Hack Squat Exercise Guide


Hack Squat Exercise

This effective compound exercise is probably the best variation (machine equivalent) of the traditional barbell squat. Hack squat machine can be used as an alternative or in combination to squats for developing the quadriceps. It is a good way for beginners to start doing squats, but only advanced athletes should use much weight.

What is Hack Machine?

This exercise uses a piece of equipment similar to the Smith machine.  A hack machine also has rails for weight to travel on, but they are angled at 45 to 60 degrees, not vertically. In addition, a hack machine doesn’t use a barbell; instead, you place weights on a platform that moves up and down like a sled.

Main advantages of the hack squat exercise (machine)

  • Lower back support – allows you to keep your back straight.
  • Balance problem is reduced – you don’t have to balance a barbell on your shoulders to do a squatting motion.
  • Allows you to take a much narrower stance when performing the movement without the complications of being unbalanced.
  • Easier on the knees compared to regular squats – the machine helps prevent the knee from going farther forward than the foot.
  • Suitable for beginners who don’t have enough core strength, balance and stability to perform barbell squat.

Exercise Instructions

STARTING (INITIAL) POSITION: Lie on your back on an inclined pad (with your head at the top) and rest your shoulders against two supports. Your feet are shoulder width apart (toes pointing forward) and slightly forward of your body.

Hack Squat Exercise

Hack Squat Exercise

EXECUTION (MOVEMENT): Grab the handles next to your head for support. Lean into the machine so your back is entirely supported and unlock the weight stack, slowly squatting down until your hips and knees are at, or just below, 90-degree angles (until your thighs are almost or fully parallel to the floor). Stand back up by pressing through your heels to lift the sled. Come almost to a full extension at the top without locking out your knees before descending again into your next repetition.

Muscles Engaged in Hack Squat

Hack squat is a tremendous frontal thigh developer, and it shifts the resistance to that too often neglected area of the thigh—the vastus medialis.

Main muscles: quadriceps, gluteus maximus
Secondary muscles: hamstrings, adductors, gastrocnemius, muscles of the lower back and along the spine
Antagonists: iliopsoas, sartorius

Hack Squat Tips & Tricks

  • Keep your spine flat against the backrest.
  • Your feet are shoulder width apart and slightly forward of your body.
  • Your knees should be almost above your feet at the bottom of the movement.
  • Do not raise your heels. To avoid this, place your feet slightly farther forward if necessary.
  • Push with both legs equally.


  • Foot spacing and foot direction: with each change, you’ll get a slightly different result from your workout.

Replacement Exercises

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