Hack squats have been a favorite exercise of many gym enthusiasts because of their impact on the quads. And since the hack squat lets you take your upper body out of the equation, you can move through an extended range of motion.

However, having access to a hack squat machine isn't always an option. Luckily, there are plenty of other movements you can do as an alternative to the hack squat when a machine isn't available. The guide below will cover each of these exercise variations in depth.

1. Leg Press

leg press

Leg presses are a great hack squat machine alternative. Similar to hack squats, with a leg press, the weight is guided on rods, and your back is supported. But the movement is reversed with the leg press. To get the best results, use a hip-width stance with your feet low on the footplate.

To perform the leg press:

  1. Position yourself on the backrest after loading the desired weight onto the machine.
  2. Put your feet shoulder length apart on the platform.
  3. Extend your legs and unlock the weights.
  4. Lower the weights slowly toward you until you reach about 45 degrees. Then extend powerfully to push the weight upward without locking out your knees.

Learn More About - Hack Squat Vs Leg Press

2. Barbell Hack Squat

barbell hack squat

Barbell hack squats are typically done with elevated heels to increase the activation in your quads. If you want to raise your heels, make sure to start small to see how your knees feel during and after the exercise. You also need to keep your lower back arched and your core braced.

Unlike machine hack squats, this exercise can be strenuous on your lower back.

To perform the barbell hack squat:

  1. Position your barbell on the floor behind your calves.
  2. Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, reach down and grab the bar with a pronated grip, keeping your torso as vertical as possible.
  3. Engage your lats, brace your core, and engage your lats, driving upward through your feet until you reach full extension.
  4. Lower back into your starting position with a slow and controlled movement.

Learn More About - Bushing Vs Bearing Barbells

3. Barbell Back Squats

Barbell Back Squat

The barbell back squat is great because it not only works your lower body but a lot of your upper body as well. But the barbell squat is that it's hard to learn, and it's often executed poorly.

Barbell back squats can be rough on your lower back and especially dangerous if you use very heavy weights. But, it's a good hack squat alternative to challenge your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

To perform the barbell back squat:

  1. Load your barbell into a back rack position by resting it across your upper back and rear delts. Keep your elbows pointed at the floor.
  2. Step back and place your feet slightly outside of shoulder width.
  3. Brace your core and hinge back through the hips. Keep your chest up.
  4. As you reach parallel or a little lower, drive up through your heels to complete the movement.

4. Barbell Front Squats

barbell front squat

The barbell front squat may be an even better hack squat alternative than the barbell back squat. The front squat allows you to keep your torso upright, making them more quad-centric. Front squats are also done with a narrower stance like hack squats. A barbell front squat can also be a great hack squat alternative with dumbbells.

To perform a barbell front squat:

  1. Load your bar into a front rack by resting the barbell across your upper chest with your elbows held high in front of you.
  2. Use your hands to stabilize the bar, but don't grip tightly.
  3. Hinge your hips back and brace your core to lower into a squat. Keep your chest and elbows high.
  4. Once you've passed parallel, drive upward and force your knees out while engaging your glutes to complete the movement.

5. Safety Bar Squats

Safety Bar Squats

Safety bar squats will allow you to target similar muscle groups as the hack squat. Similar to the hack squat, the safety bar will allow you to maintain more of an upright torso throughout the movement since the bar is loaded posteriorly.

With a more vertical torso, your knees will have to travel slightly farther forward to keep you balanced. This will directly target your quads.

To perform a safety bar squat:

  1. Load your barbell into a back rack position by resting it across your upper back and traps. Make sure your head is between the two handles.
  2. Grip the handles gently. Again, your hands are for stability.
  3. Step back and place your feet slightly outside of shoulder width.
  4. Hinge back through the hips and brace your core, keeping your chest up.
  5. Once you've reached parallel or below, drive up through your heels to complete the movement.

6. V Squat

V Squat

The V Squat is an excellent alternative to the hack squat because it will isolate your quads using a similar motor pattern. As a machine-based exercise like the hack squat, you don't have to worry about stabilizing your body as you do with free-weight squats.

While the V squat does isolate your quads and glutes, it does require you to lean forward a bit which adds more abdominal and back work compared to the hack squat.

To perform a V squat:

  1. Step onto the v-squat platform in a regular squat stance.
  2. Put your shoulders in contact with the shoulder pads and grab the handles beside your shoulders.
  3. When you're ready, stand up and ensure the stopper releases and then bend at the knees.
  4. When you've achieved your desired depth, push the platform away to stand back up.

7. Belt Squat

Plate Or Dumbbell Belt Squats

elt squats have gained popularity because they are easier on your lower back than most free-weight squat exercises. That also makes them a great hack squat alternative. You support the weight on your hips instead of your shoulders, which means you will experience significantly less spinal compression.

To perform a belt squat on a belt squat machine:

  1. Load your desired weight on the bar of the belt-squat machine.
  2. Step onto the platform and secure the connected belt around your waist, adjusting the height as needed.
  3. Put your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider to get into your squat stance.
  4. Use the lever to engage the weights.
  5. Hinge your hips down into a squat and drive upward through the heels to complete the movement.

Recommended Equipment - 10 Best Dip Belts For Home Gyms

8. Smith Machine Hack Squat

Smith Machine Hack Squat

Similar to the hack squat machine, the Smith machine will guide the weight on rods, so you don't have to balance it on your body. A Smith machine hack squat will keep your torso upright, taking a lot of stress off your lower back.

The smith machine hack squat is often considered a reverse hack squat machine alternative.

To perform a smith machine hack squat:

  1. Set the Smith bar to shoulder height and then perform a bodyweight squat to just below parallel so that you can determine how high to deploy the safety catches.
  2. Stand under the bar with a hip-width stance and grab the bar with a wider than shoulder-width grip.
  3. Take a 4-8" step away from the machine until both feet are in front of the barbell.
  4. Begin your descent by sitting back and squat down until there's a 90-degree angle between your shins and upper thighs.
  5. Explode back up to the starting position by pushing through your heels.

9. Lunges


The lunge is an excellent hack squat alternative at home. Lunges are another strength training exercise that targets your quadriceps that can be done anywhere at any time. You can do unweighted lunges, or you can load weights as you see fit.

To perform a lunge:

  1. Place your feet hip-width apart.
  2. With a strong, vertical back, take a step forward.
  3. As you step forward, drop your back knee toward the floor. Your leading leg should be perpendicular to the floor, with the knee stacked over the ankle.
  4. Explode up with your forward leg until standing to complete the movement.
  5. Ensure that your knees don't extend over your feet to prevent injuries.

Learn The Differences - Split Squat Vs Lunge

10. Squat Jumps

Squat Jumps

Hack squats are excellent at building size and strength. When performed explosively, they can develop muscle power. Squat jumps will accomplish this as well.

Squat jumps can be weighted or unweighted, but for most lifters, unweighted jump squats are adequate and easier on your joints too.

To perform a squat jump:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly further than hip-width apart in a parallel position.
  2. Raise your arms straight up.
  3. Push your weight back onto your heels and squat down, ensuring that your knees do not collapse inwardly.
  4. Drive back up through your heels into a jump, simultaneously moving your arms down and back for momentum.

Best Reverse Hack Squat Substitute (Exercises Discussed)

The reverse hack squat is performed with your body facing towards a hack machine with a movement similar to a deadlift. It's an effective lower body movement that involves all the major leg muscles.

An excellent alternative for a reverse hack squat is a front barbell squat that we talked about above.

To perform a reverse hack squat:

  1. Position yourself on the footpads of the squat machine with your feet are shoulder-width apart.
  2. Grasp the side handles and place your shoulders under the pads.
  3. Push towards the top to detach weight off the rack.
  4. Squat down until your legs are parallel to the ground.
  5. Push upwards to raise the weight and stop right before your knees are locked out to finish the move.
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Muscles Worked In These Hack Squat Substitutes

The primary muscles worked in the alternative exercises to the regular hack squat include:

  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Abdominals

Incorporating these other exercises as well as using a hack squat can bring excellent training results.

The hack squat involves a significant amount of knee and hip flexion, making the quadriceps and the gluteus muscles worked the most. However, the hack squat will work your entire lower body.

You can even emphasize different muscles by repositioning your feet and changing the angle of the footrest.

Frequent Hack Squat Questions Answered

Is a hack squat the same as squat?

Each version of the squat changes the demands on your legs which changes the muscles you’re stressing most. The hack squat adjusts the squat by stabilizing your back and placing the primary emphasis on the quads.

Is hack squat the same as leg press?

Hack squats are loaded on the shoulders, with the lifter having to squat to perform the exercise. Leg presses are loaded via a platform that the lifter pushes away while laying down. Both primarily target the quads.

Do hack squats build legs?

Hack squats are a go-to exercise if you are looking to aesthetically upgrade your legs and add muscle mass.


Hack squats are an effective way to work your legs safely. However, as good as they are, they’re not always practical. With these hack squat alternatives to choose from, though, you now have various exercises you can do instead.

Paul J

Last Updated on March 29, 2023