Squats may be the king of all exercises. They build power, strength, muscle, burn calories, and serve as a full-body exercise even though you’re working your legs. Hopefully, you’re including squats in your training.
But what are some squat alternatives if you have trouble with regular barbell squats, or just want to mix things up? This is where hack squats come into play. The hack squat takes the same concept as the back squat but is done on a machine at an angle. This can help to take pressure off the knees and may target the quads even better.
It’s hard to replace the back squat, but they may require more trunk activation, which can take away the load force on the muscles. This is not a bad thing, but studies show how the hack squat doesn’t have as much trunk activation as the back squat and may be better for directly targeting the muscles of the leg. Since there is less focus on the trunk, the emphasis is centered on the quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.
Hack Squat Benefits
Here is a look at more of the specific benefits that can come from performing hack squats.
As mentioned, the angle of the hack squat and the decrease in trunk activation mean your quads take on most of the load and volume. This is great if you’re looking to build bigger legs. You won’t get the same full-body engagement that comes from a back squat, but if you’re more focused on just building muscle: hack squats may be the way to go. Because of the safety and position of the machine, you may be able to squat deeper, which can cause more muscle activation and growth.
Builds Your Hamstrings
The squat motion not only targets the quads and glutes, but also the hamstrings. Even though you are in an inclined position with a hack squat, there is still hamstring activation. Since you are locked into position, you may notice it’s easier to engage the hamstrings and focus on them throughout the squat. Since you don’t have to worry about balancing the barbell and overall body control, you may find better hamstring strength and growth that occurs from hack squats.
Hack Squats Build Core Strength
Full-body exercises such as deadlifts and squats require that big trunk activation. This requires strong abdominals. Hack squats also require core engagement, but it is much easier to focus on your core since you are locked into position. A regular back squat requires a focus on all parts of the body. With a hack squat, you can engage your core more effectively because you don’t have to worry about balancing the barbell on your back and your body position.
Build Your Glutes
The glutes are specifically targeted through the squat motion. And, again, since you are in the strict position of the hack squat: you may find it’s easier to engage your glutes. The controlled motion and position of the movement allow you to squeeze and engage your glutes better than other forms of squats. Strong glutes will also help your traditional squat and are important for regular activities such as walking the stairs.
If you are an athlete, your glutes help provide you with power during sprinting and jumping. With hack squats, you can change your foot position to target the glutes even better. When you keep your feet a bit wider, you can feel the glutes targeted better. You can also really focus on pushing through your heels while on a hack squat, which can also better target the glutes.
Hack Squats Help You Improve Your Traditional Squat
We’ve discussed how the back squat may be the king of all exercises, but if you are new to the gym, you may not feel ready for them yet. The traditional squat requires perfect form to be executed properly. The benefit of the hack squat is that it helps you to learn the movement and how the muscles will be targeted. Then, when you move over to regular back squats, you will be more familiar with the motion and how to engage the muscles while performing it.
The hack squat makes you aware of your feet and knee position and you learn how to work the muscle. This is important, as many who are new to squatting can place the weight load emphasis on their joints and tendons. If you squat all the time, adding in hack squats can be a new stimulus to the muscles which can help improve your regular back squat.
Hack Squats Help You Overcome Fear
We just discussed how regular squats can be intimidating for someone new to the gym. Even leg training, in general, can be overwhelming. Leg presses might not feel safe at first, either. The hack squat is all about security. You are locked into position, your back is supported and kept straight, there are pads for your shoulders, and also handles to grasp.
With the hack squat, you will feel safe and supported and can focus on the exercise instead of any fear. The other great thing with hack squats is that you know that your form is going to be perfect throughout the movement.
Hack Squats Can Help With Athletic Performance
The stronger your lower body is, the better you will be at running, jumping, and any explosive movements. Every sport requires lower body strength and power. The squat helps in activities that require jumping and upward movements, such as basketball and rugby. But the leg power that comes from hack squats is still important for sprinting power. One notable thing about the
hack squat is how electromyography scanning shows hack squats are the best form of squat for knee and spinal stabilization. This can be very beneficial for improving athletic performance.
Hack Squats May Allow You to Lift Heavier Weights
If you’ve been performing hack squats for a while, you may notice your strength improving pretty quickly. This is because there isn’t as much focus on body position, balance, and coordination that comes from back squats. The hack squat allows you to focus on the muscles, power, and driving the weight upward.
Your quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes can respond to the weight quickly by building back larger and stronger. There is less pressure on the knees, joints, and tendons, and you can focus on your muscles instead of all the cues that come with back squats.
They Are Great Not Only for Beginners but for Those Who May be Injured
We’ve mentioned how beginners can feel more comfortable while performing hack squats, but they are also great if you are returning to the gym after a long layoff. If you’ve trained for a long time—but had to step away for a while—you may be cautious about getting back to your regular training. Hack squats are a great way to transition back to your regular heavy squats. It will get the muscles engaged again and help to bring back that size, strength, and power.
Hack squats are also an excellent exercise for those who may have had knee injuries and need to focus on the muscles safely and effectively. If you are experiencing any type of injury, you want to consult with your doctor before taking on any type of strength training program. But hack squats can be a good choice for those needing to ease back into things.
The Hack Squat is a Great Compound Exercise
Compound exercises are the ones that use the most muscle at one time. Some of these compound exercises include:
● Bench presses
● Military press
They are one of the best ways to build balanced muscle, power, and strength. They are usually performed with a barbell and the bar allows for even distribution of the weight load. It also
recruits more muscle than isolation exercises and can lead to better overall muscle development. The squat—and hack squat—are the perfect compound exercise because they work so many muscles in the lower body. Compound exercises are the best way to build the muscle, strength, and power you’re looking for.
There’s a reason that pretty much every gym you will ever go into has hack squat machines: they work. It is one of the most effective pieces of gym equipment and one of the big reasons people go to gyms: you just can’t replicate this type of movement in your house.
The hack squat is a safe, effective, and versatile way to build more muscle, improve your strength, and feel secure while doing it. They are great for all levels of training, whether you are a beginner or pro. If you want to improve your appearance, athleticism, strength, and make daily activities easier: include hack squats as a regular part of your training.