Hack Squat Substitute- 8 Best Alternative Exercises

Unless your gym does not have a hack squat machine, there is no need to substitute a hack squat. The hack squat is a popular lower body workout performed on the hack squat machine.  The hack squat machine provides the balance, stability as well as secures your lower back from injuries, unlike free weight exercises that do not. Back in the 1900s, it was popularised by the wrestler George Hackenschmidt and was renowned as the rear deadlift.  

The hack squat is a beginner-friendly workout that trains your hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes. It is a great movement to build lower body strength as it can target your major leg muscles simultaneously. Moreover, you can change the muscles you want to focus on by alternating the foot position. Positioning your foot in high position targets glutes, whereas, in a low position, quads are targeted.

Hacks squats, being a compound movement, possess a reduced risk of injuries as it puts very little strain in your lower back and knees.

Why hack squat substitute?

Not every gym in the world has all the equipment required for bodybuilding. This is the primary reason people search for hack squat substitutes.

Despite that fact, a hack squat is an essential lower body exercise that you must include in your leg workout regimen. In such a case, when your gym does not have a machine, but your training regimen demands one, you can opt for these hack squat alternatives.

An average guy cannot afford a trainer to guide you through your workout. Added to that is the importance of doing exercises with correct form and the chances of injuries if you don’t. If you are not confident on how to use the hack squat machine, worry not because there are a lot of other options.

The hack squat is performed on a machine that virtually locks your body into place at an angle. Properly executing the hack squat presents no health risk to your knees.

Although hack squats possess no risks to your knee joints, any previous injuries can make it hard to work on the hack squat machine. If so, choose out these hack squat alternatives.

6 Hack Squat Alternatives | Best Way To Do

If you are looking for a substitute to hack squat, you can select any alternatives of the hack squat mentioned here to reap much of the same benefit. These alternatives are the best way to target the same muscles without any specialized equipment so far. These movements can be used as a substitute for the machine hack squat, or only as a lower-body strength and size workout.

Here are the most effective hack squat alternatives that you can add to your workout:

List of Hack Squat Substitutes

  1. Barbell Hack Squat
  2. Cable Hack Squat
  3. Traditional Barbell Back Squat
  4. Barbell Front squat
  5. Cyclist Hack Squat
  6. Goblet Squat
  7. Leg Press
  8. Foam Roller Squat

Barbell Hack Squat

Often the trainees who do not have access to a hack squat machine perform the standing variety of hack squat called barbell hack squat. It is an old-school strength exercise that you may feel a little cumbersome while doing. It is because the lifter should drift their hip and knee forward a little bit to avoid the barbell striking their glutes.

Bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts have been using it for decades to build lower body strength in their quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

Benefits of Barbell Hack Squat

  • Puts tension on the entire lower body including quads, glutes, and hamstrings
  • Works on both squats and deadlift pattern at the same time
  • Reinforces hip hinges effectively.
  • Lower back friendly

How to do Barbell Hack Squat?

  1. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip behind your back with your hands wholly extended.
  2. Keep your core tight and back straight.
  3. Perform the regular squat with the bar gliding up and down behind your legs.
  4. Keep your quads and glutes engaged.
  5. Repeat for desired reps.

Cable Hack Squat

The Cable Hack Squat is the next best alternative to a machine hack squat that does not have a hack squat machine. It effectively targets your quadriceps without putting any stress or loading up your spine. It is a safe and effective lower body movement that targets your quadriceps, glutes, and calves. It replicates the idea of machine hack squats to a great extent, and the cable pulley machine allows you the freedom to choose the weight. With the appropriate weight and proper form, you will have excellent stability and can easily target the quadriceps.

Benefits of Cable Hack Squats

  • Targets your quadriceps, glutes, and calves effectively
  • Proper stability and posture
  • Simple and Beginner Friendly

How to do Cable Hack Squats?

  1. Fix the pulley lowest position of cable pulley machine and attach a straight bar to the cable.
  2. Begin by standing with your feet pointed straight towards the pulley and shoulder-width apart.
  3. Keep your core tight and shoulders back and down.
  4. Hold on to the bar with an overhand grip and drop down by bending your knees and hips.
  5. Lower down until your knee bends by 90 degrees or lower and hold for brief seconds at the bottom of the movement.
  6. Press back up with your quads and glute muscles engaged.
  7. Repeat for desired reps.

Traditional Barbell Back Squat

In fact, hack squats can help you develop only the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. However, the traditional barbell back squat proves to be a full-body workout that engages the core, back, and significant leg muscles.

Barbell Back Squats are also beneficial for the stabilizer muscles. That is why many pro athletes prefer this exercise while working with free weights.

Moreover, if you don’t have access to barbell and plates, the barbell back squat is so versatile that you can carry out this movement with dumbbells, kettlebells, and even with your bodyweight only.

Benefits of traditional back squat

  • Increases athletic strength
  • Strengthen lower body muscles
  • Stabilizes the core and works out back too
  • Burns enormous calories
  • Can be done in smith machine too

How to do the traditional Back Squat?

  1. Stand with the barbell supported against your shoulders in a squat rack with your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed slightly outward.
  2. Lower down your body with your chest up and pressing your hips back and down.
  3. Stop lowering when the hip joint is slightly lower than your knees.
  4. Press yourself up with your feet by engaging your quads and glutes up to the top standing position.
  5. Repeat for desired reps.

Barbell Front squat

The barbell front squat is a compound exercise that targets several muscle groups at once. This resistance exercise can be used to target lower body muscles to build powerful quads, a strong back, and tight core muscles.

Although the front squat is not precisely a beginner-friendly workout, it is an excellent substitute for the hack squat. Like a hack squat, it will pump up those inner quads while activating your core and stabilizer muscles at the same time. It also works your quads.

Front squats can be done with a barbell or dumbbells, kettlebells too. Higher weight is not necessary, as it can target quads with a lot less weight.

Benefits of Barbell Front Squats

  • Fire up quads with lighter weight
  • Versatile with a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebells.
  • Can be done in Smith machine too
  • Builds up strength and stability

How to do Barbell Front Squats?

  1. Stand by resting the bar on the top of the deltoids and cross your arms while grabbing the bar for keeping it stable.
  2. Position your leg shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing slightly outwards.
  3. Keep your core tight, hips up, and elbows up throughout the movement.
  4. Lower down, pushing your glutes backwards until your hip joint is in line or just below the knees.
  5. Drive-up by pushing your feet against the floor. Make sure to engage your quads and core.
  6. Repeat for desired reps.

Cyclist Hack Squat

The cyclist hack squat is similar to the traditional barbell back squat, except that the heels are slightly elevated while doing cyclist hack squat.

As the name suggests, it is definitely an excellent quad exercise. This movement targets the inner quads primarily, which is the most beneficial thing about it as the robust Vastus Medialis or inner quads signifies how healthy and robust your knee is.

The cyclist hack squat is an old-school popular workout that is rarely done these days. Despite that fact, this compound exercise is, in fact, beneficial and very easy to perform.

In a cyclist hack squat, the heel is elevated on a slightly wedged surface, and the feet are positioned narrow. It really helps you engage the quadriceps, especially the inner head or VMO.

Benefits of Cyclist Hack Squat

  • Targets the innermost head of quadriceps
  • Improves overall knee health
  • Adds strength, mass, and definition to quads
  • Easy to perform the Compound movement

How to Perform a Cyclist Hack Squat?

  1. Stand with your heels on an elevated surface like a barbell plate or a wedge board.
  2. Position the barbell on the back of your shoulders like a traditional squat and perform the move.
  3. Keep your core tight, hips up, and elbows up throughout the movement.
  4. Lower down, pushing your glutes backward until your hip joint is in line or just below the knees.
  5. Drive-up by pushing your feet against the floor. Make sure to engage your quads and core.
  6. Repeat for desired reps.

Goblet Squat

The Goblet Squat is the next best hack squat alternative that can be done with dumbbell, kettlebell, or any kind of weight available with you. It is a compound exercise that works your quads, calves, glutes, hamstrings, core, and arms. It also helps to increase your grip strength as you’re holding the weight throughout the movement.

Unlike back squats, the goblet squats are a lot easier on the back while providing so much the same benefits to the quadriceps and glutes. It can be a great compliment or even substitute to hack squat and traditional squats for building lower body strength.

As the weight is held close to the body, it really decreases the axial loading on your body and creates very less or no spinal compression. Thus, goblet squats reduce the chances of injury.

Benefits of Goblet Squat

  • Less Risk of injuries
  • Enhances Lower body Strength
  • Improves grip strength
  • Can be done at home with everyday objects

How to do Goblet Squats?

  1. Stand using a shoulder-width stance by grabbing a dumbbell or a kettlebell with the palm of both hands in front of your chest.
  2. Lower down your body by bending your knees and pressing your hips back and down.
  3. Stop lowering when the hip joint is slightly lower than your knees.
  4. Press yourself up with your feet by engaging your quads and glutes up to the top standing position.
  5. Repeat for desired reps.

Leg Press

Leg presses are the effective lower body workout, which produces the same result very much as hack squats. It allows you to target your hamstrings, quads, and glutes without providing stress on your spine, hips, or knee joints.

Leg Presses has mainly two variations: Seated leg presses and lie down leg press. Both of the varieties are more or less equally effective to target your quads. The upside of this workout is that you can push a significant amount of weight on the leg press as compared to back squat or hack squat.

Moreover, you can change your foot placement to target different heads of quadriceps. As there is no resistance or stress on your back, it is a perfect complement or substitutes to hack squats, especially for those with any kind of upper-body injuries.

Benefits of Leg Press

  • Allows to move more weight
  • Target different heads of quadriceps
  • The best substitute for those having upper body injuries

How to do Leg Press?

  1. Sit down on a seat of leg press machine with your back resting comfortably against the padded support.
  2. Place your feet on a footplate about hip-width apart with your heels flat on the plate.
  3. Keep your bottom flat against the seat and position your feet in such a way that your legs form 90 degrees angle at your knees.
  4. Don’t place your feet too high as it will harm your knees and not too high as it will stress your glutes.
  5. Press the plate, maintaining this alignment, and feeling the engagement of your quads.
  6. Grab the handle for support.

Foam Roller Squat

The Foam Roller Squat is one of the best hack squat alternatives that you can do at home. This exercise can be done with both free weights like dumbbells or kettlebells and bodyweight. All you need to perform this exercise is firm support like a wall or a pillar and a foam roller.

The way how foam roller squat imitates the machine hack squat is by isolating the quads with a lot of knee flexion.

You can quickly fire up the quads by holding an extra resistance with your hand.

Benefits of Foam Roller Squat

  • Can be done at home
  • Works with bodyweight only too
  • Awesome Knee Flexion
  • Very much the same as a Machine Hack Squat

How to do a Foam Roller Squat?

  1. Stand with your back facing a solid wall or any surface.
  2. Stand by hold a foam roller behind your lower back by pressing it against the wall.
  3. Lower down with moving your feet forward until your hip joint is below your knees. The position will look somewhat similar to a chair, which will be your starting position.
  4. Push yourself up by pressing your feet against the floor, engaging the quads and glutes. Keep your back straight and tall with your core tight.
  5. Repeat for desired reps.

Wrapping up

The hack squat is hands down the most effective exercise to target the inner head of quadriceps and develop impressive leg muscles. With a hack squat machine, you can do it properly and achieve great results.

However, hack Squats are not the only way to build muscles and strength in your lower body. The aforementioned hack squat substitutes are equally as effective as the machine hack squat is. You can use those alternatives to hack squat if you want to achieve the same results.

The substitutes to hack squat mentioned in this article are relatively easy and effective than a lot of others out there. You just need to choose the one that you are comfortable with and start pushing your limits higher day by day.

Thanks a lot for visiting our website.


Aaron Reiner

Aaron is a fitness blogger, founder & editor of Prosfitness. He has been lifting weights & writing about fitness for over 3 years. He has been a contributor for several health and fitness publications.

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