hack squats

Everything You Need To Know About The Hack Squat

My article on the nausea leg routine always results in loads of questions. When first published I received heaps of private messages on how to do hack squats properly.

During a seminar I had a guy claiming he could do 102.5 lbs for reps easily, I called “bullshit”. He proceeded to show me his prowess, he was so bent forward that he could kiss both ankles and that is with only 90 degrees of bend in the knees.

I told him to start over, this time with a straight back. To insure this, I put the tips of my fingers in a knife hand that gently keep his sternum in line.

Needless to say, after 10 degrees of knee bend, him and the barbell collapsed at warp speed to the floor. Turns out he could only do 30 kg lbs with proper form after I showed him how to do them correctly.

Don’t be that guy! Learn the proper way…

Without a doubt, hack squats have helped build some tremendous sets of legs like Tom Platz’s and Milos Sarcev’s.

But For hack squats to be effective, they have to be done for a maximal range.

Because the lower back is locked in this exercise, it only has application to athletic strength training in general preparation phases, but they are certainly very valuable to bodybuilders who could not care less about the functional transfer of them.

There are two types of hack squats: machine and barbell. Both versions respond best to hypertrophy or functional hypertrophy protocols. Lets discuss some technical points for both versions

Machine Hack Squats

Because of ego and poor self-esteem people use too much weight for machine hack squats to be result producing. Most trainees are

a) too lazy

b) have low pain threshold

c) too preoccupied with loading on a few 45 lbs/20 kg a side.

Thus, they compromise on the range of motion. Machine hack squats require a strong development of the vastus medialis muscles and extremely good stability of the knee joints to be truly effective. Actually less than 5 % of trainees fit in that category, and therefore can make significant gains from machine hack squats.

Machine Hack Squat

I find machine hack squats to be more effective when one raises progressively on the ball of the feet during the descent. Once bottom position is reached, concentrate on pushing off the ball of the feet to further active the vastus medialis muscles. As you ascend, progressively lower your heels to the platform.

Note the feet position. Heels are up. The weight is balanced on the balls of the feet.

Barbell Hack Squats

If you are going to use the barbell version, make sure your feet are on a slant board, and that your torso remains erect throughout the whole range of motion. In that version, you have very poor leverage. You can set up the barbell in a power rack for ease of unracking and racking the barbell. Because this is fairly tricky, obviously this exercise is not suited for Cluster training.

Any load above 40 kg in this lift is starting to be good IF you keep your torso erect.

Bonus tip:

To insure full range in this lift with the barbell version, it is critical to use medium to small diameter plates (5 kg or less)

Now, armed with this knowledge you will be able to reap the full benefits from this exercise. But keep this in mind: variation is key and that any workout is only as good as it takes your body to adapt to it.

Enjoy the gains,

Coach Charles R. Poliquin