How to Do a Proper Hack Squat

August 2, 2019 by  
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Hack Squat

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The hack squat is one of the best quad-building exercises you can possibly do. It is a popular exercise that many weightlifters and athletes do for lower-body development. It is typically done on a sled that allows you to squat on a 45-degree angle, and it focuses strength training on three main muscle groups — your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps.

The hack squat machine is a staple in most gym and fitness centers. If you’ve seen a person doing it, then you must have noticed that they were lifting several plates — certainly more than they normally use when doing a barbell squat. Since most people use loads when performing a hack squat, it has become quite popular in gyms.

People who are not fitness freaks and who do not go to the gym regularly may not be familiar with the hack squat exercise. As such, if you are one of those people, you might be interested in knowing how to do it properly so you have a stronger, lower body. This article highlights what hack squares are, how to do the exercise properly, as well as how you use a machine or barbells to do them.

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What Is a Hack Squat Exercise?

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In strength training and general fitness training, squatting is a compound, full-body exercise used to strengthen the muscles of your hips, thighs, buttocks, quadriceps femoris muscle and hamstrings. Additionally, hack squats strengthen your ligaments, bones and the connectivity of the tendons in the entire lower body.

Squatting is considered a vital exercise for increasing the size and strength of one's legs besides developing one's core strength. There are many variations of squat exercises. Squatting is one of the three lifts used in powerlifting, along with bench presses and dead lifts. In this article, we will highlight what hack squats are and how you can do them like a pro.

Hack squats can be done using a barbell or on a machine. Typically, the barbell is held in your hands, just behind your legs. The exercise was first known as Hacke (heel) in Germany. It was a squat performed by Prussian soldiers and was popularized in the English-speaking countries by early 1900s by George Hackenschmidt, a wrestler. Other than a barbell, a hack squat can be done using a machine. The exercise is done by using the legs to lift while the weight rests on one's shoulders and the feet are kept stationary.

Since the lower back is locked during the exercise, it can only be used by athletes during strength training in their general preparation phases. However, the exercise is very valuable to bodybuilders who do not care about the functional transfer of hack squats. Both types of hack squats — machine and barbell — respond best to hypertrophy or functional hypertrophy protocols


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When done using the exercise using a machine, you will derive the following benefits:

  • Since the exercise takes the upper body out of the movement, it removes potential compensations or weaknesses that could otherwise affect your squat depth. You can focus on ensuring that your thighs are parallel
  • You can load up the weight, thanks to the additional control the machine affords you, and the fact that the upper body, including the core, is taken out of the movement
  • It is easy to train one leg at a time to reduce muscle imbalances
  • Since the machine provides a lot of stability, it can be a safer way to start building strength, particularly when you are coming back from an injury
  • The exercise allows you to change the focus on the muscles by adjusting your foot position. Note that a higher foot position will emphasize the glutes more, while a lower foot position gives emphasis to the quads
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Start lifting the barbel inside the gym

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There are downsides, however, when doing these types of squats. These includes:

  • Your knees typically sit far out in front, which results in knee problems, particularly when you use heavyweight loads
  • In traditional barbell squats, your core works overtime in helping you control and stabilize the weight, but with hack squats, you don't get the same benefit
  • It is easy to train one leg at a time to reduce muscle imbalances
  • When doing the exercise, you are locked into a machine, which means that the critical stabilizer muscles (useful to help keep the joints safe) are not engaged
  • When doing these type of squats, you will be forced to work in a fixed angle which is not how sports are played, and this means that the exercise doesn’t train your body specifically for how you move on the playing field
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Barbell Hack Squat Like a Pro

The barbell hack squat is an old-school strength exercise that has been in use for decades by fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders to build strength in the hamstrings, glutes and quads. It also is more low-back friendly since the weight is under the center of mass instead of in front of it. It places ample tension on the entire lower body, including the hamstrings, glutes and quads, and allows the lifter to train both the dead lift and quad pattern at the same time.

Here is how you do the barbell hack squat like a pro:

  1. 1
    Stand straight as you hold the barbell behind you at arm’s length and your feet at shoulder width. A shoulder width grip is best with the hand palms facing back but you can use the wrist wraps for a better grip.
  2. 2
    As you keep your head and eyes up and back straight, squat until your upper thighs are parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you advance to the floor slowly.
  3. 3
    Press the heel of the foot and squeeze the thighs and as you do so, going back up as you breathe out.
  4. 4
    Repeat the procedure for the recommended repetitions, as recommended by your trainer.

There are several variations. It can be performed with the heels slightly elevated on a small block, which is a good option for beginners and, especially, if you lack flexibility.

Machine Hack Squad Like a Pro

Machine hack squats require a strong development of the vastus medialis muscles and good stability of the knee joints to be effective.

Here is how to do them on a machine:

  1. 1
    Place your back against the back pad of the machine and hook your shoulders under the machine's shoulder pads
  2. 2
    Position your legs on the machine taking a shoulder-width, medium stance with the toes slightly pointed out. Ensure that you always keep your head up and maintain the back on the pad at all times
  3. 3
    Place your arms on the machine’s side handles and disengage the safety bars (done by moving the side handles from the facing front position to a diagonal position.)
  4. 4
    Straighten your legs without locking your knees. This is how you assume a starting position.
  5. 5
    Begin slowly by lowering the unit by bending the knees as you maintain a straight posture with your head up. Continue down until the angle between the calves and the upper legs becomes slightly less than 90 degrees. Inhale as you perform this movement. If you do it correctly, the front of the knees should make an imaginary straight line with the toes that are perpendicular to the front. If the knees are past that imaginary line, then you are placing undue stress on your knees.
  6. 6
    Begin raising the unit as you exhale by pushing the floor with the heel of your feet as you straighten your legs again and go back to the starting position.
  7. 7
    Repeat the process for the numbers of repetitions recommended by your certified personal trainer.

You should emphasize the glutes instead of the quads by moving the feet forward on the platform, or hit your leg adductors using a wide stance and then turning your toes forward.


barbell black and white

Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels

Squatting is a compound and full-body exercise that is used in training the muscles of the hips, thighs, buttocks, quadriceps femoris muscle, hamstrings, strengthening the ligaments, bones and insertion of the tendons in the entire lower body. The hack squat focuses on the lower body. However, the lower back is typically locked in the exercise. This means that it can only be used by athletes during their strength training in general preparation phases. the hack squat is a highly valuable exercise for bodybuilders.

There are two versions of hack squats are the machine and the barbell. The barbell hack squat is an old-school strength exercise that trains the hamstrings, glutes and quads and allows the lifter to train both the dead lift and quad pattern at the same time. Machine hack squats require a strong development of the vastus medialis muscles and good stability of the knee joints to be effective. For the machine version of the squats, you can emphasize the glutes instead of the quads by moving the feet forward on the platform.

We hope this article has thoroughly addressed what the hack squat exercise is, what it is best used for and how to do the exercise properly and safely in both its variations by using a machine or barbell.

10 Best Glute Exercises

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Your glutes are some of your biggest muscles in your body. They do consistent heavy lifting—carrying you around throughout the day! You already keep them engaged doing regular physical activities, but there’s more you can do to make them solid and strong. We’ve comprised a list of the best glute exercises to keep you powered up.

What Are the Best Glute Exercises?

Glute exercises can be the most powerful movements in your workout routine. Often these exercises will include moments when gradually go slow coupled with explosive movements. With all aspects, remember to keep the movements controlled movement and your form in check. These exercises will help you improve a number of goals, from balance and agility to stabilization and building strength.

How We Reviewed

We’ve reviewed these powerful glute exercises that will increase glute strength and give you a noticeable difference in how they look. These movements are more popular than ever as they provide intricate dynamic exercises that do what they're intended to do—strengthen your glutes. We've noted the key features and how to do them, along with tips about pros and cons for each of these glute exercises.

What We Reviewed

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Dumbbell Squat to Press


The combination of a squat with a push press is also called a thruster. This is a total-body exercise that is perfect for conditioning while you target these specific muscles. You generate force from your glutes and lower body and use this momentum to further work out the upper body muscles.


Hold a dumbbell in each hand in the rack position while you stand with your feet apart at hip-distance. Keeping your butt back and down with your weight in your heels, slowly squat down, keeping the dumbbells steady. As you come back up out of the squat position and get back into the standing position, use your arms to press the dumbbells from your shoulders to overhead. Bring the dumbbells back to the front rack position and continue on to another squat.


  • Primarily targets your glutes, arms, and shoulders
  • Engages core throughout the movement


  • Must have dumbbells to do this variation 
  • Poor form may strain lower back

Bulgarian Squat with Slam Ball


This squat variation is one of the best glute exercises to work your butt while challenging your balance. As you try to keep your foot on top of the slam ball, you’ll be engaging your core to maintain control. As you balance with the slam ball, you’ll feel the extra tightening as you keep your foot from rolling off the ball.


Standing in front of the slam ball, you must step your right foot back as you place your toes on top of the slam ball. You want to maintain your weight through the heel of your left foot as you gradually lower your body by bending your right knee towards the floor. Similar to a lunge position, make sure your left knee is at a 90-degree angle to the floor and stacked above your ankle. Then attempt to stand up as high as you did at the starting position by straightening both legs without taking your left foot off the slam ball.


  • Helps your ankle mobility, agility, and reflexes
  • Will improve your split squat


  • May have trouble balancing
  • May not have a slam ball accessible 

Landmine Squat Press


This exercise includes the landmine, which consists of a barbell with one side anchored into the ground with a rotating base. The landmine is a safe piece of equipment for building stability and power.


Standing with your feet slightly more than hip distance apart, hold the landmine with both hands and have your arms extended out in front of you at a 45-degree angle from your shoulders. Maintaining control of the landmine, bring your body down into a squat with your weight through your heels, making sure your knees don’t go out further past your feet. As you bring the landmine to chest height, keep your chest upright while squatting. As you drive from your heels, press yourself back up to the standing position, bringing the barbell back to shoulder height.


  • Can help you work on range of motion 
  • Primarily targets glutes, legs, and arms


  • May accentuate stability issues
  • May not have access to a landmine bar

Back Squat


The back squat is a staple movement for your lower body and one of the most favored glute exercises. You'll want to do this to strengthen your glutes, and you'll want to have perfect form. Throughout the movement, keep your knees aligned with your feet and hips and go down as deep into your squat as much as your flexibility allows.


With your chest lifted and your shoulders back, stand with your feet hip-width apart while holding a barbel on your shoulders. Keeping your upper body as straight as possible, lower your butt toward the ground as you pull in your abdominal muscles. As you bend your knees, make you don’t lean forward. Once you go down as far as you can, straighten your legs in a controlled way to rise back up.


  • Targets gluteus maximus, hips, thighs, and calves
  • Stabilizes back and core strength


  • You many not be going low enough
  • Poor form if chest leans too far forward

Quadruped Hip Extension


The American Council on Exercise (ACE) did a study to see which glute exercises were most effective at activating your butt. The quadruped hip extension was at the top of the list! If you'd like to increase the difficulty of this exercise, then hold a light dumbbell behind your knee or add ankle weights.


Getting into a hands-and-knees position, tighten your arms and keep your back neutral. Drive your right leg upwards with your foot facing the ceiling, keeping a 90-degree angle at the knee throughout the movement. Keep your hip, thigh, and knee parallel to the floor and in alignment with each other. After reaching alignment, lower your leg back down and switch to left leg when you've completed all reps.


  • Targets each glute muscle individually
  • Stretches your core with the movement


  • Will have poor form if back is arched
  • May not keep hip, thigh, and knee aligned

Kettlebell Swings


This is another standard full-body movement that also serves as one of the best glute exercises. Remember to have the motion come from your hips and not from your arm strength. Use the momentum from thrusting your hips rather than trying to swing your arms for momentum.


Place your hands on the kettlebell as you lean forward with your back flat and core engaged. With your feet just wider than hip-distance apart, lift the kettlebell up as you maintain a slight bend to your knees. Bring your hips back, and, in a fluid motion, explosively drive them forward as you swing the kettlebell above your head with extended arms. Keep your glutes and core engaged the entire time.


  • Little stress to lower back 
  • Glutes are fully engaged throughout the movement


  • May not have good hip mobility
  • If not using hips, can stress lower back

Deep Squats


Since squats are the most go-to choice for glute exercises, let's see how low you can go! When compared to partial and parallel squatting, a deep squat will give you greater activation of your gluteus maximus. You may even want to try reps in which you hold for 5 or 10 seconds when you are in the bottom of your squat.


You should have a barbell resting behind your head on your shoulder, with your chest up and out and your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. With a tightened core, lower your butt back and down while keeping the weight in your heels. Keep going below parallel into your squat as long as your back stays straight, ensuring that your pelvis doesn't tilt as you go deep. Push your heels into the ground to drive yourself to stand up, squeezing your butt in the process.


  • Takes the focus off using your quads
  • Greater activation for your glutes


  • May not have a bar to use
  • Range of motion may be tight

Barbell Hip Thrust


This movement will activate your glutes to as great of a degree as any other glute exercise. Progress for this exercise will be to move on to using the bar once you've perfected the movement with your own body weight.


You should place your upper back against a bench with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Put a padded barbell across your hips, keeping your glutes near the floor. Without arching your back and keeping your back neutral, squeeze your glutes to raise your hips until they are aligned with your body. Load the barbell higher if you’re able to do all reps with ease.


  • Activates the lower and upper glutes
  • Engaging your hip flexors


  • May be unaware of arching back
  • May not have access to a padded bar

4-3-1 Sumo Dumbbell Squat


4-3-1 is the tempo that you’re going to use to maximize your work in this exercise. You will have a 4-second lowering of the dumbbell, a 3-second pause at the bottom of the movement, and a 1-second concentric phase. This glute exercise has a built-in reminder for you to be mindful of each phase of movement and to remember to hold and squeeze when needed.


Stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart and flared out, and have the dumbbell placed at waist height. Lean your torso about 30 degrees forward, with your weight pushing through your heels. Maintain this angle throughout the sets as you bend your knees and squat down on a four count. As you reach the bottom of the movement on four, you the hold the squat position for a three count as you squeeze your glutes, then stand up.


  • Allows your glutes to burn as you pause
  • Core is engaged the whole time


  • May be challenging to maintain the correct angle
  • May not have access to dumbbell

High Step Up


It almost seems too easy, but the Step Up is one of the most reliable butt-building exercises to do (and the higher the better). Maybe you can start with a box that is 30 inches tall. Go as high as you can go without rounding your back or having your hips shift to one side. Once you feel you have the movement down comfortably, you can hold dumbbells in your hands or increase the box size to add difficulty.


With one foot on the box in front of you, place your body weight toward the center of your foot. As you slowly start to stand up straight, push your hips back and squeeze the glute of your supporting leg. Make sure to hold this position as you keep body upright with your hips and shoulders square. Then you push your hips back and slowly lower your non-supporting foot to the floor.


  • An easy-to-do, familiar motion
  • You work with your body weight and gravity


  • You don't want hips to shift to one side
  • May not have a sturdy step to use

The Verdict

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When putting together your next fitness workout, try a combination of standard glute exercises along with some complex movements that include the rest of your body as you work your butt and core. These glute exercises will completely activate your glutes and allow you to make some big gains with effective movement in concise amounts of time. You'll enjoy doing them, and you'll see results!

Workouts to Build Muscle and Train for Body Building

Are you trying to build more muscle and get in shape? Most people at some point are always trying to get in shape, improve their health and build more muscle. When you are ready to take your workouts to the next level and start building some muscle through body building, do you know what you need to do to get results? Building muscle takes a lot of work, but if you find a good plan and stick to it, you can get the results that you want.

If you are already working out, and want to step up your workouts to start including more weight training and body building, it is a good idea to either work with a trainer or go online for some tips on what kinds of weight lifting workouts are going to give you what you are looking for in your muscle building goals. Learning how to do the reps correctly and safely will not only keep you from hurting yourself, but it can also help you isolate the muscle groups to help you get definition.

If you are new to the gym and have not been doing a lot of weight training, or if you have recently lost weight through cardio and now want to build some muscle, you need to know the basics of what kinds of weight training routines are going to work the muscle groups that you want to work. It is important that when you are starting out a weight training routine, you work all of the muscles in your body, not only the ones that you want to define. Developing a strong core is key to any muscle building plan.

Working with a trainer at least at first, can help you make sure that you know what kinds of things you need to focus on at the gym to help you work all of the muscles and develop a lean, defined look. Once you have gotten the core strength and toned muscles, you can begin to focus on different and smaller groups of muscles that will help you get the chiseled look that you want. It is going to take a lot of work, but if you are determined and you stick to your plans, you can see the results that you want. You can learn how to develop your workouts to help build muscle and get in shape.