Want to replicate the muscle-building potential of the Hack Squat but find yourself without a machine? Read on to see which exercises you should be doing to get the same level of results.
The hack squat is a machine-based exercise that can give you fantastic quad development in a safer way than the traditional barbell back squat would.
Because it’s a machine based movement, you don’t have to worry as much about stabilization or posture and with safety handles, padded shoulder supports and a footrest in place, it’s great for beginners to build their confidence without having to worry about using a barbell.
However, as great as it is, not many gyms stock the machines and because they can only be used for one type of movement, it’s not common to find one in a home gym either, meaning most people are doomed to miss out on this superior lower body exercise and will have to settle for squats or lunges instead.
If that’s you and you’re looking for a way to build bigger, stronger, more powerful quads but you don’t have access to a hack squat machine, read on, because in this article we’re going to show you the best hack squat alternatives that you can perform in the gym, or at home, to finally get some lower body gains you can be proud of.
What are Hack Squats?
The hack squat is a machine-based exercise that targets your lower body, specifically your quads and glutes.
The machine itself is placed at a slight angle and to use it, you would climb inside and stand on the footrest. There is a padded panel at the back that you can lean against and it also has shoulder pads and safety bars for added protection.
Because you’re using a machine, your body doesn’t have to work as hard to support you as it would if you were doing a traditional barbell squat.
This means you can focus entirely on building the right muscles, giving you a great way to build your quads.
Hack Squat: Muscles Used
When an exercise has squat in the title, you know it’s going to target your lower body and the hack squat is no different.
The main muscles used in a hack squat are:
Due to the angle of the machine and how the squat is performed, the quads are the primary muscle group here as they face the biggest load and must work the hardest throughout the exercise. The glutes are also emphasized in the hack squat movement.
Your hamstrings and calves are also targeted, but not as much as the quads and glutes.
A huge benefit of the hack squat is that you may be able to lift much more weight than you can with a traditional barbell back squat because you’re using a machine that stabilizes your body, so you don’t have to. This means that not only do you recruit more from the quads in this exercise, but you may also be able to lift more weight which can increase your total volume lifted.
Hack Squat Alternatives
Let’s take a look at the best hack squat alternatives you can perform either in the gym or when you’re working out at home.
1. Leg Press
The leg press is a fantastic alternative and a great exercise for anyone that isn’t as confident using a barbell. Due to how most machines are positioned, there is no pressure felt on the back and because it’s a machine, your body won’t have to work as hard to stabilize and help you throughout the movement.
The main muscles worked with the leg press are the quads and hamstrings and just like the hack squat, the extra stability will allow you to lift a lot of weight.
How to do it:
2. Front Squat
The front squat is a great exercise in its own right and a great alternative if you don’t have access to a hack squat machine. We’ve included it on this list instead of a barbell back squat because it places greater emphasis on your quads, which is what you would get in a hack squat.
In addition to targeting your quads, you’ll still work your hamstrings, glutes and core, just like in other squat variations.
Perhaps the best thing about the front squat is that you can do it using a barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell, so if you’re working out from home and don’t have the biggest setup, you’ll still be able to perform this exercise.
How to do it (Barbell variation):
3. Barbell Hack Squat
If you haven’t seen this exercise before, the easiest way to think of the barbell hack squat is to imagine a Deadlift, but instead of holding the weight in front of your body, you’re holding it behind you.
By making the weight ‘rear-loaded’ you put much more emphasis on the quads and glutes and it’s a great way of targeting the same muscles that are used in the machine-based hack squat, making it a fantastic exercise to swap for.
It’s essentially the free weight version of the machine-based exercise.
However, you should note that you won’t be able to add the weight up as you do on a traditional deadlift, so you should start low and take it easy as you work your way up.
How to do it:
4. Sissy Squats
The Sissy Squat is a powerful exercise that’s ideal if your goal is to grow big, powerful, quads. It’s an old school classic, used by bodybuilders of the past to develop eye-catching quads, although in recent times it’s made somewhat of a comeback.
The original Sissy Squat is performed without any equipment, but the technique can be hard to master, and it can also be hard on the knees, which is why the Sissy Squat machine was created.
It gives you a safer way of performing this move, so that you can get the type of results you’d dreamed of, but without the pressure on your knees.
The Sissy Squat only uses your bodyweight, which is more than enough to make your quads grow and just like the hack squat, there are many variations available if you don’t have access to a machine.
If you don’t have access to a hack squat machine you probably don’t have access to a Sissy Squat machine so here’s the banded Sissy Squat variation.
How to do it:
5. Landmine Squat
The majority of gyms feature a landmine press and if you have your own set up at home it’s relatively easy to grab a t-Bar attachment or to make your own with a barbell and some towels.
Once you’re ready to go, the Landmine squat is a superb exercise that allows you to put great emphasis on the quads.
The main reason for this is due to how you hold the bar and set up for the squat. The movement requires you to keep your chest up, your body upright and your core tight and so it makes you do it right. That makes it very difficult to get wrong, but it also ensures you target the right muscles every single time.
How to do it:
6. Goblet Squat
The Goblet Squat is very similar to the landmine squat as it automatically puts your body in the correct position when you perform this exercise.
Just like in the landmine squat, you’ll keep a tight core and upright torso throughout the move and you’ll feel the majority of the focus on your quads. Of course, it will also work other muscles in the lower body, like the glutes, hamstrings and calves, but your quads will get the most benefit from this movement.
You can perform this exercise with a dumbbell or a kettlebell.
How to do it:
Consistency is Key
When it comes to lifting weights it’s important to remember that consistency is key and if you’re truly going to get great results, consistency will be one of the biggest contributing factors.
It isn’t simply enough to perform an exercise once or twice then expect your quads to grow and if you’re going to skip gym sessions or miss out certain exercises then your results will suffer even more.
To truly change your physique and build your body you’ve got to make sure you do everything to give yourself the best chance of success. That includes eating right with enough protein to fuel your muscles and cutting down (or eliminating) junk food and processed foods.
You should rest when needed so that your body can recover and rebuild, helping you to become stronger, and more effective for your next workout and as we’ve already mentioned, it means you can’t skip sessions or take weeks off.
It’s something that we see all too often, where people go to the gym a few times a week but start taking time off when the weather improves or missing out on exercises because they’re talking with friends. If you want to truly get great results, then you must remain committed and work hard every training session.
The hack squat is a great exercise and a fantastic way to place more emphasis on your quads than you could in other movements. It’s also a unique way of lifting heavy weight, in a squat like position, without the extra pressure on your body, like you would experience when performing a barbell back squat.
However, the main issue is the availability of the machine as not many gyms have them and they’re not very common in home gyms.
Luckily for you, it is possible to replicate the effects of the hack squat by using any of the exercises listed above and the best part is, you’ll find a range of activities that can be performed in the gym or at home and with a variety of equipment, so wherever you train, you’ll still be able to get great results.
Our advice would be to select a few of the exercises from this list and start to include them into your normal routine. Depending on how you normally train and what your weekly split is like, you should be ok to add some of these into a lower body focused day. From here just ensure you remain consistent and you’ll start to see results in no time at all.