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.
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Muscles Worked In The Hack Squat
The primary muscles worked in the hack squat are your:
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.
10 Basic Alternatives For Hack Squats (& How To Do Them At Home)
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:
- 1Position yourself on the backrest after loading the desired weight onto the machine.
- 2Put your feet shoulder length apart on the platform.
- 3Extend your legs and unlock the weights.
- 4Lower the weights slowly toward you until you reach about 45 degrees. Then extend powerfully to push the weight upward without locking out your knees.
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:
- 1Position your barbell on the floor behind your calves.
- 2Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, reach down and grab the bar with a pronated grip, keeping your torso as vertical as possible.
- 3Engage your lats, brace your core, and engage your lats, driving upward through your feet until you reach full extension.
- 4Lower back into your starting position with a slow and controlled movement.
Barbell Back Squats
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:
- 1Load your barbell into a back rack position by resting it across your upper back and rear delts. Keep your elbows pointed at the floor.
- 2Step back and place your feet slightly outside of shoulder width.
- 3Brace your core and hinge back through the hips. Keep your chest up.
- 4As you reach parallel or a little lower, drive up through your heels to complete the movement.
Barbell Front Squats
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:
- 1Load your bar into a front rack by resting the barbell across your upper chest with your elbows held high in front of you.
- 2Use your hands to stabilize the bar, but don't grip tightly.
- 3Hinge your hips back and brace your core to lower into a squat. Keep your chest and elbows high.
- 4Once you've passed parallel, drive upward and force your knees out while engaging your glutes to complete the movement.
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:
- 1Load 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.
- 2Grip the handles gently. Again, your hands are for stability.
- 3Step back and place your feet slightly outside of shoulder width.
- 4Hinge back through the hips and brace your core, keeping your chest up.
- 5Once you've reached parallel or below, drive up through your heels to complete the movement.
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:
- 1Step onto the v-squat platform in a regular squat stance.
- 2Put your shoulders in contact with the shoulder pads and grab the handles beside your shoulders.
- 3When you're ready, stand up and ensure the stopper releases and then bend at the knees.
- 4When you've achieved your desired depth, push the platform away to stand back up.
Belt 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:
- 1Load your desired weight on the bar of the belt-squat machine.
- 2Step onto the platform and secure the connected belt around your waist, adjusting the height as needed.
- 3Put your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider to get into your squat stance.
- 4Use the lever to engage the weights.
- 5Hinge your hips down into a squat and drive upward through the heels to complete the movement.
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:
- 1Set 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.
- 2Stand under the bar with a hip-width stance and grab the bar with a wider than shoulder-width grip.
- 3Take a 4-8" step away from the machine until both feet are in front of the barbell.
- 4Begin your descent by sitting back and squat down until there's a 90-degree angle between your shins and upper thighs.
- 5Explode back up to the starting position by pushing through your heels.
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:
- 1Place your feet hip-width apart.
- 2With a strong, vertical back, take a step forward.
- 3As 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.
- 4Explode up with your forward leg until standing to complete the movement.
- 5Ensure that your knees don't extend over your feet to prevent injuries.
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:
- 1Stand with your feet slightly further than hip-width apart in a parallel position.
- 2Raise your arms straight up.
- 3Push your weight back onto your heels and squat down, ensuring that your knees do not collapse inwardly.
- 4Drive back up through your heels into a jump, simultaneously moving your arms down and back for momentum.
Reverse Hack Squat Substitutes (At Home Alternatives)
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.
- 1Position yourself on the footpads of the squat machine with your feet are shoulder-width apart.
- 2Grasp the side handles and place your shoulders under the pads.
- 3Push towards the top to detach weight off the rack.
- 4Squat down until your legs are parallel to the ground.
- 5Push upwards to raise the weight and stop right before your knees are locked out to finish the move.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
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.