For most of us, squats are a go-to exercise, especially if we’re building leg mass. If you want an in-proportion physique, squats are one way to build it up.
The hack squat has become one of the most popular variations of the common squat, and you can think of it as a machine replication of the barbell hack squat.
You’ll be working your glutes, adductors, hamstrings, and quadriceps all at once, giving you a supercharged squat to be reckoned with.
Thinking of adding the hack squat to your routine? Keep reading to learn more about the hack squat machine, and how to use it.
What Is A Hack Squat Machine?
The hack squat machine is comprised of two parallel rails (tilted), a back support platform connected to weights, and a platform to stand on.
The back support platform, sometimes called a sled, is fitted with two shoulder bars to prevent the user from sliding out of position and past the pad.
There are also handholds above or below the pad to give the user extra grip when exercising.
A hack squat machine can either be used with or without weighted plates depending on your preferences.
If you do want the extra resistance, the weights can be added to the horizontal bar that sits beneath the back support sled.
How To Use The Hack Squat Exercise Machine
Before you get into position, you’ll need to adjust the hack squat machine to suit your preferences and height.
Adjusting The Hack Squat Exercise Machine
You can do this by positioning yourself on the platform and putting your feet shoulder-width apart. Your back should be resting against the back pad, and this will usually be titled at a 45-degree angle.
Once you’re here, see if you can handle the full weight of the shoulder pads with your knees bent. If your pads are too high, you’ll need to make the sled lower.
If you need to adjust the sled, support the weight of the sled and pads, then move the safety handles to release the locks. These are usually found at waist level and will protrude from the machine.
You can then adjust the sled so it sits at a lower position on the safety stopper. Test your body position again, and keep adjusting accordingly.
Using The Hack Squat Exercise Machine
Once you’ve adjusted your machine, you’re almost ready to start the hack squat. Here’s everything you need to do to successfully execute the move:
- Add your weights to the bars at the side of the squat machine sled.
- Get into position on the machine, with your feet flat on the platform, your lower back on the pad, and your shoulders positioned firmly beneath the pads. Ensure your feet are a shoulder width apart – this will prevent them from bending forward.
- Now, take the sled’s weight on your shoulders, flip the safety stoppers, and release your grip on the stopper handles.
- Ensure your hips and upper body are pressed against the pad, and your heels should be sitting flat on the platform when you bend your knees. Then, squat at a 90-degree angle. If you can’t do this, just go down as far as your range of motion is comfortable.
- From here, start to straighten your legs and move the sled back to the starting position.
Aim for between 8-12 slow and controlled repetitions and see how you feel. If you’re ready to do more repetitions, you can increase your weight after 12 repetitions by between 5-10%.
When you’re done, activate the safety stopper by moving your sled to the top of the machine, then move the stopper handles toward your body.
You’re now free to lower the sled until it locks into the stoppers on either side.
What Muscles Does The Hack Squat Work?
The hack squat works a number of muscles, including the quads, hamstrings, and thighs. Depending on how you position yourself on the platform, you can also move your focus to other muscles in the legs.
However, take care not to put your feet too far back on the platform, as this could result in injury.
The hack squat extends your legs on an inclined plane with a weighted load on the shoulders.
Although this reduces muscle activation in other groups, with your back straight against the pad and your abs fully engaged, you can still work out most of your body, including your abs.
However, it can take some practice to master the hack squat form, so if you’re a beginner, your focus should be on learning how to use the machine and performing gentle reps before adding more weight or doing variations of the hack squat.
Tips For Using The Hack Squat Machine
If you’re new to the hack squat machine, you may struggle with form. Here are a few tips to ensure you’re using the hack squat machine the right way, so you can make the most of your workout.
- Keep your abs engaged throughout.
- Avoid locking your knees, and keep your legs slightly bent to prevent injury and keep the right amount of tension in the muscles.
- Ensure your head is pressed firmly on the pad to support your spine and work the right muscles.
- Make sure you’re keeping your weight in your heels – this will prevent injury and ensure all of the right muscles are activated.
- If you’re a beginner, start with 3 sets of 8 repetitions before adding any weight. Pushing yourself could result in injury, and set you back at the gym.
The Bottom Line
When used correctly, the hack squat machine can be a valuable addition to your workout routine.
However, mastering form can be a challenge, and if positioned incorrectly, you could increase your risk of injury.
If you’re a beginner, spend time familiarizing yourself with the machine and perform slow, consistent repetitions before adding weight to make the most of the experience.