The Sissy Squat will make a Sissy out of you!
These were once Vince Gironda’s words as to why he called this exercise the Sissy Squat. Unfortunately, there is much misinformation out there on the internet on this exercise which was popularized by the Iron Guru. Just get on YouTube or Google and see for yourself….there are many variations which indicates that people really don’t know what they are talking about.
For example, the Roman Chair Squat is mistakenly referred to as the Sissy Squat today, and parts of this Sissy Squat movement have been popularized and labeled “Sissy Squats”…..and to be honest, this makes me (and Vince) cringe every time.
Even the Roman Chair Squat machine is mislabeled as a Sissy Squat machine !!
Many misconceptions exist about this wonderful exercise, and to understand this exercise better, it is necessary to look back at it’s origins.
The Sissy Squat was taught to Vince Gironda by its inventor, the great Silver Era icon Monty Wolford, whose leg development was unparalleled in his day. Vince Gironda personally measured his thighs and found out that Monty’s upper thigh, the area where we all measure, and his middle thigh (halfway between the knee and the normal upper thigh measurement) where the same diameter. Monty was the only man Vince knew of who possessed this measurement.
The reason why Vince was so impressed with this fact (equal diameter between upper and middle thigh) is that the effect of the Sissy Squat is that it gives the thighs a defined and sweeping look which gives the illusion of height to the bodybuilder’s physique, which would further enhance the V-Taper and give a more aesthetic look. This is of course in contrast to today’s bodybuilder’s that look for monstrous leg development.
Monty Wolford represented to Vince, the perfect aesthetic proportions. Possessing a wonderful v-taper, wide shoulders, flaring lats, high square chest, a tiny waist and defined legs, his physique flowed beautifully, and it is no wonder that Vince decided to learn from Monty. The accompanying black and white photo from Russ Warner (see below) shows Monty’s physique in an almost silhouette fashion, allowing us to appreciate his aesthetic physique.
Monty is known to have developed a strong foundation using compund movements to develop his leg and lower back strength, giving him the fundamental power needed to muscularize his physique later on. Monty would depend on breathing squats and a variety of deadlifts early on. Monty would famously say
You are only as strong as your legs and backMonty Wolford
and performing such fundamental compound exercises and becoming proficient at them, he would condition his heart, lungs and internal system.
Monty believed that one could not build the external musculoskeletal system if the internal visceral system was lagging behind. This reasoning again demonstrates why he depended so much on basic compound movements during his early bodybuilding career.
The Monty Wolford Squat
Once Monty had developed a decent foundation, he began to concen trate on shapin and defining his physique and eventually developed the Monty Wolford Squat, which is now known as the Sissy Squat. But why I hear you asking is it now called the Sissy Squat?? Well, Vince didnt seek to replace the name of the Monty Wolford Squat by calling it the Sissy Squat. The name simply stuck after Vince stated that this movement would make a sissy out of lifters that only performed the back squat. Hilarious….I know, but the name stuck and it’s now one of Vince Gironda’s most famous exercises.
The accompanying figure shows you the effect of the Sissy Squat. On the cover of Vim magazine, we can see Monty Wolford’s thighs, and how muscular his upper thighs were. This look was far ahead of its time, as in the Silver Era leg development was not considered as pleasing or necessary as it is nowadays. Most Silver Era bodybuilders had very well developed upper bodies, however most posessed bulky legs from squatting.
The Monty Wolford squat allowed the musculature of the thigh to really stand out and give deep ridges into the quads.
Performing the Sissy Squat correctly
As for the Sissy Squat, the correct way to perform it is explained in Vince’s own booklet titled The Sissy Squat. It was also featured in the Wild Physique, and although the explanation was correct, the picture in the book did not do the movement justice. The exercise is actually composed of three different movements or phases.
- The Knee Drop
- The Burlesque Bump
- The Full Flush
Each phase was to be performed for 5 reps, and therefore this 3-phase movement totaled 15 reps per set. Vince never recommend performing more than 3 entire sets, stating that it was too strenuous to do more. Here is what Vince had to say on the Sissy Squat, criticizing the modern interpretations and explaining how to do it correctly:
“The main thing as I remember was keeping the hips forward and knees over feet. All too often people have mistaken the roman chair squat for the sissy squat – when they are nothing alike.
The sissy squat as an exercise takes on the form of a leg extension/squat more or less.
I started by performing these on his hack and/or smith machines.
I still prefer a fixed motion machine as opposed free weights – for greater control.
You may want to start without any weight, and just holding onto the smith bar for balance.
The first 5 reps are just the way those little images show. The body is straight from the knees to the shoulders and you simply lean back as far as you can, and then come up (make you a heck of a good limbo dancer, too).
The next 5 reps are from that lowest point you reach when you are doing the first 5 (so lean all the way back), and then fall to your ankles as if you were doing a full squat. From that full-squat position you don’t stand up, but rather, thrust the hips forward to get back into that low position. Then back down to your ankles again.
The final 5 reps are the combination of both. Lean back as if you are doing a limbo. When you reach that low position fall down to your ankles, then thrust the hips forward to come into that low “limbo” position, and then come up.
That may or may not have straightened things out, not sure.“
So there you have it, The Sissy Squat, previously known as the Monty Wolford Squat is a movement which combines three different phases over each set of maximum effort.
To find out more, get your copy of The Sissy Squat here: https://nspnutrition.com/products/the-sissy-squat-by-vince-gironda-1
This is a fairly good article on the history of ‘The Sissy Squat’ except it omits the actual origin of the name. My Father did quite a bit in the early days of ‘Muscle Beach’. He was doing the squat on the elevated workout platform at Muscle Beach when another body builder asked “what are you doing that sissy exercise for”? Dad put him through a complete set with no weight added and following the guy wanted to show how it hadn’t challenged his legs so he leaped down off the platform and his legs collapsed as he fell face first into the sand. The name Sissy Squat came from that event. I am not in any way disparaging the friendship between my dad and Vince.
That’s very cool Mark, great info. Thank you for sharing. Would be cool to pick your brain for some other things that could be shared with the community as well.