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Hack squat machine vs leg press. Both the hack squat and the leg press have an excellent impact in training your lower body. If you do them properly, squatting exercises pose little risk of injury to the knees. However, people with a history of knee or back injury should consult their doctor before using hack squats or leg presses as part of your routine. And, as with all exercises, listen to your body! If you experience pain while performing an exercise, stop and consult your trainer to ensure you are using the proper technique.
Remember that both the squat and the leg press are lower body exercises, and work a variety of leg muscles including the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
Hack Squat Machine Vs Leg Press
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Hack Squat Execution
Begin by leaning your back against the back pad and placing your shoulders under the pads. Place your feet on the platform shoulder-width apart, with the toes pointed slightly outwards. Hold the stabilizer bars in your hands and disengage them from the safety position – on many machines, this is done by squeezing the handles in towards the center. Straighten your legs, being careful to avoid locking your knees. Now you are ready to begin!
Pick a spot directly in front of you on the wall or ceiling that you will stare at while you complete your reps. This will help you maintain a consistent posture. Slowly lower the unit by bending your knees, making sure to keep your back flat and your head against the pad at all times to protect your lower back from injury.
Descend until your hips are in line with, or just slightly below, your knees. Then, pushing up with your heel, return to your starting position. Congratulations!
You have completed your first rep on a hack squat machine! As you continue, remember to breathe evenly and keep your movements slow and controlled in order to avoid injuries.
It may sound like we are repeating ourselves but proper posture is vital to a successful workout that avoids injuries. Squats in particular can have the reputation of being bad for your knees. But they don’t have to be! Avoid pointing your toes directly forward, as this could overload the cartilage of the knee.
Make sure your feet are far enough forward on the machine’s platform that you have enough room to perform the squat without having your knees bent out in front of your toes.
Finally, remember that squats are not a race; slow, controlled movements not only protect your body from injury, but help you to get the most benefit out of the effort you put into your workout.
If you need some variation in your hack squat machine routine, try out the narrow stance hack squat or the reverse hack squat! For the narrow stance, simply bring your feet together and then perform the squat as before, but be aware that this stance can put more pressure on your knees so try it with a little less weight and for fewer reps to compensate.
For the reverse squat, lean your chest against the back pad and face the floor with your shoulders under the pads. Lower the machine until your thighs are perpendicular to your calves. See article on 5 Amazon Best Rated Exercise and Fitness Equipments
Additional safety considerations for a successful hack squat routine involve your shoes and equipment. A flat, athletic shoe is recommended to ensure that your feet maintain contact with the platform without slipping. Depending on the amount of weight you are using, you may also want to consider investing in a weight belt.
Benefits of the Hack Squat over Leg Press
- Better Muscles Engagement: Works your quads without excluding your hamstrings and glutes.
- Overall Strength Improvement: This exercise increases the work of auxiliary muscles, which improves strength and volume.
- Safety: Hack squat machines are inherently safer than angled leg press machines due to their design, which is great for beginners.
- Exercises the Upper Body: In addition to working several large leg muscles, it also engages the upper body to stabilize and support the weight of the bar.
Leg Press Execution
There are two types of leg press machines typically found in gyms: ones that are parallel to the ground and ones that are angled.
For an angled machine
Place yourself in the machine with your back fully pressed against the backrest. Place your feet shoulder-width apart on the platform and press firmly against it, ready to take on the weight. Finally, unlock the safety lever of the device (it is a lever typically found on the side of the machine).
Begin by slowly bending your knees in a controlled motion. Once your knees come to your chest, push back against the platform to raise it again while exhaling. It is very important to keep your back pressed firmly against the back pad during the exercises to protect your spine, and to never lock your knees, even at full extension.
Parallel machines are similar, but you are seated instead of lying on your back, and you push the weighted platform straight out in front of you, instead of up at an angle. Between the two, parallel machines are more suited for beginners.
Muscles Worked on the Leg Press Machine
With this exercise you will mainly work the upper leg muscles, especially the quadriceps. If the feet are placed lower on the platform of the machine, you will mainly work your quads. On the other hand, if the feet are placed higher on the platform, the glutes and hamstrings will be more engaged. You can also engage the adductors if you widen your stance.
This exercise, while using a similar movement to the hack squat does work slightly different muscles. Depending on the style of machine, leg presses can be a great squat alternative for people suffering from bad knees or weak hips.
The Benefits of Leg Press Over Squat Hack
- Position and Security: because of the seated position, leg press machines tend to be safer for people with prior injuries or weak joints.
- More Weight: leg press machines can typically accommodate a higher maximum weight giving you more room to grow.
- Focus on Quads: You can focus your efforts on one area of your legs (quads) or many areas (hams and glutes) simply by changing your footing.
Which One is Better?
I cannot conclusively say one is better than another, they are both excellent exercises. However, each of them serves its own purpose in a balanced exercise routine.
If your focus is on the lower body without neglecting the upper body and core, then hack squats will do the job. However, if your main focus is strengthening your legs, then leg press is the way to go. But, if variety with consistent growth is your aim: as a wise man once said, “Why not do both?”