How To Do A Hack Squat

The barbell squat is (or at least it should be!) heavily involved in any strength training plan. It works so many important muscles, including the quads, hips, glutes, hamstrings, and even provides a pretty good core workout.

Like all fundamental lifts, there are several variations, and here we’re going to look at how to do a hack squat. In a traditional barbell squat the bar is placed on the shoulders, however, with the hack squat the bar is actually held behind the legs and offers a slightly different workout for the lower body.

What muscles do hack squats target?

Named after its creator, 19th century Russian weightlifter (and presumably complete badass) George Hackenschmidt, the hack squat is a compound lift that targets most muscles in the legs and incorporates the core as a stabiliser.

The quads are the most heavily involved muscle in the lift, while the adductors, soleus and the glutes are also heavily involved. The hamstrings and the gastrocnemius work alongside your core to provide stability to the lift and help to support you throughout the lift.

Several muscles in the upper body also play a part, with the middle and upper trapezius being woked alongside the obliques, rectus abdominis and erector spinae.

Why do barbell hack squats?

Barbell hack squats provide an alternative option to those looking for a little variation in their leg workouts. They’re great for quad development and the core, and present a slightly different challenge than traditional barbell squats.

They’re also a great option for those without access to a squat rack or a smith machine. If you’re squatting a decent weight it’s quite challenging to get the bar up on your shoulders, not to mention pretty unsafe if you can’t finish a rep. The barbell hack squat allows you to load up the bar without having to worry about injuring yourself.

Doing hack squats is all a matter of preference. Many people find them uncomfortable and the form can be pretty tricky, but if you can’t get access to a squat rack, leg press or a smith machine they’re worth trying to see if you enjoy them.

How to do a hack squat

Load your weight onto a barbell on the floor and step over it so it’s behind you and is next to your calves.

Feet should be shoulder-width apart with the feet facing slightly outwards. Bend the knees to drop into the squat position.

With your arms straight, grab the barbell just outside your legs with your palms facing backwards, locking the thumbs around the bar. The grip should be similar to a deadlift grip, only with the bar behind you.

Drive up using your heels, extending the knees and hips simultaneously until you’re fully upright. When you’re standing up the bar should be sitting just under your glutes.

Pause briefly at the top of the lift and reverse the motion to complete the rep.

Try to avoid rounding your back on the way up or going back down. A rounded back can place additional strain on the back muscles and can increase your risk of injury. This form can also reduce the influence of the legs in the lift, essentially lowering the benefit of the lift. A rounded back also causes your butt to stick out a little further, which may make it more difficult to get the pelvis forward and the bar up and over the glutes.

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  • Updated July 16, 2020
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