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Smith Machine Hack Squat

You’ll find that many bodybuilders prefer a hack squat as their main loading compound quad movement as opposed to a barbell back squat. The reason for this, is due to the decreased spinal loading and an increased emphasis on your quads as opposed to a back squat where spinal loading is greater, but you’re also bringing in many more muscle groups to the movement.

Realistically, there’s no right or wrong answer as to which movement you should be doing, but I’m a firm believer that everyone should learn to back squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press as a beginner with proper form. Then after that, you can move on to other movements.

However, what happens if you have a programme where hack squats are included, but your gym doesn’t have a hack squat?

There is an alternative. The Smith Machine Hack Squat.

You can perform a hack squat with a barbell, as well as on the smith machine, but in my opinion, doing so with a smith machine is a superior movement as a result of the improved stability and balance, allowing you to really focus on your quads.

How to perform a smith machine hack squat

  1. Place the bar so it sits either on your traps or your rear delts
  2. Unrack the bar, taking a neutral hand position and tucking your elbows in
  3. Take a step forwards, allowing the bar to settle into position
  4. Place your feet at shoulder width or slightly inside with your toes pointing forwards
  5. Stand with the bar until you get into your starting position
  6. Breathe in through your nose filling up through your diaphragm to brace
  7. Squat down by bending your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or ideally below parallel), you’ll feel yourself sit into what’s called the hole.
  8. At this point, contract your quads and drive back up through your heels to the start position, keeping a neutral spine and breathing out.
  9. Repeat steps 6-9

Here’s a video of me performing a Smith Machine Hack Squat

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What is this sacrilege. Doing squats on the smith machine ⁉️⁉️ – – Well, my spine is pretty shafted, and I’d love for my gym to have a hack squat, but it doesn’t so I’ve now swapped the back squat for a smith machine hack! I found that with back squats, my quads weren’t stimulated as much as through other quad movements, and the lower back strain just isn’t making it the most effective movement for me right now, so i’ve switched it out. Sorry PL guys…. – It’s a new movement for me, so I hit a “top set” of 8 and a back off of 12. The goal here is to just keep constant tension through my quads and effectively mimic a hack squat. – I’ll be looking to progress this movement over the next block as my staple quad compound. – – Written a post about the exercise with form cues and programming which is up on the link in my bio. – Had such a good contraction from this, along with banded leg presses which will form the foundation of my quad sessions for a while.

A post shared by Jordan Mason (@jordanandgym) on

Key considerations

  • Make sure to not round your lower back, particularly at the bottom of the movement. Your back position should not move during the movement.
  • Keep your feet firmly planted in position, elevating your toes may assist with driving through the heels.
  • Have the safety bar just under your hole position, this’ll make it easier to “bail out” of the movement given that will generally be the point of failure.
  • When learning the movement, take care to not overload, focus on ensuring you’re hitting form effectively, feeling a good quad contraction and that you’re taking time through the eccentric part of the motion.

Programming a smith machine hack squat

When programming a smith machine hack squat it’s essential to consider the movement and muscle groups worked.

Generally you’ll have this placed as a primary or secondary compound movement focussed more-so on quads specifically. As such, this may be your first or second exercise on a quad focused leg day, with other variants such as leg press, squats and lunges as your other quad dominant compound.

A sample workout could look a little something like this:

  1. Smith Machine Hack Squat – 2 sets – 8 – 12 reps
  2. Leg Press – 2 sets – 8 – 12 reps
  3. RDL – 2 sets – 6 – 10 reps
  4. Leg Extension – 2 sets – 10 – 12 reps
  5. Leg Curl – 2 sets – 6 – 8 reps
  6. Lunges – 1 set – failure
  7. Calf Press – 2 sets – 15 – 20 reps

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Categories: Training