Old School Leg Exercises


“Friends don’t let friends skip leg day.”

If you’re looking for some inspiration for your next leg workout then you’ve come to the right place.

Today we look at some of the greatest leg exercises that time has forgotten about.

They were invented by iron legends like Gironda and used by men like Arnie. Needless to say, they’re effective, they’re tough and they’re worth doing.

1. Sissy Squats

Invented by Vince Gironda, the Sissy Squat is guaranteed to build your quads and hurt your ego. It’s not an easy exercise.

Begin by taking a slightly than larger shoulder width stance and place one hand on a support at about waist height. In the other hand hold a weight against your chest. Get up on the balls of your feet, bringing your heels together and squat down. As your knees travel over your toes, you’ll feel a burn in your quads. It only gets worse…

This exercise will isolate your quads and was so effective that Gironda favored it over the squats for developing your upper thighs.


The Sissy Squat

2. Pinch-grip Deadlift

Who doesn’t enjoy the deadlift? There’s nothing more basic or enjoyable than picking up a heavy weight from the ground.

The Pinch-grip deadlift was made famous by Steve Reeves, the 1950 Mr. Universe and man who inspired Arnie to take up bodybuilding.

Grasping the rim of the plates rather than the barbell, Reeves would reportedly lift up to 300 pounds in this exercise and was adamant that it added width to his impressive back.


The Pinch-grip Deadlift

3. The Zercher Squat

Named after 1930s strongman Ed Zercher, the Zercher Squat is one of the most effective exercises for the taller weight trainer as it allows much more hip flexion and glute activation without overloading the posterior chain than your traditional squat.

Beginning with a wider than normal stance, place a barbell in the crook of your arms. Leading with the hips squat down and than power back up through the heels. Remember to keep your chest up, lest you fall over. While they’re not the most comfortable exercise in the world, they are effective.

*A tip for the faint of heart: Wrapping a bar around the towel helps.


The Zercher Squat

4. Hack Squats

Named after George Hackenschmidt, the Hack Squat helps to develop tremendous leg strength without over developing the hips.

Positioning a barbell behind your legs, begin the movement by squatting down and taking hold of the bar with an overhand grip. Lift the bar by extending the hips and straightening out the knees, remembering to drive from the legs and keeping a neutral spine. Do it for reps and make ‘the Russian Lion’ proud.


The Hack Squat

5. The Jefferson Lift

Last, but by no means least comes the Jefferson Lift.

Named after US Strongman Charles Jefferson, the Jefferson Lift is a fantastic way to develop both the thighs and the posterior chain. It’s a great alternative to the traditional squat and will hit your quads better than a front squat. It also hits those pesky stabilizer muscles that so many of us neglect. What’s more the technique couldn’t be simpler. Straddle the bar, grab the bar and lift.

Just remember to keep your spine linear, knees strong and take a grip that’s vertical to your shoulders.


 The Jefferson Lift

So there you have it, five fun and effective leg exercises that time has forgotten.

Any there any lifts we’ve left out? Let us know in the comments section.

6 thoughts on “Old School Leg Exercises

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  1. Actually, Gironda didn’t invent the Sissy squat …he admits that he learned it from bodybuilder Monty Wolford.


    Who originally “invented” the movement seems to be unknown.
    Like most or possibly everything in resistance training, it’s probably been used, although called by other names, since at least the early 1910s. Movements and even apparatus that were originally invented in the late 1800s (EIGHTEEN hundreds) became neglected, forgotten, then re-appeared either under new names and/or have been independently re-invented by someone who recognizes the value in the movement or piece of apaaratus yet is unaware that someone long before had developed the same idea already.

    Gironda does seem to have coined the name “Sissy Squat” for the movement.

    1. Hey Connor, You forgot the Roman Chair Squat which I think Gironda might also have had a claim to inventing, now that’s a killer… if done properly.

      1. Oh that is an absolute killer and one of my favorite exercises. I suffer from knee tendinitis when I squat too much so the Chair has always been a great ‘inbetween’ movement while I recover!

  2. CONNOR, lolol…I was skimming an online article while doing research on something, and thought, “I never knew that!” after reading one of the comments. Then I realized who’d posted that comment – – it was ME!! I couldn’t even blame end-of-semester fatigue for that glitch, LOL

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