hack squat machine. The main benefit of this machine is the amount of weight you can add and how easy it is to get started using it.

To squat this way:  

  • Just sit down, and there will be pads over your shoulders.  
  • Put your feet shoulder-width apart on the footplate and disengage any safety locks. 
  • Hold onto the handlebars in front of your shoulders, lower yourself into a squat position, then drive yourself up.  
  • When you’ve completed your desired number of reps, re-engage the safety locks.  

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Hack Squat

7. Jump Squats 

Like other squats using bodyweight, jump squats are great for beginners and are as intense as you want to make them. Jump squats are a good sissy squat alternative because you can do them without worrying about getting injured and they also target your quads. They are also shown to improve athletic performance significantly.

Here are two simple steps to do it:  

  • Squat down so that your hamstrings are parallel with the ground. 
  • Explode with a jump back to a standing position 
Jump Squats

8. Box Jump 

The box jump is similar to the jump squat, except you aim to jump onto a platform such as a wooden box or bench. Box jumps are a very popular exercise amongst athletes as they’re great for mobility, explosiveness, and strengthening your leg muscles.

Here’s how to do them:

  • Squat down and swing your arms back to get momentum. 
  • Now swing your arms forward and jump onto the platform in front of you.  
  • Gently jump back down and repeat.  
  • To adjust the difficulty of this exercise, increase or decrease the height you’re jumping onto.  

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Box Jumps

9. Leg Press Machine 

A leg press machine is typically present in most gyms and is a suitable sissy squat machine alternative. The main advantage of the leg press machine is that it’s straightforward to use. You can also challenge yourself by reducing or adding weights no matter how experienced you are.

Here’s how to get started:  

  • Sit down and put your feet on the footplate.  
  • Adjust your seat, so your legs are at a 90-degree angle.  
  • When you are in a comfy position, load the weights on the racks on each side of the leg press machine. Make sure there are an even number of weights on each side.  
  • Sit back down and release the safety locks.  
  • Push the weights with your legs.  
  • When you're finished, re-engage the safety locks.  
  • Ensure you don’t over-extend or straighten out your knees. 

Related Article - Leg Press Vs Squat

Leg Press Machine

10.  Dumbbell Walking Lunges  

Dumbbell walking lunges are another great all-around exercise that strengthens your legs and quads. They help to improve your core strength, balance, and posture. A recent study has also shown that lunges can help athletes increase hamstring strength and sprint speed.

Here’s how to do these lunges:  

  • To do a dumbbell walking lunge, simply carry a dumbbell in each hand.  
  • Choose a weight you’re comfortable with at the start, or just do bodyweight lunges.  
  • Put your arms by your side, then take a large step forward, bending both your knees, but avoid hitting your back leg off of the ground.  
  • Then push off your back leg and straighten your legs again.  
  • Repeat this until you have completed an equal number of steps on each side.  
Dumbbell Walking Lunges

11. Leg Extension 

The leg extension is a specific leg exercise that focuses on building your quad muscles, making it a perfect sissy squat substitute. The leg extension is perfect for isolating your quad muscles, similar to sissy squats.

However, it's easier to start doing leg extensions as they require less overall strength or flexibility.

Here's how you can do them:

  • Sit on the leg extension machine. 
  • Adjust your seat so that your shin is pressed gently against the padded part of the machine. 
  • Choose your weight and push the padded bar at your shin with your leg, imitating a kicking motion.  
  • Try to do this exercise in a smooth and controlled way.  
leg extension machine

12. Workout Band Sissy Squat 

A perfect bodyweight sissy squat alternative is the workout band sissy squat. Rather than using a barbell, you'll only be using a resistance band. It works by pulling your legs toward an anchor point that the band is attached to.

You then perform a squat as usual, using the resistance from the band to train your muscles. This makes it simpler to maintain good form and easier to get started with.

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Using a suitable resistance band, wrap it around your knees and secure it to a solid pillar  
  • Stand shoulder-width apart with your back straight and head forwards 
  • Push your knees outwards as you descend into the squat  
  • Bring yourself up in a fast but controlled motion  
  • Repeat as often as needed  
Workout Band Sissy Squat

Benefits Of Substitute Exercises Instead Of Sissy Squats

Some of these exercises will yield better results for experienced fitness enthusiasts, whereas others will be better for beginners. The barbell hack squat and workout band sissy squat are good examples of choices aimed at beginners. Jump squats are more intense, and walking dumbbell lunges need precise movements.

The best course of action we can recommend is to try each one out using the steps we’ve provided. Then you’ll discover what level you’re at. Once you’re comfortable, focus on the more complex exercises. All of them will tone and strengthen the muscles within the legs, but some focus on particular muscles.

Gymgoers enjoy these exercises because they work the muscles hard and are convenient for targeting multiple muscle groups. Sometimes sissy squats are performed with these exercises, but it depends on strength level and mobility.

What Muscles Do Sissy Squat Alternative Exercises Work?


The primary muscles that sissy squats targets are the quadriceps, commonly referred to as quads. When you do a sissy squat, you're doing the opposite movement compared to a standard squat. Much of the exercise's strain is put on your upper thighs, and less focused on your glutes or hamstrings.  

Gluteus Maximus 

As mentioned above, your quads are mainly targeted more than any other muscle. However, your Gluteus Maximus (Glutes), one of your body's largest muscles, will also be under plenty of strain. Strong glutes are essential for almost every lower body exercise, and sissy squats are no different.   

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One of the most critical factors in doing a sissy squat (and many other exercises) is your core strength. For sissy squats, you need to lean back, which will require a lot of balance. Your core muscles will help to stabilize you and prevent you from tipping over.

Hip Flexor 

The hip flexor can be a complex muscle to target. However, the sissy squat is one of the best exercises to target it. The leaning back motion of the sissy squat is rarely replicated in any exercise, which is what makes the sissy squat beneficial for the hip flexors. 

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Are sissy squats difficult? 

Sissy squats are challenging because of the muscles they use. These muscles are often unused in day-to-day activities. If you try to do sissy squats when you don't have the strength or mobility, you risk injuring your knees, hips, or ankles. You can use a sissy squat machine, a door frame, or a chair for assistance at the start.  

Do sissy squats build muscle? 

Yes, sissy squats are great for building muscle. They primarily target your quads and help develop other muscles such as your hip flexor, core, and glutes. This makes them a convenient and effective all-around exercise for the legs.  

Is sissy squat bad for knees? 

When you do sissy squats, you’re putting your knees in an unusual position. Because of this, sissy squats can be bad for your knees, but not if you take sensible precautions. You can train safely to build up to a sissy squat by lowering your range of motion and doing half reps until you build up enough strength.  

Which one of these 12 exercises is best? 

All of the exercises mentioned above are great for targeting your legs. However, if you want to choose one sissy squat substitute, we would recommend the Bulgarian split squat. This exercise is excellent for targeting your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.  


The sissy squat is one of the best exercises for targeting your quad muscles,  hip flexors, and core. However, because it requires a lot of strength and mobility, it can be a dangerous exercise if you're not flexible enough. This is why we provide a selection of suitable substitutes for you to choose from.  


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Paul J

Last Updated on March 16, 2023