Conventional barbell squats are a terrific mass building exercise for the quadriceps. But if you are seeking muscle separation, the best sissy squat machines are your ticket to glory.
This underrated exercise was almost forgotten until it experienced a revival of sorts in the early 2000s.
Since then, the best sissy squat machines have become a staple in most gyms around the world.
If you have always wondered what these unique-looking machines were and whether they were worth your limited time in the gym, then you are at the right place.
Today, we will demystify the sissy squat for you and also present you with the five best sissy squat machines that money can buy, both for a home gym as well as for a commercial setting.
What are Sissy Squats?
Despite the ‘unmanly’ nom de guerre, the sissy squat is one of the most difficult exercises for the quadriceps.
Ironically, it is also one of the most lower-back friendly options you have at targeting your quads.
The conventional way of doing the exercise though, requires a lot of practice and balance.
You stand with the soles of your feet on a 45 lbs. plate or on an elevated wedge and lean backwards, going as far as you can while maintaining a straight line from the neck to the knees. Some people add resistance to this by holding a plate to their chests. But you should progress to weighted versions only when you have gained the balance and stability needed for the non-weighted one.
While this variation of the sissy squat works reasonably well, it’s not ideal for neophytes.
Moreover, why try a more difficult way when you have an easier option with the best sissy squat machines?
Our Top Pick
Clear Winner By A Considerable Margin
Element Fitness Sissy Squat Machine
Best Sissy Squat Machine For The Money
Benefits of Sissy Squat Machines
To execute a sissy squat to perfection, one needs a way to secure their feet and their ankles while providing support to the calves with some type of adjustable mechanism. This allows you to do a completely controlled movement with the bodyweight concentrated on the heels.
Sissy Squat Machines Are Extremely Easy On Your Knees
This will make it gentler on your knees and allow you to maintain an upright squat position throughout the movement.
That’s precisely what you get from a sissy squat machine. It takes balance out of the equation by allowing you to keep your legs and calves locked in the foot rest. You no longer have to worry about falling backwards or leaning more at the hip than what’s needed.
Also, your hands are free because you do not need to hold on to anything for balance.
If you wish to do a weighted version, you can choose to hold a plate to your chest, or a dumbbell on each side. Alternatively, you can wear a weighted vest which allows you to keep the hands crossed on your chest.
It makes the exercise not only more comfortable but very easy on your knees and ankles.
Sissy Squat Machines - Our Top Picks
All said and done, shopping for sissy squat machines isn’t as easy as buying other types of fitness equipment, because very little is known about them.
How do you know what makes a good machine for you?
Don’t sweat. That’s where we step in.
We have handpicked the best sissy squat machines for you and we will also follow it up with a brief buying guide that shows you what features to look for while buying one of these amazing machines.
1. Element Fitness Sissy Squat Machine - Best Overall Option.. By Far
- Made from 11-gauge steel, with a powder
- coated grey finish
- Weighs just 45 lbs.
- Easy assembly
- Large non-skid foot plate
- Thick foam rollers for ankle support
- Large cushion for calf support
- Design is suited for users of all heights
- 250 lbs. weight limit. But has been used by customers who weigh 300 lbs.
This sissy squat machine from Element Fitness is built like a tank, from 11-gauge steel.
Yet, it weighs just 45 lbs. and has a very small footprint at 3’ L and 2’ wide. It will easily fit into even the tiniest of home gyms.
A grey powder coated, anti-rust finish seals its look as a commercial-grade unit rather than a consumer-grade one.
It is designed for heavy sissy squats and features a large anti-skid footplate that will allow even a tall and heavy user to stand comfortably even at the lowest point of the exercise.
Thickly padded foam rollers keep your ankles secure and comfortable, while there’s an equally thick cushion for your calves. At no point during the exercise will you feel this on your legs.
While the machine is rated for 250 lbs., there are customers who weigh 300 lbs. and have used this without any problems whatsoever.
Also, the design is such that irrespective of your height, you will never find the movement off balance. It provides you ample distance for a deep squat without straining your glutes or lower back.
It does not slip around either when you work out. However, if you are a really heavy user and would like to do a weighted version of the squat, we recommend that you bolt this down.
Overall, we couldn’t be more impressed with the quality of this sissy squat machine from Element fitness. It is certainly one of the best ones that you can buy.
2. CFF Pro Series Sissy Squat Machine
- Multipurpose machine with Glute Ham Developer and sissy squat
- Thickly padded foam rollers for calves and ankles
- 2-level knee pad
- Redistributes the pressure on the calves for GHD and on the quads for sissy squats
- 500 lbs. weight capacity
- Storage horn for Olympic plates
CFF’s Glute Ham developer from their pro-series range of equipment is a dedicated glute ham bench that can be flipped around to be used as a sissy squat machine.
If you were skeptical about investing in a dedicated machine for sissy squats, this will give you one hell of a glute and hamstring workout to go along with it.
Just like most other equipment from the brand, it is built like a rock from heavy gauge steel with a black powder coated finish.
There’s a 2-level thick, pad which is extremely close to the ground. If you use this as GHD, this takes the pressure away from the knees and keeps them comfortable. Instead the pressure is redistributed across the calves.
When used as a sissy squat machine, there are two foam roller pads for the ankle and two for the calves which keep them comfortable and stable throughout the move.
While the machine comes with rubberized feet that keep it wobble-free, it also features a weight horn with a 2” diameter which allows you to rack Olympic plates in it. Store around 100 lbs. on this and you can be rest assured that it wont budge.
Talking about weight, this is one of the only best sissy squat machines with a 500 lbs. weight capacity. So if our #1 pick, with its 300 lbs. weight capacity didn’t suffice for your fitness studio, then this will be right up your alley.
3. KiNGKANG Sissy Squat Machine
- Compact and sturdy sissy squat machine
- Steel frame construction
- Thick foam rollers on the ankle
- Thick cushioned pad on the calves
- Non-skid footplates
- Height adjustable for users 5’ to 6’
- Resistance straps on the bottom
The K KiNGKANG sissy squat machine is a budget-priced unit for home gyms.
Extremely compact, this will fit into a corner of your home without eating up too much space.
That’s not to take anything away from the build quality.
It features steel frame construction, though we aren’t sure about the exact gauge of steel. Feels pretty sturdy though and there are no complaints whatsoever about it being wobbly or poorly made.
There are large non-skid footplates that give you ample room to stand comfortably. More importantly, the ribbed texture of the plates mean that you won’t skid or slip even when you are wearing shoes.
The foam roller pads keep your ankles and shin comfortable, while the back pad ensures that your calves are locked into place.
This one is height adjustable and users from 5’ to 6’ can use this comfortably without feeling off balance. As if the features at this price point weren’t good enough already, KiNGKANG throws in two resistance straps with the machine, which can be used for synergistic exercises if need be.
Overall, this is a great pick for home gym users who are short on space and aren’t looking to spend an arm and a leg.
4. TDS Pro Sissy Squat Machine
- Compact footprint
- Excellent build quality
- Steel tubing construction
- Thick foam rollers for ankle
- Thick pad for the calves
- Large footrest
- Very affordable price tag
TDS is one of the oldest brands in the fitness equipment industry and this Sissy squat machine is from their pro range.
It is a simple machine with no-frills attached.
Steel tubing construction, foam roller pads for the ankles, thick cushion for the calves and rubberized feet that keep it stable.
The main pad is height adjustable and most users should have no problems getting a full squat from it.
However, some customers who are shorter than 5’9 have mentioned that even at the lowest setting, the pad sits at 18”, which can a tad high if you are looking to lean all the way back.
Also, it has a high curve which can limit your ability to bend backwards fully. There’s an easy workaround though.
Just add a 45 lbs. plate to the footrest and the extra couple of inches should allow you to complete the squat without any problems. As an extra, this will help stabilize the machine, as there are no holes to bolt this down.
Not that it’s required. It stays solid and does not wobble even an inch.
Most sissy squat machines built like this sell for at least two hundred dollars more than this one. Hard to beat the pricing and the quality.
5. Leikefitness Deluxe Multi-Function Machine
- Compact and portable unit
- Smallest footprint among all machines in this list
- Thick foam rollers and cushion pads
- Completely adjustable
- Large footrests
- Weighs just 30.6 lbs.
- 220 lbs. weight capacity
- Folds for storage
- Wheels on the front for portability
If you were looking for a compact and portable sissy squat machine for your home, then you’ve just found it.
This is the Leikefitness Deluxe sissy squat machine that also doubles up as a reverse hyperextension machine and can also be used for a variety of upper and lower body workouts.
Made from a thick and durable steel frame, it is extremely stable when you perform the exercises. There is no wobble nor does it slip around, so there’s no need to bolt it or secure it to the floor.
At 39.4” L and 21.7” W, it is amongst the smallest sissy squat machines in this list. Don’t let the lack of floor space deter you from adding this to your fitness studio.
Everything, including the length of the unit, the height of the pads and the width of the footrests is adjustable depending on the height of the user.
The pads are thick enough to keep your leg muscles comfortable even when you are performing really deep squats or weighted ones.
Despite the solid construction and excellent build quality, it weighs just 30.6 lbs. and it features two wheels on the front which can be used to move it around the gym easily.
Oh, almost forgot to mention that it folds up for storage.
This versatile sissy squat machine is a perfect fit in both home gyms as well as commercial establishments. Has a max weight load of 220 lbs.
6. X-Factor Sissy Squat
- Thick pads for comfort and support
- A very good price tag, making it available for every level of customer
- Uncomplicated design
- Light weight
- Versatile use for a multitude of exercises
- Best for those just getting into the exercise, and even newer to fitness in general
Rounding off our list is one of those multi-exercise type machines that serve as a swiss army knife of fitness, offering a platform for multiple exercises in one.
Don’t let this deter you too much, however, because unlike most swiss army knives, this isn’t a complete master of none.
Weighing in at only 28 pounds, this durable machine is built primarily for sissy squats, but has functionality to assist pushups and crunches.
However, buyers be warned, while the pad does adjust in height, there may be a chance that individuals without long legs may not be able to lower it enough for crunches as the company states is possible, but this is a review about Sissy Squats, not an ineffective ab exercise, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
This being said, the foam roller for locking in your feet does adjust, making up for the lack of textured metal where you stand, offering up some stability.
Furthermore, the base has rubber pads to prevent sliding or floor damage, so you can be sure it all stays steady.
All this for an extremely competitive price, one that stands out among the rest the rest of the sissy squat machines listed above.
Not much else stands out too much for this piece of equipment, the profile is on par with many others, it can support up to 280 pounds, and does what it sets out to do.
How to Buy the Best Sissy Squat Machine
Despite the recent resurgence that these machines are witnessing, not much is known about what features to look for when you shop for one.
Here’s some help.
Height adjustable main pad
For the sissy squat to be effective, the main pad has to rest just below your knee. Anything upwards and it will start to interfere with the depth of the squat, rendering the move ineffective. The caveat is that if one user is 6’1 and the other’s 5’5, the height of the pad must vary. Thankfully, most of the best sissy squat machines feature height adjustable pads. But some of them may not be suited for very short users even at the lowest setting. If you are unsure about this, then reach out to the manufacturer to check this.
All sissy squat machines are made of steel tubing. But it goes without saying that ‘steel tubing’ is a broad way of describing it and it says nothing about how durable the machine will be. Only the best brands clearly state the gauge of steel used in the making. If you are looking for one of these for a fitness studio, buy a brand that gives you the details, like our #1 pick, the Element Fitness Sissy Squat machine.
Look for machines that are stable and don’t wobble when you perform the exercise. Having said that, some machines are so light that it’s a given that they will slide around, especially when placed on a slippery surface such as a wooden floor. In such a situation, you can either bolt it down to the floor or keep a rubber mat under the legs. Some best sissy squat machines feature storage horns that can be used to stack heavy plates. This will help stabilize the machines, if they do move around.
Multifunctional machines are always appealing for home users since they have limited floor space and the more features they can accommodate, the better. But it may not be that good an option for a fitness studio or a gym since these machines always have some tradeoffs.
How thick is the padding on the main pads? Are the foam rollers thick enough to keep your ankles comfy? Is the footrest wide enough to allow you to stand comfortably even when you are bending backwards and off balance? Is it a non-skid footrest? Check everything.
Max weight capacity
The max weight capacity of the machine is a good indicator of the weight load that it is rated for. If you intend to do weighted squats, you might want to keep an eye on that number and ensure that you don’t exceed it by much.
Although there are users who weigh a lot more than the max rating and still use it.
If you want something for multiple users, you can check the CFF Pro Series machine. It has a max weight load of 500 lbs.
How to Use a Sissy Squat Machine
Unassisted sissy squats may seem somewhat straightforward – just sit back with your heels elevated, right? But when a machine is thrown in the mix, people can get confused, quick. I’ve seen it happen with exercises as simple as the glute-ham raise.
But really, the form is quite simple, here’s how you perform the sissy squat with machine assistance:
- Keep your ankles locked in to the roller pads, and your feet firmly planted flat on the platform
- Leaning back, transfer pressure onto the pad that is supporting your calves
- Here, there are two variations you can use:
- Keeping your torso and hips as straight as possible, lean back into a sort of leg extension esque movement, putting all the tension into your quads, then contract your quads and come back to a standing position
- Sit back into a somewhat awkward squat, with much of your weight behind your heels, being supported by the pads of the machine, and sit back, with your back straight, into as deep of a range of motion as you can muster, then sit back up
- Repeat this range of motion, aiming at higher reps for more of a burnout effect
Keep in mind, the first variation is stricter, and will limit your range of motion more severely than the more squat-like style. Furthermore, the former will be harder on your quads, isolating those muscle groups with greater effect when compared to more compound, latter movement.
As a recommendation for sissy squats in general, this movement is not for maxing out on, nor is it designed to replace squats! With isolation exercises, greater strain is placed on singular muscle groups, and movements like sissy squats aren’t necessarily meant for you to overload them to great extent.
This doesn’t mean taking them easy – on the contrary, do not be afraid to burnout on these, it is a bodyweight exercise after all so the risk of injury from poor form is reduced, somewhat.
Something that I have hinted at, but want to bring further into light is the role this exercise plays in your routine. As an isolation movement, sissy squats, especially when using one of the machines above, are fantastic for getting a pump in your legs and pre-fatiguing or burning out your quads after leg-day because they target only your quads or, if you do the other variation, primarily your quads with support from your glutes and abs.
However, one caveat I would make to this is that if you have serious back issues, or other injuries that might prevent spinal loading, the sissy squat can be an excellent alternative to squats.
In general, keep these quick parameters in mind when implementing sissy squats into your routine (and also know that individual differences should be taken into account, these suggestions are not universal and not always 100% applicable):
- Aim for higher rep ranges with lower intensity, never getting much lower than eight or so reps
- Increase range of motion and strictness of form before adding on weight
- Use this as a supplementary exercise to your compound lifts
- Wear shorts – your quads will pop, and it would be a shame to leave them hidden under sweats (this one is optional, but highly recommended)
FAQ about Sissy Squat Machines
Here are some questions and their appropriate answers you might have about this movement, and the machine that assists it:
Q: Is Using a Sissy Squat Machine Safe on my Knees?
A: Sissy squats, especially when performed using a sissy squat machine is very safe on knees. Sissy squats when performed correctly are very safe for your knees and actually can be very beneficial as well. This exercise when performed on a sissy squat machine strengthens all of the muscles around the knee area giving your knee better support and strength.
Do note* You need to make sure to perform them correctly with the correct form to ensure that you are not putting yourself at risk of injury by performing the sissy squat incorrectly.
Q: Do I need a sissy squat machine to do the exercise? – YES
A: Although, to just perform a sissy squat, no you do not need a machine, but it is very very helpful to have one. I have seen people use bands to try and support themselves or just try to hang on to a nearby weight rack to try and perform the sissy squat. But in all reality… yes you really do need a sissy squat machine if you want to perform sissy squats the right way.
Q: How do I make sissy squats harder?
A: For starters, consider the placement of the exercise in your routine. Optimally, this might be a great burnout movement, so if it isn’t after your compound lifts, think about placing it there. Still too easy? Increase the range of motion and rep range first, then try the stricter version of the exercise to put more intensity on your quads. After all that, you can begin adding weight to the machine.
Q: How do I add weight?
A: A solid follow up question, almost like I planned this! You can simply hold a dumbbell or plate to your chest as you perform the exercise, or get a bit fancier and don a weighted vest (but then you might be obligated to start doing pull ups with an altitude mask, or something).
Q: Are there any other variations to sissy squats?
A: There sure are! Although I 100% recommend to only perform sissy squats on a sissy squat machine, like the ones we have listed above, machines can limit your creativity a bit with foot placement, doing the exercise unassisted allows for all sorts of variations. Start with your feet on a few layers of mats to get a deeper range of motion, put your feet close together to hit the outsides of your quads, push your knees out to hit your glutes a bit more, you are limited only by your imagination on this one.
Which Sissy Squat Machine is Best for You? – My Recommendation
So now that you have seen our list of the top sissy squat machines you may still be wondering just which machine is best for you. Well here is my recommendation for you.
Are you after a sissy squat machine, but do not really care about it being the best one, just want one that is going to get the job done and last you a long time? Then the TDS Pro Sissy Squat machine is going to be the best one for you. You can check it out on amazon by clicking here.
Are you looking for a top notch high quality sissy squat machine that is going to last you a long while? Then the Element Fitness Machine is going to be the one for you. You can check it out on amazon by clicking here.
That sums up our list of the best sissy squat machines. We hope that you enjoyed reading this and you can find a machine that fits your home gym and suits your wallet.
Remember, only real men do sissies.