When it comes to performing the hack squat correctly, there are a few areas to look at carefully before trying to perform this exercise. Sadly, just like with squats and deadlifts, many people view this exercise as a tool to show off strength which can lead to the ego being involved more in the lift vs the actual motion. The hack squat is an exercise that places a lot of emphasis on the vastus medialis and requires a great deal of strength in the knee.
When done correctly, proper execution of the hack squat can help lead to great leg development that has been seen in the past with some of the professional bodybuilders, such as the great Tom Platz himself. If one wishes to achieve a significant amount of results from the hack squat, it’s important to ensure that we focus on achieving the maximal amount of range of motion within the exercise to focus the tension on the entire muscular region in the legs.
When using the machine variant for the hack squat, you will want to set yourself up on the machine in which your feet are located in the middle of the platform and around 1 foot or so apart from one another. Slowly release the safety locks and lower the machine/weight downwards until you are at the bottom position or as far down as your glutes can reach. Once you have reached the lowest point possible, you will want to push off the ball of your feet while tightening or squeezing your glutes and hamstrings as tight as possible in order to properly activate these muscles, as this engages the vastus medialis muscles.
If you wish to avoid the machine or you simply do not have a hack squat machine at your gym, the barbell back squat is another option available to you. For this, you will use a standard barbell that is located behind you. Set a few plates or elevated block behind you for your heels to rest on, being elevated will help engage the hamstrings. Using a small diameter plate to keep the barbell as close to the ground as possible, load a weight load onto the barbell. Starting in a squat position with the barbell underneath your glutes, grab the bar and squeeze the legs while pushing your body upwards until you are at a standing position while still holding the barbell. Slowly lower yourself and the weight back down to the starting position, while properly squeezing the glutes and hamstrings the entire time to keep adequate tension on the muscles. Avoid leaning too far forward during this lift to make sure you do not fall over.
The benefits of performing the hack squats are tremendous, with the best ones being in the design of the machine itself. The hack squat machine is designed as a smith machine so the weight load is on a guided rail to avoid tipping over. This machine helps provide the athlete with proper balance, stability and also offers support on the body or the lower back when being compared to conventional squats with a bar in a rack that can place the strain on the lower back the entire time. The machine also offers the person to have a greater range of motion while still ensuring that the exercise is controlled to allow the glutes to reach the lowest point towards the ground for maximum contraction of the hamstrings and glutes. Since the body will be squatted down into a position with strain or tension the entire time, this means that it will also require the core muscles or abdominals to be engaged when squatting down and trying to push yourself back up.
However, since this exercise requires a motion that is unfamiliar to most, its necessary to start with a low weight load until you fully get comfortable with the machine or motion of the exercise. When performed correctly, regardless of the weight load during the exercise, you will properly engage the gluteus maximus or the largest muscle in your glutes, while also working the quadriceps or the front of your upper leg muscles.
By strengthening your quads, you will also help strengthen your knees and ligaments as well. The hack squat is an exercise that benefits the entire core muscles, lower back muscles, entire leg muscles, glutes, and even strengthening tendons to ensure the body remains healthy and strong in every way possible. If you aren’t performing hack squats already, I recommend learning how to perform them and including them into your weekly workouts as often as possible. Avoid going too heavy on this exercise which can lead to muscle injury and even the possibility of damaged tendons/ligaments. Focus on the movement with a comfortable weight before progressing and squeeze during the entire motion in order to achieve the greatest results possible from the hack squat.