Love it, or hate it, leg days are going nowhere. If you want to build strong and awesome-looking quads and glutes, the Hack Squat should be in your workout regimen.

Not only is it safer than the Barbell Squat, but the hack squat is also an excellent exercise that targets your quads, calves, glutes, hamstrings, and core. It’s a type of compound exercise, which means that it relies on several joints and muscles and requires core stability to complete one rep. And unlike other types of squats, the hack squat is ideal for beginners as you’ll rely on a machine to support your upward and downward movements making it a good introduction to the barbell squat.

If you want to gain more muscle mass or improve your leg day workout, the hack squat is the perfect exercise for you. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the exercise so you can perform it properly and enjoy all of its benefits ASAP. 

How To Hack Squat

What You’ll Need:

  • A hack squat machine: A hack squat machine can help you perform hack squats without putting too much stress on your body. 

Alternative Equipment:

  • Dumbbells: You can also use a pair of dumbbells to add more weight to your upper body and improve your core strength as you perform hack squats. 
  • Barbell: If you’re used to working out with more weights, using a barbell can also make the exercise more challenging. 

Step 1: Set up the machine 

Load the hack squat machine or Leg Press Machine with your preferred amount of weight. As a beginner, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the movement of the machine before loading a bunch of weight plates into it. 

Step 2: Step into The Machine With Your Feet Shoulder Width Apart

The starting position of the hack squat is to place your feet flat on the ground and lean back into the shoulder pads to support your shoulders and back. Your feet should be far enough forward and maintain a shoulder-width foot placement to allow you to perform a deep squat. It’s okay to slightly bend your knees at this point. 

Step 3: Hold onto the bars

Use your shoulders to grip the bars. You’ll need to practice standing up first to lift the catch of the machine. Depending on the hack squat machine you’re using, you might need to release its safety handles first to complete this step. 

Step 4: Slowly Lower Down To A Deep Squat

From the standing position, release the safety handles, inhale,  slowly lower your body while hinging down from the hips, so your glutes are parallel with your knees or until you they reach a 90-degree angle. Your heels should support most of your body weight. 

Step 5: Drive back up

From the depth of the squat, slowly drive back up to a standing position. Push using your heels, glutes, and legs, and not with your knees. Avoid fully locking your knees when you reach the standing position, so you can easily squat down. The longer your muscles are in tension, the better. Once you’re at the top of the movement, inhale, and then repeat.

Hack Squat Benefits

Improves General Squat Form 

The hack squat incorporates the full range of motion and knees high angle, which requires the use of your shoulders, knees, toes, and hip. Over time, this will improve your ability to perform squats as deep as possible, making it easier for you to do a traditional squat and other squats. 

Helps Overcome Fear

Building up the confidence to squat with weights requires a lot of time, especially for beginners. Aside from the physical requirements, you also have to consider the psychological demand.

Adding the hack squat into your regular exercise regimen is a great way to overcome fear as you can get used to lifting heavier loads without putting too much strain on your body. The hack squat machine you’ll use will assist as you lift heavier weights until you feel confident about lifting on your own. 

Boosts Sports Performance

Because the hack squat enables you to build power and strength in your legs, performing this exercise regularly can boost your sports performance. In fact, the hack squat can become your key to winning football, rugby, and other sports that require a lot of running. 

Comes In Many Variations 

The hack squat comes in many variations, making it ideal for beginners and experienced lifters. Trying out a different hack squat variation every time you work out helps address ankle mobility issues and teaches your core and legs how to move through a full range of motion. 

Isolates Your Quads

If you’re looking for a quad-specific exercise, the hack squat is your best bet. This exercise isolates your quads, allowing you to fix muscle imbalances and perform daily activities — such as walking, running, and jumping — with ease.

Common Hack Squat Mistakes to Avoid

  • Wrong foot placement: Maintaining a shoulder-width foot placement is crucial when performing the hack squat. Placing your feet higher or wider can put too much stress on your quads, resulting in pain and injuries. 

  • Lifting too heavy too fast: To perform the hack squat properly, your knees should maintain a 90-degree ankle. It’ll be challenging for you to achieve that form if you lift too much weight on the hack squat machine. Stay focused on the correct form first, and then add more weight as you go along. 

  • Too much rest at the top: Some lifters lock their knees and spend too much time resting when they achieve the standing position of the hack squat. You should avoid committing the same mistake as fully extending your knees can remove the tension from your quads, which means that you have to do more reps to target the same muscles. Keep your knees slightly bent as you reach the standing position to keep your lower body engaged. 

  • Allowing the lower back to round: When your back is round as you lift weights, you’re putting too much stress on your spine and increasing your risk of injuries. Prevent this error by keeping your core engaged and your shoulders back. 
  • Heels lift off the ground: Another mistake to avoid when doing the hack squat is lifting your heels off the ground. This prevents you from producing as much force, makes you unstable, and places more stress on your knees. One way to avoid this mistake is to push off using your heels in every repetition.

Hack Squat Muscles Worked

  • Quads: Your quads are attached to the front of your legs and enable you to perform daily activities, like running, walking, and jumping. This muscle group will be challenged and improved when you perform the hack squat as the exercise will rely on your quads for balance and stability. 

  • Hamstrings: Performing high reps of the hack squat can be taxing to your hamstrings, which can help you build a powerful posterior chain. Having toned and strong hamstrings will enable you to flex your knees and rotate your lower leg from side to side, even when your knees are bent. 

  • Glutes: The glutes are a group of muscles that form your butt. The hack squat is an excellent tool to strengthen your glutes, allowing you to generate more power, lift more explosively, run faster, and improve your overall body performance. 
  • Core: The hack squat can boost your core strength because most of the muscles in your core are activated when you perform the exercise. A stronger core can ease lower back pain, improve your balance, and support proper posture.

Hack Squat vs Leg Press

Many lifters rely on the hack squat and Leg Press to develop their legs. And while the two exercises target similar muscle groups, they’re actually different in some ways. 

The hack squat exercise provides more emphasis on the shoulders, with the lifter having to squat down and then stand up to complete the exercise. The leg press is performed using a leg press machine where a lifter pushes away the weight while laying down. 

Aside from the equipment, the hack squat and leg press are also different in terms of the muscles worked. The hack squat targets the back muscles and abdominals more due to the axial loading demands placed on the torso muscles of the lifter.

Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs

For Beginners

If you’re going to use the hack squat as a warm-up exercise, perform 12 reps for four sets using moderate weights. Rest for one minute after each set. 

For Buildings Stronger Lower Body Muscles 

Do 15 reps for three sets of different hack squat variations to build stronger lower body muscles. Rest for one minute after each set. Start by lifting light and then adding five pounds per session as you go along.

Hack Squat Variations

The hack squat targets different muscles, but performing the same exercise every day can lead to injuries and delay your fitness journey. In worse cases, not having any variety in your exercises can even discourage you from working out. 

Keep the fun going as you perform the hack squat by trying out these hack squat variations:

Reverse Hack Squat

The reverse hack squat is an excellent option for people who have back pain as this variation lowers stress on your lower back. The reverse hack squat is also easier to learn than the hack squat and requires less coordination.

Barbell Hack Squat

As the name suggests, this variation requires a barbell. The barbell squat places intense stress on your quads, ideal for individuals who solely want to tone and strengthen this muscle group. Perform the barbell hack squat regularly, and you can eventually achieve a better-looking and stronger physique!

Narrow Hack Squat

The only difference between the narrow hack squat and the traditional hack squat is that you need to bring your feet closer together. If you have already perfected the traditional hack squat and are now looking for a more challenging exercise, the narrow hack squat is for you.

Hack Squat Alternatives

Although the hack squat is an effective and simple exercise, many are still looking for Alternative Exercises to ensure variety in their workouts. If you’re looking for exercises you can do in place of the hack squat, take note of the suggestions below:

Leg Press 

The Leg Press is a great alternative to the hack squat because it allows your upper body to disengage a bit but still placing more stress on your lower body. We highly recommend the leg press for beginners as this exercise can reduce their risk of injuries.

Goblet Squat 

Instead of using a hack squat machine, the goblet squat requires a dumbbell or kettlebell. This exercise can be used as a stepping stone to more advanced squat variations. And even without a machine, this alternative can place a high demand on the glutes and quads. 

Landmine Squat

The landmine squat is a great substitute for the hack squat as it enables you to remain upright and load your quads more effectively. The landmine squat requires full-body strength, which means that you can simultaneously target your lower and upper leg, along with your upper body muscles. 

Safety Bar Squat

If you have some safety bars at home, try performing the safety bar squat. This alternative is an excellent option for lifters who have limited shoulder mobility and would want to focus more on toning their abs.

Wrap Up

What’s great about the hack squat is that it’s easy to perform and effectively targets your lower body muscles. And because the hack squat comes in several variations, you can easily try another similar exercise if you already mastered one — your options are endless!

So, when you’re planning your workout regimen, make sure to include high reps of the hack squat. You’ll be surprised how this exercise can transform your lower body fast!

Frequently Asked Questions

No, hack squats aren’t bad for your knees. On the contrary, the hack squat presents no health risks to your knees as you’ll rely on a machine to support your weight. 

Hack squats are better than traditional squats as the former activates more quad muscles. The hack squat exercise also puts less pressure on the back compared to the traditional squat, making the exercise ideal for individuals who have back pain or back injuries. 

Yes, definitely! You should try the hack squat because it’s an excellent exercise to keep your lower body strong, especially your quads. 

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