I admit, it can really be difficult to build muscular legs. I’ve faced it too. This could happen due to improper technique in squats, lunges, etc. After some trial and error, I found the perfect way to add more muscle to the legs. All that is required is a hack squat machine.
A hack squat machine involves doing squats on a specific machine. To perform the exercise, stand on the platform of the machine. Grip the shoulder pads above shoulders and perform the squat. These shoulder blades are designed to add weighted resistance.
However, everything comes with its pros and cons. In this article, I will mention whether the hack squat machine is good or not. Furthermore, I shall list some exercise variations that target different muscles. These exercises helped me in sculpting and developing defined legs.
Hack Squat: Do or Don’t?
The hack squat works the entire lower body like traditional squats. This includes your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core. However, hack squats provide more stability and support. This is because the machine has a fixed range of motion. The machine is also excellent for beginners. It can help beginners perform the exercise without risking injury.
The hack squat machine is excellent for adding more weight resistance. As the machine provides stability and safety, there are less chances of injuries. This is a big advantage over traditional squats. Therefore, I would recommend it to those struggling to build huge legs.
However, there are scenarios in which I would refrain from the hack squat. Although the hack squat targets your lower body, there is more emphasis on quads. Therefore, it’s not the best for growing hamstrings and glutes. The hack squat machine also places tremendous pressure on the knees. If the knees and hips aren’t aligned properly, it could lead to injuries.
Also, people suffering from knee issues, might want to skip it. Lastly, the exercise isn’t suitable for athletes. There is limited explosiveness in the exercise which is vital for athletes. Hence, athletes may want to skip it.
Variations you must include in your workout:
1. The Reverse Hack Squat:
A personal favourite, the reverse hack squat requires a similar motion on the hack squat machine. To perform the exercise, place the shoulder pads over the shoulders and face the chest towards the back pad. After this, squat until the thighs are parallel to the ground. Do this while maintaining shoulder-width distance between feet. Once lowered to parallel level, push with the heels upwards to complete the exercise.
While the exercise is like a normal hack squat, this variation emphasizes on the glutes and hamstrings. Therefore, it could be performed in conjunction with normal hack squats for optimal results.
2. Single Leg Hack Squat:
If the normal hack squat is mastered, try this exercise. The single leg hack squat, as the name suggests, is performed with one leg. This exercise is a recipe for huge, defined quads.
To perform the exercise, stand on the platform while placing the back against the back pad. Place the shoulders under the shoulder pads. After placing the feet at shoulder width, lift the left foot off the platform. While gripping the side handles, lower the right leg by bending it. The position of the bent thigh should be parallel to the platform. Slowly push upwards till the starting position to complete the exercise.
Ensure that the knee joint is not locked out throughout the exercise. This could place unwanted pressure on the knee and cause injury.
3. Narrow Hack Squat:
The narrow hack squat is very similar to the normal hack squat. The only difference lies in foot placement. Instead of keeping the feet shoulder-width apart, they’re kept together.
To perform the exercise, place yourself under the shoulder pads. Keep the feet together and start lowering the legs. Lower the legs till they reach a 90-degree angle with the platform. Pause for a second and push upwards to the starting position.
Just like the normal hack squat, this exercise targets the quads. However, by keeping the feet together, the quads are emphasized a lot more.
The dumbbell hack squat requires nothing more than a set of dumbbells. It’s relatively easier than using the hack squat machine. However, if executed properly, it can pack some serious mass on the legs.
No Hack Squat Machine? Try These!
It’s possible that some may not have access to a hack squat machine. That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road. There are a few exercises which provide similar results to that of a hack squat machine. Here are a few:
1. Dumbbell Hack Squat:
To perform the exercise, stand with a dumbbell in both hands and the feet hip-width-apart. Lower the body slowly by bending the knees. Do this till the thighs are parallel to the floor. Slowly push upwards to the starting position to complete the exercise. Ensure that the dumbbells remain at arm’s length throughout the exercise.
The exercise could be made challenging and quad focused with a few tweaks. Place a weighted plate below the heels or stand on a platform. Do this while touching the toes to the floor and then perform the exercise.
2. Barbell Hack Squat:
The barbell hack squat is the traditional alternative to the hack squat machine. This exercise requires a lot of stability. It’s the perfect leg exercise for home workouts too. It helped me a lot on days when I couldn’t visit the gym.
To perform the exercise, stand in front of a barbell. Position the hands and feet shoulder-width apart. After this, grab the barbell using an overhand grip. The overhand grip requires facing both the palms towards the barbell. Squeeze the quads and push with the heels to lift the bar. Continue lifting the barbell by extending the knees and driving the hips. Push the hips backwards and bend the knees to lower the barbell. Stop when the thighs are almost parallel to the ground to complete the exercise.
This exercise does not target a specific lower body muscle like a hack squat machine. However, it forces the entire lower body to work hard. This results in serious muscular development everyone must take advantage of!
All Things Considered
The hack squat machine is perfect for beginners to gain some serious mass. Because of its low risk of injury, it can be loaded heavily to progress faster. The variations to the hack squat I’ve mentioned can target specific muscle groups. This is helpful in treating muscular imbalances in the lower body. Lastly, consider including barbell or dumbbell hack squats during workouts. These exercises will improve muscular gains and overall strength too.