How to Use the Hack Squat Machine

Fitness activity

The hack squat machine replicates the barbell hack squat -- an unusual variation on regular squats that has you holding the bar behind your legs, arms straight and hanging by your sides throughout the motion. The hack squat works your hamstrings, glutes and adductors, but places the most emphasis on your quadriceps, the large muscles at the front of your thigh. Bodybuilders often use this machine -- or the barbell leg exercise -- to fine-tune their quad muscle development and other lower body muscle groups; general exercisers may use it as a substitute for the leg press machine and as a compliment to leg day exercises like back squat and deadlift.

How to adjust the Hack Squat exercise Machine?

To start this lower body workout, you must adjust the machine to your preferences. Start by positioning yourself with your feet shoulder-width apart on the platform and your back against the hack squat machine's back pad; both platform and pad are usually angled back at about a 45 degree angle.

Check that you can take the full weight of the machine's shoulder pads with your knees still slightly bent. If the shoulder pads are too high for this, now's the time to adjust the sled a little bit lower.

Adjust the sled position, as necessary, by first supporting the weight of the shoulder pads and sled, then flipping the safety stopper handles out to release the safety locks. They're usually located at about waist level and stick straight out from the machine. Move the sled to a lower position on the safety stoppers and check your body position again.

How to use the Hack Squat Machine?

Load the bars on either side of the hack squat machine's sled with weight plates. The sled is the part that moves up and down with you as you exercise; because the machine moves in only one place, you don't need to put weight collars on the bars.

Position yourself in the machine again: feet flat on the platform, lower back against the machine's back pad, shoulders tucked firmly beneath the shoulder pads. Adjust your body so that your foot placement is shoulder width apart and so when you squat down, your knees won't bend forward past an imaginary line leading straight up from your toes.

Take the weight of the sled on your shoulders, then flip the safety stopper handles out to release the safety stoppers. Let go of the stopper handles.

Keep your hips and upper body against the back pad and your heels flat on the foot platform as you bend your knees, squatting down to about a 90-degree angle. Some less-conservative experts recommend stopping just short of full flexion; as a general rule, only go as far as is comfortable with your range of motion.

Straighten your legs, pressing the sled back up to the starting position. Aim for a set of eight to 12 slow, controlled reps; once you can do more than 12 repetitions, the American Council on Exercise recommends increasing the amount of weight you're lifting by 5 to 10 percent to continue getting proper muscle activation and hypertrophy in the leg muscles.

Re-engage the safety stoppers by moving the sled as high on the machine as possible, then flipping the stopper handles back in toward your body. Carefully lower the sled until you feel it engage with the stoppers on both sides.

What are some hack squat variations?

Reverse Hack squat

The reverse hack squat utilizes the same squat form you learned in the article above but reversed to an exercise akin to a front squat. Your back will be facing out which means you will have to focus more on keeping it straight. This exercise creates a bigger focus on moving your hips and leg extension because of the lack of back support so it really works to build strength in the hamstrings and glutes.

Dumbbell hack squat

Dumbbell hack squat is another free-weight squat, much like barbell hack squat. This hack squat alternative is a tad easier and is better suited for beginners. However it carried the same hack squat benefits seen in other variations.