Your leg day can get boring quickly if you’re focusing your energy on Deadlifts and Squats only. You’ve got to vary and mix workouts, don’t you? Well, a hack squat is an excellent way to add variety and isolation to your front thigh muscles. It’s a compound workout that poses minimal risk of injuries or strain on your knees and lower back.
Hack Squats are completed on a hack squat machine just like belt squats. Most weight lifters adopt this workout for lower body development, as it’s a great way to work out the glutes, core, calves, and quads. Hack squats are an excellent way of building strength in your legs, particularly if you are a beginner. The angled hack squat machine has you in the correct standing position, supporting the weight safely as you rely on your legs to complete the movement.
The 10 Hack Squat Alternatives
The downside of hack squats is that not all gyms invest in the hack squat machine. This is because hack squat machines are costlier than free weight squats equipment. So it’s possible you won’t have access to a functional hack squat machine even if you have a stellar gym membership. Fortunately, you can still reap all the benefits of hack squats with various hack squat alternative exercises.
Each version is the squat – barbell back squat, hack squat, front squat, and more – alters the mechanical demand of your legs. That means it changes the specific muscles you are stressing most. Here are ten epic hack squat alternative exercises you can do.
V-squats are a brilliant hack squat alternative as they isolate the quadriceps muscle group and use a similar motor pattern to the hack squats. They closely resemble the mechanics of the hack squat and often eliminate the stabilization requirements you often see with free weight squats.
Despite how V-squats do a stellar job in working out your glutes and quads, it also requires a reasonable level of a forward torso lean as you carefully work through the entire range of motion. In doing so, you are likely to experience more abdominal and back muscles work with a V squat exercise than you would with the hack squat.
However, if you want the best hack squat alternatives to add to your workout, you can kill two birds with a single stone with the V squat.
How to do it
· Step onto the V squat platform and adopt an appropriate squat stance.
· Your shoulders must come into contact with the machine’s shoulder pads.
· Hold onto each handle beside your shoulders to achieve the required stability.
· Once you’re ready, stand up and ensure the stopper releases.
· Descend by bending your knees.
· Once you reach your desired squat depth, push the platform away to return to your starting position.
· Once you have finished your set, engage the stopper to step out of the machine.
2. Barbell Hack Squat
The barbell hack squat is a close variation of the machine hack squat, making it an excellent hack squat substitute. In this movement, you’ll apply the load by holding an appropriate barbell behind your legs. These barbell hack squats require you to carefully bend your knees to stay balanced while allowing you to be more upright. In doing so, you will be targeting your quads and the same muscle groups as a hack squat.
Generally, a barbell hack squat has almost the same benefits as hack squats, although it’s more challenging to perform because it’s a free weight squat workout. Being mindful of this, you have to lighten the barbell weight when performing barbell hack squats and spend more workouts getting used to the entire range of motion, particularly if you’re used to doing machine hack squats only.
How to do it
· Load a Barbell just like you would for deadlifts.
· Step in front of the bar, such that your back faces the bar.
· Carefully bend down and grab the bar.
· As you move carefully to stand upright, the bar should slide along the back of your legs.
· As you descend, bend your knees and hips at the same time to complete the barbell squat.
3. Goblet Squat
The goblet squat is similar to hack squats, but they use dumbbells or, in other cases, kettlebells as they implement instead of the hack squats machine. It’s often used as a stepping stone towards somewhat more advanced hack squat alternatives. Indeed, goblet squats can allow weight lifters to keep an upright torso during the entire movement compared to the hack squat exercise.
Note that the joint angles you see in goblet squats place a higher demand on glutes and quads, although it’s not a machine alternative to the hack squats. Most beginners complain that goblet squats often come with sore wrists. To avoid hurting your wrists, keep your elbows tucked in and very close to your torso when performing these squats. That means you will be supporting the weight or dumbbell more effectively. In doing so, you will reduce the stress on your wrist joint.
How to do it
· Grab one dumbbell and hold it vertically so that it appears like a goblet.
· Keep the dumbbell close to your chest as you move through the entire movement.
· Break at your hips and knees simultaneously as you lower yourself into a squat.
· Once you have achieved the desired squat depth, push the floor away as you stand back to your starting position.
4. Landmine Squats
A landmine squat is a great hack squat alternative as they allow weight lifters to remain upright and probably load their quads more efficiently. These squats are used when weight lifters begin to realize that the dumbbells used for performing goblet squats are too cumbersome to hold. When you perform landmine squats, part of the weight on the barbell is carried by the bar, which makes these squats more manageable and easy to load.
Consider placing the unloaded side of your barbell in a corner to safely perform this squat. Note that a landmine attachment can save your wall from getting damaged as the bar moves. In case you only have barbells at home, purchasing a landmine attachment is recommended.
When performing a landmine squat, it’s recommended to set your stance slightly back to allow your torso to lean slightly forward and into the bar. Leaning forward prevents you from shifting a considerable amount of weight into the heels and the sensation of falling as you lower yourself into a deep squat.
How to do it
· Place the barbell in a landmine attachment. If you don’t one, wedge one end of the barbell into a corner.
· Add an appropriate weight to the other side of the barbell.
· Avoid plates larger than 25lbs or too much weight as this will limit your range of motion.
· In a singular shift motion, carefully lift the bar from the floor and position it in front of your chest.
· With your torso leaning forward, angle your feet back and begin to descend when ready.
· Once you reach the desired squat depth, stand back up to your starting position.
5. Front Squat
A Front Squat is among the free weight squat exercises that place extra emphasis on the quads, making it an excellent choice for hack squat alternative workouts. When performing a front squat, place the barbell in front of your shoulders. This position will require you to push the knees forward to stay upright. You will notice that front squats and squat stance replicate the positioning of hack squats.
Remember, front squats often place a higher demand on the glutes and quads than most squat variations such as the back squat. Also, you will realize that these front squats often work out the abdominal and back muscles compared to smith machine squats. Remember, you can still do front squats using a smith machine.
How to do it
· With the help of a rack, place a bar at shoulder height.
· Wedge this bar in the crook of your shoulder.
· Then place your hands beyond shoulder width and get the base of your fingers around the bar.
· Move your elbows upwards until your triceps are parallel to the floor.
· Now stand to lift the bar from the rack carefully.
· Step back to set up your stance to a deep squat.
· Bend your knees and try to sit in between your front thighs.
· Once you achieve the desired squat depth, push the floor away as you stand to your original position.
6. Safety Bar Squats
This squat variation makes unique use of barbells and allows bodybuilders to target the same muscle groups as a hack squat machine. Both exercises allow you to maintain an upright torso angle. With a vertical torso, your knees must move further forward to establish a balance while working your quad muscles. This makes this exercise a great alternative to the hack squat and reverse hack squat.
Generally, safety bar squats are easier on your lower back compared to traditional barbell back squats because you can maintain an upright trunk ankle. This makes it an ideal squat even for individuals with back injuries. For this reason, the safety bar squat is a good hack squat alternative. But perform it carefully to avoid unnecessary knee pain.
How to do it
· Using an appropriate rack, place a bar at shoulder height.
· Place a barbell on your back with foam in place.
· Grab the handles while keeping your elbows tucked firmly in your sides.
· Stand upright and take several steps back to clear the hooks.
· Now bend your knees and hips simultaneously as you descend into a squat.
· Once you reach the desired squat depth, return to your original position.
7. Hatfield Squats
Similar to a safety bar squat mentioned earlier, the Hatfield squat uses a safety squat bar and is one of the best hack squat alternatives. It is essentially a back squat variation that allows lifters to squat pain-free, particularly when recovering from back injuries.
The safety bar used when performing a Hatfield squat is a specialty barbell with shoulder and neck pads. These pads ensure that the bar rests securely on your back with your hands actively holding it in place. If you use the standard barbell for a Hatfield squat, there is a chance it will roll off your back.
A carefully completed Hatfield squat targets various muscle groups, including gluteal muscles, quadriceps, adductor Magnus (inner leg muscles), calves, and truck muscles. This exercise also increases your lower body hypertrophy and can be helpful even if you’re recovering from a back injury, making it an ideal alternative for a hack squat.
How to do it
· Using a Power Rack, place the bar at shoulder height.
· Place the barbell (with foam) on your back.
· Stand upright and step backwards.
· Now place your hands on the rack above hip height.
· Keep your hips and knees bent slightly to descend into a squat.
· Once you reach your preferred depth, the ascent to your original position.
8. Sissy Squats
If you have seen a model whose quads are adorable, it’s probably all thanks to sissy squats. This exercise involves standing with your heels on the edge of an elevated bar or platform, with the legs shoulder width apart, and your upper body bending backwards as far as you can safely go with a perfect form. A machine makes this movement easier. Alternatively, you can hold onto an upright pole for support.
To some individuals, sissy squats sound easy. Well, it might seem that way on the surface, but the reality is that a complete sissy squat movement is quite strenuous and is associated with many benefits. It targets the quads, increases joint flexibility, strengthens the hips, and improves overall body posture. Unlike the hack squat or leg press and belt squat, you don’t need a belt squat machine or leg press machine to perform sissy squats.
How to do it
· Stand on an elevated platform a few inches high.
· Position your feet shoulder width, keep your back straight, and raise your arms straight (in front of you)
· Bend your knees forward and lean backwards as you descend your body.
· Hold onto a pole with one hand, or use your arms for balance.
· Continue descending gradually until your knees touch the floor.
· Hold still for a second or more, and then carefully push your body back up.
· Perform three to four sets of the desired number of reps.
Lunges are one of the excellent hack squat alternative workouts that target the quad muscles. Unlike machine hack squats, they are a versatile and flexible exercise that you can perform nearly anywhere, with as much or as few free weights as you desire. They are also easy to pull off compared to leg press and hack squat, even for beginners.
To land perfect lunges, all you need to do is load the lunges with dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells. Position your feet about hip width apart, then take a step forward with the back knee dropping to the ground. You probably love workouts that offer maximum benefits for the work done. If so, lunges are one of the exercises that actually offer more benefits than the effort you put in.
How to do it
· Assume a squat stance with the feet shoulder width apart.
· While maintaining a strong stance, take one step forward.
· With one foot forward, plant the back knee to the ground.
· Then driven up the front leg uprightly to complete the squat.
· Perform as many reps as you desire.
10. Wall Squats
Wall squats are a good hack squat alternative that realigns your ankles, hips, knees, and shoulders. It targets the quadriceps muscles and trains them to support your upper body during various activities rather than letting your hip flexors handle all the work.
Strong quad muscles can also support your trunk, which makes changing directions or staying low on the tennis court less stressful and much easier. The wall squats also strengthen the muscle group that extends your hip (hamstrings and glutes). These muscles are often weak and sometimes overpowered by hip flexors.
Remember, in a perfect wall squat, your ankles, knees, and hips are often under the workload in a unique position that disables the assistance of your hip flexors. As wall squats get easy, you will realize that your entire body is becoming more functional and balanced. Wall squats are easy to perform compared to leg press and any other machine based exercise like the hack squat.
How to do it
· Lean towards a wall and keep a 90-degree angle in the hips, knees, and ankles.
· Step away from the wall such that your thighs are parallel to the ground.
· Place your feet hip width apart but parallel to each other.
· Keep your knees bent over the ankles, not your toes. Don’t move them in or outward.
· Press your back against the wall, hold this position for about two minutes (or more).
Numerous strength training exercises are one of the best hack squat alternatives. In addition to the ten exercises discussed, you can also try smith machine squats, reverse hack squats, barbell back squat, and belt squat. Note that you need an actual belt squat machine to perform belt squats successfully. Similarly, it would be best to have a hack squat machine to perform the reverse hack squat successfully, but you need barbells only to perform barbell back squats.
You can adapt these hack squat alternative exercises and adopt them into your workout routine. Focus on finding what works best for you, depending on your fitness goals and available workout equipment. Remember, everyone’s fitness journey is different, so there are some exercises like belt squat that you may find inappropriate, particularly if you don’t have access to a belt squat machine.