The hack squat is a great way to develop the lower body, some on a hack squat machine. While it is many people’s go-to exercise for leg day, it can be pretty cruel and even dangerous for some.
So, what do you do if you do not want to become like Johnny Bravo with well-built arms and upper body but with chicken legs? Look for hack squat alternatives! Many other exercises give you similar results minus the bad stuff.
Read on to understand why hack squats are not for everyone and what exercises you can do instead!
What Is The Hack Squat And Why Do You Need To Look For Alternatives?
Hack squats are squats performed on an inclined platform (hack squat machine) using weights. This allows you to do controlled movements to build your lower body while also reducing the risk of damaging or injuring your knees.
However, the hack squat is not for everyone. Here are some of the downsides of this exercise:
Step 1: You need a hack squat machine to perform it
Step 2: Since you will be using a machine, it forces you to move in a fixed angle that can limit your movements
Step 3: Hack squats do not exercise your stabilizer muscles that are important in providing support and stability
Step 4: It can cause knee problems when using heavier weights
The Best Hack Squat Alternatives And How To Perform Them
After reading multiple blogs, websites, and forums, I compiled this list of the best hack squat alternatives. I also included their advantages over hack squats along with instructions and tips on how to perform them correctly.
While hack squats only develop the glutes, thighs, and front legs, traditional squats provide a total-body workout by also engaging the back, core, and leg muscles.
Traditional squats also strengthen the stabilizer muscles, which is why this exercise is preferred by athletes who frequently work with free weights. Traditional squats are also more versatile since you can perform the task using Swiss balls, a kettlebell, dumbbells, barbells, or even your body weight.
Here are the steps in doing barbell squats:
Step 1: Place your barbell on the rack about the level below your buttocks.
Step 2: With your hands shoulder-width apart, hold the barbell from behind.
Step 3: Slowly grab and lift the barbell from the rack, keeping the bar near the back of the legs.
Step 4: With your feet hip-width apart and firmly planted on the ground, take a small step forward.
Step 5: Lower your knees to a squat until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor, while still keeping the bar close to the back of your legs. Keep your feet and knees pointing in the same direction, your back straight, and your abs tight.
Step 6: Carefully straighten your knees and extend your hips, lifting the bar. Repeat for as many times as you need.
If you are using other weights, do the same except you can hold dumbbells, a Swiss ball, or a kettlebell in front of you. Always start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees and toes slightly pointing outward.
Also, maintain a slight bend on your knees and keep your heels raised a little. Maintain good posture and keep your body aligned by engaging your abs, straightening your back, and pushing your chest out.
Lower your body using slow, controlled movements and as close to the ground as you can without breaking your upper body’s alignment. Never lock your knees when returning to the starting position.
Like the hack squat, the leg press also targets the hamstrings, quads, and to an extent, the glutes. With the leg press, your upper body muscles are also able to relax, which helps improve the mind-muscle coordination on the lower body.
According to research, the leg press is the best exercise to isolate the lower and inner quadriceps. The 90° angle made by the bending of the hips on a leg press limits the movement of the glutes and hamstrings. A leg press can also hold a lot more weight than a hack squat machine.
The leg press is the best alternative to hack squats for people who have injured or weak knees, back, and hips. It allows the user to work on the legs while sitting comfortably and without straining these body parts.
Follow these steps to perform the leg press:
Step 1: Prepare the leg press machine by adjusting the seat, the load, and the levers to your preference.
Step 2: Position yourself on the seat, firmly pressing your back against the backrest and placing your feet about shoulder-width apart on the platform.
Step 3: Make sure that you can pull or turn the safety handles by pressing the platform upward and letting it slide up and down.
Step 4: Carefully and slowly lower the platform closer to your butt by bending your hips and knees until your legs are 90° from each other.
Step 5: Extend your legs to go back to the starting position, pressing through your heels and never locking your legs at the top.
Step 6: Repeat the movements as needed.
To know how to properly perform leg press, watch this video:
In various ways, the hack squat is sort of a reverse deadlift where you hold the bar behind your body. Unlike the hack squat that focuses on the quads, however, the deadlift targets the posterior muscles of the traps, back, hamstrings, and glutes as well as the abs and lower back.
Also, when deadlifting, you put your weight on your heels while your heels are elevated during a hack squat to keep your body more upright. The deadlift is also excellent to strengthen your grip, lower back, and forearm muscles.
These are the steps in performing the deadlift:
Step 1: Step to the bar and position your midfoot under it, standing with your heels hip-width apart and your toes pointing slightly out. Your shins and the bar should not be touching.
Step 2: Bend over to grab the bar without bending your legs. Hold it with your hands shoulder-width apart and your arms straight.
Step 3: Bend your knees to lower your body until your shins touch the bar but be careful not to let the bar move from above your midfoot.
Step 4: Straighten your lower back and lift your chest. Inhale deeply, hold your breath, and stand up with the weight, keeping the bar in contact with your legs.
Step 5: Go back to the starting position and repeat.
Traditional squats, the leg press, and the deadlift are all great hack squat alternatives for leg day.
You can find a good hack squat machine here.
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