13 Benefits, Form Tips, Variations, Weights, and More

Looking for killer gams? Don’t overlook the hack squat, which can provide just what you need.

A hack squat works the entire lower body — including the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves — as well as the core. The quads are the most important. This means that your front legs will feel it afterward.

A hack squat is great for building strength in the legs, especially if you’re a beginner to the squat.

The angled machine puts you in a standing position to support the weight and allow you to rely on your legs for the movement.

If building your legs — especially your quads — is what you’re looking to do, definitely incorporate the hack squat into your routine.

If you have lower back or knee pain, the hack squat usually isn’t a good choice.

Although the machine provides some stabilization, it will still put strain on the joints which could lead to further problems.

Both the hack squat as well as the traditional barbell-squat are focused on the quads but there are some key differences.

A barbell squat is typically performed on a rack with a weighted barbell placed behind the head. The movement is perpendicular towards the ground.

There isn’t any assistance from a machine in terms of stabilization — like there would be with a hack squat — so the barbell squat requires the upper body, hips, and core to do more work.

This usually means you’ll be able to lift less than you would on the hack squat machine.

A hack squat is a good introduction for the traditional barbell bench squat.

Once you feel strong and stable in the movement that a hack squat requires — pushing through the heel and pushing your butt back — try a barbell squat.

If you’re already comfortable with a barbell squat, use a hack squat to push your weight limits.

A hack squat requires a machine, so you’ll probably need to be at the gym.

Get moving

  1. The machine can be loaded with the desired weight. As a beginner, it’s recommended to get familiar with the movement of the machine before adding a bunch of plates.
  2. Place your feet shoulder-width apart on the machine. Your shoulders and back should be against the pads.
  3. Release the safety handles and inhale. Next, bend your knees to a 90-degree angle.
  4. This is the end of the pose. Next, push your feet backwards to bring your legs back to the original position.

Start by completing 2 sets of 10–12 reps, then work your way up to 3 sets. Once you are able to do this, you can add weight.

The hack squat is a great addition to deadlifts and squats. Pair it with three to five additional leg exercises and you’ll be sporting a stronger, leaner pair of legs in no time.

Make sure that you’ve properly warmed up before you dive into your workout. Do 5-10 minutes cardio followed with dynamic stretching.

Before you add weight, you want your legs and joints to be mobile.

Hack squat is a beginner-friendly activity, but there are some things you should be aware of.

Your foot placement

You’ll want to ensure that your feet are shoulder-width apart and not too high on the foot plate.

You might be tempted to place your feet higher to hit your quads harder. But, keep your shoulders-width.

Do not be too heavy or too fast

Hack squats are best done at a 90-degree angle. With too much weight on the machine, you’ll have a hard time reaching that depth.

First, focus on the correct form. Then, add weight.

You can choose from two different hack squats to get a completely different experience.

Reverse hack squat

In a reverse hack squat, you’ll get into the machine facing the pads.

You’ll want your chest against the back pad and your shoulders underneath the shoulder pads.

You can continue the same shoulder-width foot position, but lower your feet until your thighs meet. Then push your heels through your heels to get back to where you started.

This move places more emphasis upon the glutes.

Narrow hack squat

In a narrow hack squat, you’ll set up in the machine the same way you would for a regular hack squat.

Instead of your feet being shoulder-width apart on the ascent, bring them closer together. Your heels should still be pushing through as you climb.

This movement places even greater emphasis on the quads.

Although the hack-squat machine is an excellent option for beginners, there are variations of this exercise that can be done with a barbell.

This move is a little more complicated. You’ll need the upper body strength to support enough weight to challenge your lower body. This can be a difficult task for beginners.

Start with a light-colored barbell.

Get moving

  1. Hold onto the barbell at arm’s length behind your back. Your grip should be shoulder-width.
  2. Begin to raise your chest and then squat back and forth, stopping when your thighs meet the ground. As you do this, the barbell will begin to lower.
  3. To return to the starting position, push your heels back.

If a hack squat machine isn’t available to you, or you’re looking for some alternative exercises, try a leg press machine or a traditional squat.

These exercises both focus on quads, similar to hack squat.

Leg press machine

The leg press allows the upper back to relax a bit and allows the attention to shift to the lower body.

Bodyweight squat

The traditional squat requires more activation from your upper body and core than both the hack squat and leg press, so you’ll be able to lift less, but have the benefit of other muscles being strengthened.

Hack squats are a great exercise to strengthen your legs and quads. To get even more benefits, there are many variations you can do. Add hack squats to your leg day and don’t look back.

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