Reverse Hack Squat: Tips & Tricks

Do you find it attractive to see athletes’ mountain built-up upper bodies walking around on skinny chicken legs? It looks like a rookie business. Most of them hate the leg days and would happily give them up if they were given a chance. They find it hard and complicated to perform the complex movements in which you are forced to lift twice or trice your body weight, and at the end of the day you are left panting and sweating, and burning lots of calories, but you don’t see instant results like when doing your biceps.

In order to develop a strong, attractive and aesthetic body, you need to strengthen the foundations on which the house is built. Working on your legs gives you so many benefits on your overall fitness, and not to mention the boosting up of your hormones. The body is forced to produce more testosterone and HGH when you give your legs a proper workout. But you don’t have to do squats and leg raising all the time, which is what most people believe. There are lots of other, equally good complex movements that can play a key role in your overall leg strengthening.

One of them is definitely the reverse hack squat.

What is a reverse hack squat?

reverse hack squat

A number of joined movements of the legs that were first introduced by an Estonian bodybuilder, George Hackenschmidt, are now very well-known and popular as the reverse hack squat.

What George did was to place the barbell behind his body at length reachable by his arms, place his feet at a distance equaling the width of his shoulders and perform a squat, which was a bit different from what he was used to doing before. By performing this complicated movement, he tried to put the focus on the quadriceps, thus minimizing the effort put on the posterior chain.

The professional bodybuilders, wrestlers, martial arts performers, and other athletes welcomed this movement, which was considered pretty much difficult for beginners. The beginners, on the other hand, could perform the same movement on a controlled plane of a hack squat or smith machine, which made it easier for stabilizer muscles. 

The modification of the movement, where your back is not placed against the pads but your chest, thus facing the weights, is called the reverse hack squat. As time passed, this movement has grown into a very effective exercise involving all major leg muscles. The hamstrings, glutes, calves, and most importantly, the quads can be isolated by simply changing the position of your feet.

How to do Reverse Hack Squat – Step by Step

There are several different ways of performing the reverse hack squat, but this time, we’ll see how it is done using a hack squat machine.

The first thing to do is to put weight on the squat machine that suits your needs. You should then stand on the footpads facing outwards, with your feet apart at your shoulder width and under your chest. Once you placed the feet, it is time to position the shoulders under the pads and chest against the plane, then get hold of the side handles. Now you are ready to push upwards in order to set the weight free off the rack.

You slowly squat downwards until the legs become parallel to the floor and then stop for a moment at that position. When you start pushing the weight upwards, you should try to avoid locking out your knees. Repeat the same movements as many times as you want.

In case you find it difficult for your ankles to perform the movement, you can always lift your heels from the footpads while doing the exercise. By doing this, the flection that is needed to go lower is reduced as well as the strain on the shin, and it makes it possible for the body to stay straight in the upright position. This one of the simplest and at the same time the most usual way of performing this exercise.


What Muscles Does the Reverse Hack Squat Work?


If you want to target other leg muscles, you can change the position of your feet. By placing the feet closer and toes in an outward position, you put most of the focus on the quadriceps, and the more you point the toes outward, the bigger the focus is on the inner tights.

Doing the exercises in their simplest form, you are targeting all the major muscle groups of your legs, but of course, you will be targeting the quads primarily.

Numerous exercises that are offered for strengthening your legs can help you target the quadriceps, but none of them is even close to isolating them like the reverse squat. Vastus Lateralis is targeted with as much efficiency as the Lunge and the conventional squat. One of the main reasons for knee pain in athletes is weak Vastus Medialis, but doing these exercises will help you to strengthen Vastus Medialis, adductor brevis and Magnus that are positioned near the inner tight. The target is also placed at Vastus intermedius, which is the deepest positioned muscle among all three.


The very first exercise that comes to your mind when you think about glutes is hip thrusters. Reverse hack squats are equally effective when it comes to glutes. All you need to do is to place your legs a little bit backward than normal in order to shift the action towards your hamstrings and glutes instead of your quads. 

The fact that you move in a fixed plane gives zero possibility of affecting your lower back. Not everybody has the conditioning, strength, balance and stability to perform even basic barbell squats and deadlifts, and not to mention the advanced hack squats, which would be almost impossible for beginners. The reverse hack squat allows them to use their body to stabilize the lower back, thus avoiding the risk of getting injured while moving heavier weight.

Since you only move in a controlled plane vertically and horizontally, you are unlikely to swing the weight around and stress your spine. You are, in this way, allowed to focus more on the movement and worry less about having to balance the weight.

The Benefits of Reverse Squats Hack

The Benefits of Reverse Hack Squats

Reverse Hack Squats not only help isolate most of the individual leg muscles, but they also provide many other benefits to your body.

Unlike most other exercises that focus mainly on one muscle of the tight, this is a complete tight exercise. By moving heavy weight and consistent effort, with this alone, you get great separation in your tight muscles. With the use of the reverse hack squat and the hack squat, you can also build strength in your knees, inner tights and shin, which will help you move the heavier free weight. For example, you will be able to lift more for your squats and deadlifts.

The criticism that veteran lifters have with it is exactly the same as with a smith machine. When performed on a squat machine, it does little for the stabilizer muscles, which are the key to the overall strength development. So, if you have been lifting for years, you might not need to spend a lot of time on reverse hack squats, but if you are a beginner, this is the way to build healthy, strong, muscular legs.

Prior to performing the reverse hack squat, there are certain thing that you should bear in mind:
  • What muscle of the tight are you targeting? You should decide before you get started with the exercise and place your feet accordingly. You can place them under your chin, behind you, face your toes outwards or keep them straight. If you are starting off, try several variations to feel and know the difference.
  • One of the advantages of the reverse hack squat machine is the possibility to move heavier weight. But, as a beginner, for the first few times, load the bar with caution and go slow until you get some experience with the exercises.
  • Make sure that you stop just before your legs are locked out completely when at the uppermost position of the squat. It will help reduce unnecessary strain on your knees and avoid knee problems at a later stage.
  • Do not bounce the weight off the bottom as it might increase the possibility of injury. So, pause for a moment at the lowest and uppermost position of the squat.
  • Your head should be kept straight in a neutral position at all times during the movement. Looking downwards may cause you to round your back. You should also keep your toes steady, especially during the negatives.

Reverse Squat Hack Alternatives

There aren’t too many alternatives to the reverse hack squat, but one of the best is the front barbell squat.

If you are just starting off with the front barbell squat, there is a huge possibility that you might round your back when going down, and this is a recipe for injury. That is why athletes are advised to avoid it until they have the strength and stability needed for it. And it is strictly forbidden if you have back injuries. You can use a kettlebell or dumbbells instead of a barbell for this purpose, but it also requires a certain degree of strength and coordination.

The reverse hack squat is a much safer, easier, and equally effective alternative.

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