As a self-proclaimed meathead cyclist, I like to work the legs. From my cycling days, I actually learned to like the feeling my legs got after a brutal race or a challenging ride. I also quickly realized the stronger I could make my legs, the faster I could go. Because of this, I may be one of the few guys who looks forward to a punishing lower body day that leaves me unable to walk or stand without quivering like a newborn colt.
As a self-proclaimed scientist, I also like to tinker and experiment. So I can often be found playing around in my gym-lab making my own exercise equipment and finding additional ways to abuse my go sticks.
This pursuit of easy to make equipment and torture methods of the legs led me to something Carlos DeJesus created several decades ago: the Quad Blaster.
Carlos’ Quad Blaster has been referred to as the Roman Chair Squat or even Sissy Squat. But this move isn’t for sissies. In fact, it will build strength and growth and after the first few eye bulging, lip trembling, whimpering sessions, you will have thighs muscular enough to make Godzilla jealous.
As the story goes, Carlos, a champion bodybuilder, was always trying to develop his quads. While squats are the go to lower body exercise for building the quads (Darden, 2008), unfortunately Carlos suffered from degenerative disc disease and couldn’t do them (Venuto, 2013). He had to turn to other exercises.
So he tried leg extensions since they are traditionally used as a supplement for quad development (Darden, 2008). Unfortunately, Carlos knew he couldn’t rely on just leg extensions for maximal growth. He needed something else.
Then he literally stumbled on an idea for an exercise when the heels of his shoes caught a crack in the sidewalk and he found himself in a sitting position. He immediately realized he had to mimic this in the gym. The Quad Blaster was born. (Venuto, 2013)
The move can be easy to conquer and because of a narrow stance and vertical torso you are able to isolate the quads much better than a traditional squat. Now I know what you’re about to say, “I’m not a bodybuilder and isolation exercises are a waste of time for athletes and pretty much everyone else.”
But with the Quad Blaster or Sissy Squat you don’t just isolate the quads. You are also able to integrate the hips and glutes. As Alwyn Cosgrove points out “the ability to emphasize a muscle group using an ‘isolated-integrated’ exercise is extremely valuable.” (Venuto, 2013)
Louie Simmons (2007) adds to this by reminding us that improving form is a necessity and that special exercises or accessory work plays a large role in perfecting top form “by doing exercises for whatever muscle group is lagging.” Essentially, you can overcome your weakest points in primary lifts by using special exercises that can isolate specific strength and help increase leverage.
The Quad Blaster or Sissy Squat allows you to target the quads without loading the spine or joints and because you don’t fully lock out, you put less stress on the knee itself (Venuto, 2013). The result is a boost to your primary lifts, a deep burn in your quads, and no pain in your knees and back (Darden, 2008).
Admittedly, when I first came across this exercise device, I obsessed with the idea and decided to try to create it with my own equipment and scrap materials I had lying around. I used:
- Squat Rack
- TRX Suspension Trainer
- Galvanized pipe (1” x 48”)
- PVC pipe (1.5” x 24”)
- Yoga pad (cut to about 15” x 30”)
To finish the device, I built the knee brace by wrapping the section of yoga pad around the PVC pipe and attaching with tape.
By placing the galvanized pipe against the ends of the squat rack, I can use it as a brace for my feet (a 2×4 board, barbell or even 100lb heavy dumbbells can be used for this as well).
I then attached the TRX to a low anchor point at the bottom of the squat rack and shortened the straps. Note the length of the straps will depend on placement of the feet—with the ends of the strap even with the heels when the feet are placed against the bottom brace.
How to Blast Away
To complete the move, place your toes firmly against the low brace (in this example, the galvanized pipe). If you are using heavy dumbbells, you can slide your toes under the handles.
Place the knee brace behind the knees making sure it is directly over your heels and attach the TRX straps on either side of your legs. You may have to adjust the TRX straps accordingly.
Once strapped in, keep a soft bend in your knees and lean back slightly. Hands can be clasped behind your head, placed on your hips, down at your sides, or even crossed over your chest.
Drop your hips down and back until your thighs are at parallel, the whole time keeping your torso straight upright. Return to starting position and drive your hips all the way forward but do not lock out your knees or come too far forward at the top so you get continuous tension.
Once form is mastered, including this move in your workouts can provide endless progressions and options. Like any exercise, work to as many reps as you can with good form and you can even add resistance with weights of your choice.
Try a weight vest. Or pull out the dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell, weight plates, or even medicine balls: held in goblet style or behind and under the hips like a hack squat. But don’t go crazy with the resistance. Forty to fifty pounds is plenty. Even for beastly squatters.
Although an accessory exercise and not a primary movement, you can use many different approaches when including this in your workout. On a typical leg day, superset them with loaded and unloaded moves.
Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Dumbbell Quad Blaster 3 8
A2 Bodyweight Quad Blaster 3 12
Integrate them with other traditional and abdominal exercises such as a squat variation for knee dominant focused superset.
Exercise Sets Reps
B1 Barbell Wide Stance Box Squat 3 10
B2 Bodyweight Quad Blaster 3 12
B3 Bodyweight Ab Wheel Rollouts 3 15
Or combine them with an antagonist for hip dominant-knee dominant moves.
Exercise Sets Reps
C1 Barbell Hip Thruster 3 12
C2 Kettlebell Goblet Quad Blaster 3 10
You can even tie them into some conditioning work as a pre-exhaustion exercise for the quads or do them last as a finisher.
Anyway you use it, the Quad Blaster can be a great exercise to develop your legs for both strength and growth while saving your back and shoulders. All it takes is a little bit of creativity.
Achieve your goals.
Darden, E. (2008, August 20). Real men do sissy squats. Retrieved from http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/real_men_do_sissy_squats
Simmons, L. (2007). The Westside Barbell Book of Methods. Columbus, OH: Westside Barbell.
Venuto, T. (n.d.). How to increase the size and strength of your quads and prevent lower back pain. Retrieved August 17, 2013 from http://www.carlosdejesuspfc.com/products/quad-blaster2/