When working out, using the hack squat (either with the machine or without it) can be a great way to work your quads and glutes all whilst avoiding the stability requirements that you may need to perform a barbell squat.
In some cases, home gyms and even some commercial gyms may not have a hack squat machine and that means you need to find your own ways to get the gains, without the machine.
Hack Squat Exercises: Why are they important?
Hack squat exercises are important in a few ways. When performed correctly, hack squat exercises can strengthen and develop your quads, knees, and ligaments that are involved. Not only this but everything we list below is also developed well when using any form of hack squat exercise.
By building these muscles and ligaments, you are giving your body crucial strength to perform harder, and more physically demanding exercises that you may not otherwise be able to do. Although the hack squat can take its toll, performing frequently with adequate weight will leave you healthier, and stronger than ever before.
Muscles Used in The Hack Squat?
There are several muscles that are used when you perform the hack squat, both with or without the machine. These muscles are;
- Gluteus (both the maximus and Medius)
- Abdominal Area
When performing the hack squat, you may also feel your muscles in your knees and hips as this is where a lot of the work is coming from.
6 Hack Squat Alternatives without a Machine
Barbell Hack Squat
The barbell hack squat is quite similar to reverse hack squats but will take a little more strength and practice if you’ve never performed it before.
Instructions on how to perform the barbell hack squat;
- Position your feet a shoulder-width apart, feet flat on the floor.
- Ensure the barbell is positioned just behind your legs, and slow squat down and grab the barbell at the knurls with an overhand grip.
- Lifting the bar up slowly while you stand up, extend the knees and hips completely.
- Squat down slowly pushing the hips back, bending the knees back and keeping your back straight the whole time. Keep the squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground and bar is close to the floor.
The barbell hack squat is a great alternative for the hack squat as you will be working the exact same muscles as if you were using a hack squat machine. Your glutes, calves, hamstrings, arms, and abdominals will be worked, maybe even more so as if you were using a hack squat machine. Many professional lifters will use this over a hack squat machine!
To get the most out of this exercise is to take note of how many reps you can perform. Doing too much can make this exercise unsafe, but doing the right number of reps for you, and repeating it several times over a week will make this lift perfect for your body growth.
Although many people don’t associate lunges as alternatives to hack squat, but they work the same muscles and if done with free weight and in enough reps, you will be able to get the same results.
To lunge, simply;
- Position yourself and your feet a hip-width apart
- With a strong stance, take a step forward with one foot.
- Whilst your front foot stays forward, plant your need to the floor, but don’t actually touch the floor.
- Drive your front leg upright again to complete the process.
- Complete this equally on each leg, for as many reps as you feel you need.
The lunge is a great exercise you can do instead of a hack squat, and although not as effective as the hack squat – when done enough you will be sure to get the same results. If you have the added bonus of any barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells, place them in your hands and perform the same actions to get the very best out of your lunge.
Be careful when performing this exercise not to focus on one side of your body. This exercise allows you to work out your glutes, core and hamstrings. If done with any weights, your arms will also get a little bit of a workout too.
Cyclists Back Squats (Goblet Squat)
Cyclist back squats are another great alternative to hack squats if you don’t have the machine to hand. With the cyclist’s back squats, you’re working all the muscles you would when performing the hack squats, and more as you will be building your ligaments up a lot faster when using the cyclist’s back squat.
To perform the cyclist back squat, you must;
- Stand on a wedge-board or something that will elevate your heels. Your feet should also remain around 4-6 inches apart when performing this exercise.
- Position a weighted barbell on your shoulders like a normal squat, and perform the standard squat.
As your heels are elevated, your feet have more pressure on them and this builds muscle through the whole leg. This makes it a great alternative as you’re working out your glutes, abdominals, and back muscles each rep. Be careful not to lose balance as it can be easy with a lower center of gravity. If you’re concerned about losing balance, maybe find a reliable spotter to watch over in case of it.
Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat is another amazing alternative if you don’t have a hack squat machine to hand. With the Bulgarian split squat, you don’t even need a weight, but it has many amazing benefits should you want to use one. This makes the Bulgarian split squat one of the best alternatives if you have no equipment at all.
To perform the Bulgarian Split Squat;
- Position yourself as if you were trying to perform a lunge, with your feet a hip-width apart.
- Elevate your back foot on a weight or elevation pad.
- Keeping your hips open and your torso erect, lower yourself down by bending the front knee. Lowering yourself with your balance in the middle of the front knee, allow your knee to drop forward and keep lowering until you feel strain.
- From the ground position, keep your hips centered and push down through the front leg and elevate yourself.
This Bulgarian split squat is a great alternative to a lunge and hack squat should you not have any equipment. With this, you will be working out the majority of your lower body. Your legs (when switched every few reps) will be well-worked, including your glutes, hamstrings, ligaments, and even your arms or back if you use a barbell or any kind of weight.
Although the Bulgarian split squat might not be the most efficient exercise on this list, completing this a few times over and over again frequently will only build your lower body. This can be uncomfortable to start with, so make sure you ease yourself into it otherwise you may experience prolonged muscle ache.
All in all, if you don’t have a hack squat machine, there are many alternatives that you can use to get all the muscles working without compromising on any effects of performing the hack squat. Hopefully, some of these alternatives that we’ve covered and the importance of each of these will help you identify what you need to perform the hack squat, all without the machine.
The article has been researched & compiled by the Editorial F5F Team, a group of experienced fitness & health writers.