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Leg Development

Articles by Vince Gironda

Balanced Legs

"All you will get from the regular back squat is a big fat ass, and who needs that!" - Vince Gironda

Chair Squat
(Musclemag Magazine April 1985)

In your book Unleashing the Wild Physique you demonstrate an old exercise called the Roman Chair Squat.

Now come on Vince, you know as well as I do that this is an old-fashioned, lousy leg exercise. It has been totally superseded by modern apparatus such as the hack machine, and leg press machine, so why are you pushing this antiquated movement. It's useless!

How dare you intimate that I am deliberately misleading readers.

Throughout my career I have resisted jumping on the commercial bandwagon for self profit. I have outright refused to endorse over one hundred different products in the last five years. Why? Because I didn't believe In them 100 percent! So why would I push the Roman Chair leg apparatus. I don't sell them. I have no commercial interest in them.

Back Squat
(Musclemag Magazine March 1979 Vol. 4 Issue 1)

"All you will get from the regular back squat is a big fat ass, and who needs that!" - Vince Gironda

More Back Squats
(Musclemag Magazine March 1986 Vol. 11 No. 2)

What do you think of pro, expert in bodybuilding knowledge, Stuart McRobert's views about the back squat? (Iron Man, Oct~Nov. 1985). He states "The squat IS King of bodybuilding exercises, squatting with the barbell resting on the back of the shoulders. All other squats are parodies of the basic back squat for building lots of size and strength."

Maybe, Vince, he is referring to your sissy squats, hack squats, roman chair squats, front (delinger) squats, etc., etc., Huh? Maybe, Vince, he feels that your are afraid of doing hard, heavy back squats and therefore you condemn it. Huh?

My regular leg routine consisted of 10 sets of 10 reps with 300 pounds (on toes) in 10 minutes. I have also performed 700 pound hack squats! I have also done sissy squats with 275 pounds! I recently destroyed a guy on the roman chair who claimed to squat with 700 pounds! He couldn't walk for three days. By the way, who did Stuart McRobert ever train? Chuck, your problem is listening to these self-styled experts! There are hundreds of them out there!

Sissy Squat Technique

Stand in an upright vertical posture next to a stationary post, power rack or chair, etc. With a slight absence of knee lock, place your feet approximately 12 to 18 inches apart, with heels inward and toes rotated out laterally, just slightly. Vince Gironda says the feet should be 13" apart and the knees 17" wide.

To maintain a perfect balance in this "fire-bombing" quadriceps exercise, lightly grasp hold of the stationary post, etc. with one hand.

Now, with just your own bodyweight, rise up on your toes or, if you wish, place your heels on a 4" x 4" block of wood. Lean your upper torso backward (approximately 45 degrees from vertical) until you feel a maximum stretch contraction in the quads, especially just above the knees. Your upper torso and thighs will be in alignment with one another if you have done this correctly.

While maintaining this inclined, lying back position (you will basically be at a 45-degree angle to horizontal position), slowly lower your body by bending your knees, allowing them to thrust forward. Allow the upper torso and thighs to descend to where the shoulders are directly over the heels and beyond. Do not relax at this point. Keep continuous tension on the quads by doing a smooth direction reversal at the bottom of the negative stretch (approximately parallel to the floor) phase by straightening your quads and driving your hips forward till you are once again at the non-lock starting point. Remember, as you come up, to push off on your heels while pulling the front part of your foot up off the floor.

Begin the next rep immediately. With absolutely no pausing, continue until you have completed 12 to 15 maxi-pump reps in nonstop, nonlock style.

It is a very good idea to practice the sissy squats with just your own bodyweight until it becomes a natural movement. There is a saying, "Practice makes perfect." I prefer to take it one step further and say, "Perfect practice makes perfect." This makes sense because, if you practice the Sissy squat or any other exercise for that matter, using sloppy form, you will never develop a precision technique.

Once you have mastered a precision technique with your own bodyweight you can begin to use extra weight in the form of a cast iron plate or a dumbbell or dumbbells. Of the three options, the loose plate is the easiest to accommodate because all you have to do is hold it securely against your chest with your free hand while maintaining perfect balance with the other. Holding a barbell (as in a Front squat position) or holding dumbbells hanging at your sides does not allow for the degree of leaning back you achieved with your bodyweight alone. The reason is that your balance is compromised because your hands are not free to assist you. This is a very minor obstacle to overcome. You can attach a 4-6 foot length of ½" rope securely around your waist (or tie it to the front of your lifting belt, directly in the center) then tie the other end of the rope at chest level to a stationary post. This will free up your hands so that you can use the barbell or dumbbells, and at the same time allow you to maintain the proper inclined layback position - and with perfect balance.

Sissy Squat

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.

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