How to do hack squats: foot placement and proper form (2023)

How to do hack squats

Including foot position and correct form.

How to do hack squats: foot placement and proper form (1)

The hack squat machine is an excellent complement to traditional squats to build thick and muscular legs. But of course you have to knowHow to do squats correctly!

In this article, I'll walk you through how to target different parts of your legs by changing yoursFoot position in the hack squat. And teach proper form and execution on the hack-squat machine.

In addition, I will also show you how to do itThe Hack Squat Variationand give you some hack squat alternatives that you can do without a machine.

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Was sind Hack Squats?

Hack squat muscles worked

How to do hack squats

foot placement

Step by step / video

correct shape

The Hack Squat Variation

Was sind Hack Squats?

Hack squats are an exercise that works the leg muscles, specifically the quadriceps.Typically, you'll perform this exercise on a machine with a weight sled that rides on angled rails.

As the name suggests, hack squats are similar to squats with free weights. And at first glance, it might seem like a reverse leg press. However, there are key differences between these exercises.

How to do hack squats: foot placement and proper form (2)

Hack squat versus leg press

Both the leg press and squat involve carriages that move on rails. With the leg press, you sit on a padded seat and push the sled with your feet. In contrast, the Hack Squat has a padded sled on the back.

However, the angle of your back relative to your legs makes these exercises different. For example, when doing the leg press, your torso is forward so your knees come to your chest. And your back stays upright with the hack squat.

As a result,Leg presses work more glutes and hamstrings, while hack squats work the quads.

Hack squat versus squat

The main difference between hack squat and barbell squat is your back. With regular squats, your torso leans forward and places some weight on your lower back. In comparison, hack squats put almost no strain on the lower back muscles1.

By reducing upper body involvement, you shift more weight to your legs. Because of this,The hack squat provides better lower body isolation than squats.

(Video) Exercise Index - Hack Squat Foot Placement

However barbell backSquats are still a better exercise for overall lower body development, core stability, and athleticism.

The 21 best compound leg exercises

Hack squat muscles worked

As a squat movement, the hack squat engages most of the muscles in your legs, including the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

However, hack squats place a greater emphasis on the front of your legs, or quadriceps. The quads are a group of 4 muscles called the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris.

In addition, you can emphasize different leg muscles depending on where you place your feet on the platform. I'll talk more about that in the next section.

Hack Squat Benefits and Limitations


  • Less strain on the back compared to barbell squats
  • More upright posture compared to leg press
  • A limited path of motion better insulates the lower body
  • Excellent for targeting the quadriceps
  • Safety stops for work-to-failure without a spotter
  • Large platform for multiple foot position variations


  • Not as good for building overall strength as compared to squats
  • Puts more stress on the knees compared to squats or leg presses

How to do hack squats

Next, I'll walk you through performing a hack squat, from positioning it on the machine to how to perform the exercise correctly. I've included pictures, step-by-step instructions, and a video demonstration.

Hack Squat-Fußplatzierung

Where you place your feet on the platform also affects which muscles are engaged the most during a hack squat. For example, you might have your feet high or low, wide or narrow, and angled in or out.

feet high versus low

Placing your feet higher on the platform places more of the load on the glutes and hamstrings. Conversely, putting your feet low on the platform puts almost all of the stress on your quads.

How to do hack squats: foot placement and proper form (4)

The reason isthe position of your knees relative to your toes. With your feet high on the platform, keep your knees behind your toes.

This angle results in more hip flexion at the bottom of the movement. And when you stretch your hips as you push up, more of the glutes and hamstrings engage.

How to do hack squats: foot placement and proper form (5)

You can carry more weight when your feet are high on the platform because you engage more muscle groups. But I should also point out that lifting heavier weights doesn't always produce the gains you want.

On the other hand, if you keep your feet lower on the platform, your knees will go over your toes. This leg position reduces hip flexion and increases knee flexion. So you almost exclusively use the quadriceps muscles.

You'll find that you can't support as much weight with low feet.But you're better off using less weight when your feet are lower on the platform if your goal is to build bigger quads.

(Video) 9 Hack Squat Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Of course, you can perform a heavier weight and still aim your quads by planting your feet about halfway up the platform.

How to do hack squats: foot placement and proper form (6)

Feet wide vs narrow

Another factor in foot placement is width. You use more of your inner thighs when you place your feet wider than shoulder width. While feet are closer than shoulder width, work more on outer thighs.

In general, I recommend a narrow stance with your feet shoulder-width apart or closer. This foot position keeps the load directly on the quads.

How to do hack squats: foot placement and proper form (7)

Toes point inwards vs. outwards

Finally, you can also angle your feet inward or outward. This foot position is most relevant when your feet are low and close together on the platform and you're activating your quads.

With toes pointing in, you work more with the vastus lateralis or theouter swingyour quad. While pointing your toes outward, the vastus medialis, or thetearabove your knee.

How to do hack squats step by step

Now that you know how to stand on the platform, I'm going to walk you through performing the exercise. First I will give you the step by step guide. You can then watch a short video demonstration.

Here are the basic steps for hack squats:

  1. Load desired weight plates onto the sled (best to start with no weight if you have never done this exercise)
  2. Board the machine by placing your feet on the platform and your back and shoulders on the pads
  3. Release the slide by pushing up on the shoulder pads while pulling on the handles
  4. Squat down by bending your knees and lowering your hips toward the floor
  5. Stretch out your legs to push the sled back to the starting position
  6. Perform the desired number of repetitions
  7. Reinstall the slide by pulling out the handles while gently lowering it onto the hooks

How to do hack squats video

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The hack squat is a relatively safe machine with safety stops and rails. But it's still important to use proper form to prevent injury and get the best results from your effort.

  1. Start with your feet halfway up the platform, about shoulder width apart - I'll explain alternative foot positions in the next section.
  2. Always keep your back flat on the pad.
  3. Don't let your hips roll forward off the pad at the bottom of the range of motion - if you can't go low enough, you're working on hip mobility.
  4. Don't lock your knees completely at the top of the movement.

How to do hack squats: foot placement and proper form (8)

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(Video) How to do Hack Squats: Proper Hack Squat Form with Shawn

How to do hack squat variations

You may have seen some people using the hack squat machine in the opposite direction as I just demonstrated. This variant is called a reverse hack squat and has specific advantages.

In addition, your gym may have different types of hack squat machines. For example, some hack squat machines have a plate-loaded pendulum, while others use a weight selector stack.

In this section, I'll show you how to do hack squat variations. So you know how to use all the equipment in your gym.

Reverse hack squat

This variation also requires a hack squat machine. But it's worth mentioning because it can have some additional benefits for building strength and improving lifts like the squat.

To do a reverse hack squat, you have toStand backwards in the machine, facing the pad. The movement is the same as a regular squat, except the leg mechanics are slightly different.

A reverse hack squat allows your hips to move back like a barbell squat. But your back stays upright and your knees are further forward over your toes.

This posture and freedom of movementcombines the benefits of traditional squats and the regular hack squat. You'll have a more natural motion path, but you'll also get better quad activation.

Watch the video below for more details.

Pendulum hack squat

A pendulum squat is essentially a large lever. One end of the lever is attached to a pivot, and the other end has pads that rest on your shoulders.

There are several types of pendulum squat machines, some with back pads and some without back pads. So the one at your gym could be called a lever squat, V-squat, or something else.

Regardless of the machine type, the body mechanics are like a squat, which keeps your back more upright. And you can position your feet where your knees travel over your toes.

Weight stack hack squats

This final hack squat variation looks like the pendulum squat machine above, except it has a weight selection stack instead of free weight plates. Otherwise, the execution is the same as a normal pendulum squat.

Remember, to aim your quads like the hack squat, you need to keep your back upright and bend your knees more!

How to do hack squats without a machine

Now that you know all the benefits of hack squats, you're probably itching to try them. But what if your gym doesn't have any of the above equipment?

Don't worry, you can still take advantage of hack squats even if you don't have a hack squat machine. Click here for the ultimate list of 15 hack squat alternatives that will blast your quads just like the real thing.


(Video) Quick Tip: How to Perfect Your Hack Squats


With a basic understanding of foot position, you now know how to squatTarget specific parts of your legs. So you can develop the tear above the knee or that coveted outside swing.

However, you shouldn't use hack squats as an excuse to avoid barbell squats. Instead of this,Use both hack squats and back squats to complement each other as part of a complete leg day workout.

For more helpful tips on exercises, workouts and all things fitness related, check out some of my related articles below!

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What is the best foot position for squats? ›

Evidence based guidelines exist for the execution of a squat, and these include foot stance of shoulder width or wider, maintaining the feet flat on the ground, and toes pointing forward or slightly outward by no more than 10° [6,7,8].

Should I go all the way down on hack squat? ›

Tip 2: Depth. If your sole purpose for hack squatting is to maximize quad development, a 90 degree bend in the knee that places your legs parallel to the floor is where you want to be. If you want full lower body development, you've got to squat all the way down. Your butt should come close to touching your heels.

What's an impressive hack squat? ›

The average Hack Squat weight for a male lifter is 347 lb (1RM). This makes you Intermediate on Strength Level and is a very impressive lift. What is a good Hack Squat? Male beginners should aim to lift 119 lb (1RM) which is still impressive compared to the general population.

What angle should a hack squat be? ›

The hack squat is positioned at a 45-degree angle, which provides for a more controlled movement, placing less physical demand on your joints, and providing a deeper range of motion.

Should I squat on my toes or heels? ›

Elevated Heels Vs.

Take the squat, for instance. The elevated-heel position allows your torso to stay more upright than if your heels were flat, which shifts stress to the front of your upper legs. On the other hand, you'll hit your hamstrings more if you put up your toes, he explains.

Should your knees pass your toes when squatting? ›

Your knee position is going to vary based on what type of squat you're performing. To maintain balance, it's natural for your knees to go past your toes, and this is totally fine as long as you don't have any injuries or flexibility limitations.

Should your knees go past your toes while squatting? ›

In a front squat, your knees should stay over your toes throughout the entire movement. This helps to keep the knees from collapsing inward, which can put strain on the joint and lead to pain. Additionally, front squats improve quadriceps strength, which can help to take some of the load off of the knees.

Should you lock out knees on hack squat? ›

Don't Lock Your Knees

One of the most important tips for your hack squat form is that you should avoid hyperextending, or locking out, at your knees when your legs are 'extended'. Avoiding knee hyperextension will keep the tension of the movement on your quads.

Should I lock knees on hack squat? ›

Place your legs in a shoulder width stance with your toes pointed out slightly. Grip the side handles of the machine and disengage the safety bars. Straighten your legs, but do not lock your knees.

Why do people use the hack squat backwards? ›

Reverse hack squats strengthen your leg muscles.

The reverse hack squat increases activation of muscle groups throughout your lower body, including your hamstrings, glutes, adductors, quadriceps, and posterior chain. Good leg strength is essential for performing other compound exercises like deadlifts and lunges. 2.

How many plates is good on hack squat? ›

Piling up 3 to 5 light weights on one side of the body is all you need; 2.5 pound plates work best.

What does hack squat target the most? ›

A hack squat works the entire lower body — including the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves — as well as the core. An emphasis on the quads means the front of your legs will be feeling it afterward.

Why is hack squat harder? ›

Are Hack Squats Harder? The hack squat is not harder than a back squat because the machine eliminates the need for your back and core to work and it instead isolates your quads and glutes. Also, the hack squat machine allows you to sink lower with more ease and is accessible to those with mobility restrictions.

What are the 3 keys to proper squat technique? ›

3 Keys to a Solid Squat Setup
  1. Create Tension. No part of your body should be relaxed while squatting or while setting up to squat. ...
  2. Step Back. Don't make the mistake of taking a walk with the bar on your back before you squat. ...
  3. Pelvis Position.
May 12, 2015

Should your feet be at an angle when squatting? ›

Research has shown that turning the toes out more than 30-degree is less effective (2). For this reason, you should perform barbell squats with your feet turned out anywhere from 10-30 degrees. Always use a position that is most comfortable for your body.

Should feet be angled when squatting? ›

As you think about your squat stance, you might wonder whether your feet should be pointing more inward or outward. Generally speaking, you will want to take a stance that is slightly outside of shoulder-width, and point your toes outward at an angle of 15-30 degrees.

How do you keep heels down on hack squats? ›

Flare Your Toes

In other words, slightly pointing your toes outward. So if you squat with your toes pointing completely straight forward, then angle them outward the next time you squat and see if it helps your heels from rising.

Should you do hack squat barefoot? ›

You're better off going barefoot, so that your feet are stable on the ground. Flat, hard-soled shoes are usually better than squatting barefoot, because they provide more grip. Chuck Taylors are a popular choice in this category.

Should you use squat shoes on hack squat? ›

Yes, these are the most common exercises to wear weightlifting shoes, but they're certainly not the only time you can wear weightlifting shoes for your training. For example, you can wear weightlifting shoes for machine-focused strength such as leg presses, pendulum squats, and hack squats.

How do you emphasize glutes on hack squats? ›

What Is the Best Hack Squat Stance for Building Glutes? The best hack squat stance for building glutes is a low and narrow stance with flat shoes. The low stance will get you to go into full hip extension, which will activate your glutes, and the narrow stance will get your glutes more stretched out.

Should you squat with heels or toes? ›

The truth is though, there's only one correct foot position for the squat. Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart, with your toes pointed out about 10 degrees, says Andrew Sakhrani, CSCS, a Montreal-based strength coach.

Should squats be done in heels or toes? ›

Elevated Heels Vs.

Take the squat, for instance. The elevated-heel position allows your torso to stay more upright than if your heels were flat, which shifts stress to the front of your upper legs. On the other hand, you'll hit your hamstrings more if you put up your toes, he explains.

Should you go all the way down on hack squat? ›

Tip 2: Depth. If your sole purpose for hack squatting is to maximize quad development, a 90 degree bend in the knee that places your legs parallel to the floor is where you want to be. If you want full lower body development, you've got to squat all the way down. Your butt should come close to touching your heels.

What are hack squats best for? ›

A hack squat is great for building strength in the legs, especially if you're a beginner to the squat. The angled machine has you in a standing position, safely supporting the weight while you rely on your legs to drive the movement.

Should you keep your heels down when squatting? ›

Lifting heels

A lot of people lift their heels when doing a squat. Instead, you should be lowering your weight into your heels, not away from them. Having your heels off the ground puts more strain on joints and knees and increases the chances of hurting your lower back.

Should your squat shoes be tight? ›

To get the most out of your weightlifting shoes, they must fit correctly. The first thing to look for is a shoe that has sufficient room for your feet and toes, while offering a snug fit. Your feet shouldn't slide around in the shoe and you want to make sure there is no lifting in the heel area.

Is it better to squat in flat shoes? ›

For some squat variations, raised heel shoes are better as they help the athlete maintain proper form, while in other cases, flat shoes for squats are the better option.


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