Sissy squats and kneeling leg extensions are a phenomenal way to isolate and target the quads (front part of the legs) without using any equipment.
When it comes to targeting your quads with bodyweight only, no exercise will come close to the effectiveness of sissy squats and kneeling leg extensions.
These exercises will build a great deal of strength and mobility in the lower body. Sissy squats also require a great deal of balance if you learn how to do them without support.
Moreover, these exercises aren't for sissies! Originally the name sissy squat comes from the Greek God Sisyphus - it's a godlike exercise.
Sissy squats can be one of the toughest exercises out there and the most advanced version of the kneeling leg extension requires elite level of strength.
However, with the progressions we have demonstrated below, most people should be able to begin their journey to master the sissy squat and the kneeling leg extension.
Watch our video below for the correct form demonstration:
Sissy Squat Progressions
Assisted Sissy Squat
With the assisted sissy squat you can hold a table, a door or a wall for support.
Lean towards with your knees and go as low as you feel comfortable with. You can even touch the floor with your knees. The range of motion is determined by the levels of your strength and mobility.
If you feel the sissy squat negatively in your knees, then cut the range of motion or focus first on strengthening the legs with regular squats.
Make sure your knees don't collapse inwards, because that will put extra pressure on the knee joints - if they do and you can't help it, you need to strengthen the abductor muscles of the legs.
The real sissy squat is done without support. This way the exercise also requires a serious amount of balance because you are basically balancing on your tiptoes.
Use your hands for counter balance. This progression of the sissy squat requires lots of practice, because it's not just about strength but also about balance and coordination. It's up to you whether you want to practice the balance aspect of sissy squats or not.
Weighted Sissy Squat
With the weighted sissy squat you are using dumbbells for added resistance. The hardest version is to have one dumbbell on each hand and do these without support.
However, you can hold something for balance, and then carry some weight with your free arm. Weighted vest can also be used.
One Leg Sissy Squat
With the one leg sissy squat you are taking a split stance and just leaning backwards while keeping the forward leg straight the entire duration of the repetition.
Only the backward leg is bending and getting serious work done. Hold a table for support if you need to. You might also need to stretch your quads to get the most out of this version.
Kneeling Leg Extension
Kneeling leg extension is a special kind of beast which requires high levels of strength and flexibility in the quads. Start cautiously with this one.
At first you should become comfortable just sitting in the position. It's no use if you lack the flexibility to do this exercise.
The easiest progression is to practice this against a wall or a sofa, this way you have a safety net behind you. Then, progress to a version where you are arching your back and touching the floor with your head.
The final, and the hardest progression of the kneeling leg extension is to try to avoid excess arching of your back and trying to keep your neck straight. This progression requires crazy amount of strength and there aren't many who are capable of doing it.
They key to mastery is to start with the range of motion you feel comfortable with and aim to steadily increase it.
Home Leg Workout For Quads
Sissy squats and kneeling leg extensions make a phenomenal leg workout that can be done anywhere: at home or in a gym.
Knee Dominant Home Leg Workout
Sissy Squat Progressions: 5 x 5-15 reps.
Kneeling Leg Extension: 5 x 2-5 reps.
Take 1-3 minutes of rest between sets.
The workout will primarily target the quads, because the exercises are knee flexion dominant.
As a result, this workout won't suffice for a complete leg workout: you need hip hinge exercises such as hip thrusts, kettlebell swings or deadlifts to have a complete leg workout routine.
Otherwise, your hamstring and glutes will be lacking behind the quadriceps muscles. Structural balance should always be the priority.
We have content related to the posterior chain (lower back, glutes and hamstrings) coming in the near future.
Train hard, stay safe.