Hack Squat Alternative: 16 Expert Recommended Alternatives 

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Looking for a hack squat alternative that offers the same advantage as the hack squat but without the drawbacks? You have come to the right place. 

In this article, we will give you the best hack squat alternative based on muscle and strength growth, as well as give a plethora of alternative options to ensure you find a movement that is right for you.  

Let’s get right into it.  

What Are Hack Squats? 

Hack squats are a popular lower body exercise that primarily targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.  

They involve using a specific machine that allows you to load weight plates onto a sled and perform a squatting motion while facing the machine.  

Hack squats are known for their ability to target the muscles of the lower body and provide a challenging workout. 

Who Are Hack Squats Good For? 

Hack squats are a popular lower body exercise that primarily targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.  

They involve using a specific machine that allows you to load weight plates onto a sled and perform a squatting motion while facing the machine.  

Hack squats are known for their ability to target the muscles of the lower body and provide a challenging workout. 

What Makes a Good Hack Squat Alternative? 

A good hack squat alternative should target similar muscle groups and provide a similar movement pattern as the hack squat exercise.  

It should also be accessible and adaptable to different fitness levels and equipment availability.  

The alternatives should allow for progressive overload and provide a challenging workout for the lower body. 

Muscles Used In The Hack Squat 

The main hack squat muscles worked are the quadriceps and glutes. Additionally, it engages the hamstrings and calf muscles to a lesser extent.  

The hack squat is a compound exercise that recruits multiple muscle groups, making it an efficient choice for overall lower body development. 

Hack Squat: Movement Pattern 

In a hack squat, the movement pattern involves placing your shoulders and back against the machine pads while your feet are positioned on the platform. 

From this starting position, you lower your body by bending at the knees and hips, descending until your thighs are parallel to the platform or as low as comfortable.  

Then, you push through your heels to extend your legs and return to the starting position. The movement resembles a squatting motion, with the weight sled providing resistance. 

Hack Squat Alternatives 

1. Leg Press 

The leg press is a popular hack squat alternative that targets similar muscle groups. To perform a leg press, you sit on a machine with your back against a padded backrest and your feet placed on a platform. 

Push the platform away from your body by extending your legs, then slowly lower it back down. This exercise effectively works the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. 

How To Do It 
  1. Sit on the leg press machine with your back firmly against the backrest. 
  1. Place your feet shoulder-width apart on the platform. 
  1. Release the safety handles and slowly lower the platform until your knees are at a 90-degree angle. 
  1. Push the platform away by extending your legs until they are almost straight. 
  1. Pause for a moment, then slowly lower the platform back down. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 
Pro Tip 

Focus on maintaining a controlled and steady pace throughout the exercise. Avoid locking out your knees at the top of the movement to keep tension on the muscles. 

2. V-Squat 

The V-squat machine provides a unique hack squat alternative. It involves standing with your back against a padded backrest and your feet positioned on two separate platforms shaped like a “V.”  

By pushing the platforms away from your body, you engage your lower body muscles in a similar way to hack squats. 

How To Do It 
  1. Stand inside the V-squat machine with your back against the backrest. 
  1. Position your feet shoulder-width apart on the platforms. 
  1. Release the safety handles and bend your knees slightly to lower your body. 
  1. Push the platforms away by extending your legs until they are almost straight. 
  1. Pause for a moment, then slowly lower the platforms back down. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 
Pro Tip 

Focus on maintaining proper form and control throughout the exercise. Keep your knees aligned with your toes and avoid locking out your knees at the top of the movement. 

3. Barbell Hack Squat 

The barbell hack squat is a free weight alternative to the machine hack squat. It requires a barbell and allows for a more natural range of motion. This exercise targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, similar to the hack squat machine. 

How To Do It 
  1. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and a barbell behind your legs. 
  1. Squat down and grasp the barbell with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  1. Lift the barbell by extending your hips and knees, keeping your back straight and chest lifted. 
  1. Lower the barbell back down by bending your hips and knees, maintaining control. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 
Pro Tip 

Maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise and engage your core for stability. Start with lighter weights and gradually increase the load as you become comfortable with the movement. 

4. Goblet Squat 

The goblet squat is an excellent hack squat alternative that can be performed with a kettlebell or a dumbbell. It targets the quads, hamstrings, and glutes while also engaging the core muscles for stability and balance. 

How To Do It 
  1. Hold a kettlebell or a dumbbell vertically at chest level, close to your body, with both hands. 
  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  1. Lower your body into a squat by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. 
  1. Keep your chest lifted, core engaged, and heels grounded as you descend. 
  1. Go as low as comfortable or until your elbows touch the inside of your knees. 
  1. Push through your heels to extend your legs and return to the starting position. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 
Pro Tip 

Focus on maintaining an upright posture throughout the exercise. Keep your chest lifted and your knees aligned with your toes. 

5. Landmine Squat 

The landmine squat is a versatile alternative that requires a landmine attachment or a barbell inserted into a landmine apparatus.  

This exercise targets the lower body muscles and adds a rotational component, engaging the core and promoting overall stability. 

How To Do It 
  1. Position the landmine attachment or the barbell in a landmine apparatus. 
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and straddle the barbell or landmine handle. 
  1. Hold the barbell or handle with both hands in front of your chest. 
  1. Lower your body into a squat by bending your hips and knees, keeping your chest lifted and back straight. 
  1. Go as low as comfortable, then push through your heels to extend your legs and return to the starting position. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 
Pro Tip 

Engage your core muscles throughout the exercise and keep your chest lifted. Control the movement and avoid excessive rotation or rounding of the back. 

6. Belt Squat 

The belt squat is a hack squat alternative that involves attaching a belt or harness to a cable machine or loading it with weight plates.  

This exercise provides a challenging lower body workout without placing excessive load on the spine, making it suitable for individuals with back or knee issues. 

How To Do It 
  1. Attach a belt or harness to a cable machine or a loading pin loaded with weight plates. 
  1. Step inside the belt or harness and secure it around your waist. 
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, facing away from the machine or loading pin. 
  1. Lower your body into a squat by bending your hips and knees, maintaining an upright posture. 
  1. Go as low as comfortable, then push through your heels to extend your legs and return to the starting position. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 
Pro Tip 

Focus on maintaining proper alignment and control throughout the exercise. Keep tension on the muscles and avoid excessive leaning or rounding of the back. 

7. Front Squat 

The front squat is a challenging alternative that emphasizes the quadriceps, core, and upper back muscles. It involves holding a barbell in front of your body, which requires proper technique and flexibility. 

How To Do It 
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a barbell in front of your shoulders, crossing your arms to support the barbell or using a clean grip. 
  1. Keep your elbows up and your chest lifted as you lower your body into a squat by bending your hips and knees. 
  1. Go as low as comfortable, then push through your heels to extend your legs and return to the starting position. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 
Pro Tip 

Focus on maintaining an upright posture throughout the exercise. Engage your core and upper back muscles to support the barbell. 

8. Safety Bar Squat 

The safety bar squat, also known as the yoke bar squat, is a variation that provides a different loading pattern and can be gentler on the shoulders and upper back.  

It targets the quads, hamstrings, and glutes while also engaging the core and upper back muscles. 

How To Do It 
  1. Position yourself under the safety bar, with the bar resting on your upper traps and your hands holding the handles on each side. 
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and maintain an upright posture. 
  1. Lower your body into a squat by bending your hips and knees, keeping your chest lifted and back straight. 
  1. Go as low as comfortable, then push through your heels to extend your legs and return to the starting position. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 
Pro Tip 

Keep your core engaged and your chest lifted throughout the exercise. Use the handles for stability and control. 

9. Hatfield Squat 

The Hatfield squat is a hack squat alternative named after powerlifter Fred Hatfield. It involves performing a squat while holding a barbell in front of your body, supported by your hands.  

This exercise targets the lower body muscles and can be beneficial for developing strength and stability. 

How To Do It 
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a barbell in front of your body, resting it on top of your hands. 
  1. Maintain an upright posture and engage your core muscles. 
  1. Lower your body into a squat by bending your hips and knees, keeping your chest lifted and back straight. 
  1. Go as low as comfortable, then push through your heels to extend your legs and return to the starting position. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 
Pro Tip 

Focus on maintaining proper form and control throughout the exercise. Use the barbell to counterbalance your movement and engage your core for stability. 

How To Program Hack Squat Alternatives 

When incorporating hack squat alternatives into your workout routine, consider the following guidelines: 

Exercise Selection: Choose one or two alternatives that target similar muscle groups as the hack squat. This allows for variety and ensures comprehensive lower body development. 

Sets and Repetitions: Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions for each exercise. Adjust the weight to challenge yourself while maintaining proper form. 

Progressive Overload: Gradually increase the weight or difficulty of the exercises over time to promote muscle growth and strength development. 

Rest and Recovery: Allow sufficient rest between sets and exercises to optimize recovery and performance. 

Who Should Find An Alternative To The Hack Squat? 

While hack squats can be effective for many individuals, some may need to find alternatives due to various reasons, such as: 

Physical Limitations: Individuals with knee or back issues may find hack squats uncomfortable or unsuitable. In such cases, alternative exercises that offer less stress on the joints may be preferable. 

Equipment Availability: Not all gyms have hack squat machines, making it necessary to find alternatives that can be performed with more common equipment. 

Training Variety: Adding variety to your workout routine can prevent boredom and plateaus. Incorporating hack squat alternatives can provide a fresh stimulus for muscle growth and overall development. 

5 Hack Squat Alternatives at Home 

If you prefer working out at home or have limited access to gym equipment, here are five hack squat alternatives you can try: 

1. Barbell Front Squats 

Front squats are similar to hack squats and effectively target the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Hold a barbell in front of your shoulders, resting it on your collarbones, and perform squats following the proper technique. 

2. Rear foot elevated split squats 

Also known as Bulgarian split squats, these exercises require only your body weight or can be performed with dumbbells for added resistance.  

Stand with one foot elevated on a bench or step behind you, then squat down by bending your front knee. Alternate legs for a balanced workout. 

3. Safety Bar Squats 

If you have a safety squat bar or similar equipment, you can perform safety bar squats to mimic the hack squat movement. Place the bar on your shoulders, gripping the handles, and perform squats with proper form and control. 

4. Kettlebell Front Squats 

Hold a kettlebell by the horns at chest level, close to your body, and perform front squats. The kettlebell provides resistance and targets the lower body muscles, similar to hack squats. 

5. Deficit Dumbbell Sumo Squat 

Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell between your legs with both hands. Lower your body into a sumo squat by bending your knees and hips, then push through your heels to return to the starting position. 

Variations of the Hack Squat 

1. Reverse Machine Hack Squat 

Instead of facing the machine, turn around and face away from it. Perform the hack squat motion in reverse, pushing the weight sled upward with your shoulders and back.  

This variation targets the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back to a greater extent. 

2. Barbell Hack Squat 

The barbell hack squat is a traditional alternative to the machine hack squat. Hold a barbell behind your legs with an overhand grip, and perform squats while maintaining proper form and control. 

Hack Squat Alternatives – The Bottom Line   

Incorporating hack squat alternatives into your lower body workout routine can provide variety, target similar muscle groups, and accommodate different training preferences and equipment availability.  

Whether you choose leg press, V-squat, barbell hack squat, goblet squat, or any other alternative, focus on proper form, progressive overload, and consistency to achieve your fitness goals.  

Remember, it’s essential to listen to your body and select exercises that work best for your individual needs and limitations. 

Hack Squat Alternative – FAQs 


What Can I Use Instead Of Hack Squats? 

Instead of hack squats, you can do the landmine hack squat, linear hack squat, cable hack squat, or dumbbell hack squat. 

How To Do A Hack Squat Without A Machine? 

You can do a hack squat without a machine by placing a loaded barbell on the ground behind you and doing squats, almost like a backwards deadlift.  

How Do You Replicate Hack Squats At Home? 

You can replicate squats at home by placing a loaded barbell on the floor behind you and lifting it up from the ground.  

What Is A Goblet Squat Alternative To Hack Squats? 

A good goblet squat alternative to hack squats is the kettlebell goblet squat.  

Are Hack Squats Good?  

Yes, hack squats are good. 

It is a compound exercise that works many muscle groups throughout the body while also being safer than traditional squats.  

Are There At Home, No Equipment Hack Squat Alternatives?  

Yes, there are some at home no equipment hack squat alternatives.  

The best of which is a movement where you place a loaded barbell on the ground behind your back and lift it up.  

Are Compound Exercises Good Hack Squat Substitutes? 

Yes, compound exercises are good hack squat substitutes. 

Practically any squat will be able to replace the hack squat.  

Is There A Free Weight Alternative To A Hack Squat Machine?   

Yes, there is a free weight alternative to a hack squat machine.  

The reverse hack squat without machine, or hack squat at home is an exercise where you place a loaded barbell on the ground behind you and lift.

We hope we have been able to help you find the perfect hack squat alternative!  

While the barbell hack squat is an incredible exercise, it goes without saying that it isn’t for everyone.  

For more fitness advice, feel free to check out the rest of the content we have at MovingForwards