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How to use the hack squat machine. There are two main muscle groups that people tend to focus on when they are getting in shape: upper body and lower body. Many people exercise their upper body in a bid to become more attractive, but neglect what is popularly referred to as “leg day.”
Unfortunately, comprehensive fitness is not only more healthy, but it is also more attractive. Luckily, you can achieve a well-rounded physic in a short period of time if you incorporate the hack squat machine into your leg day workouts.
The hack squat machine is designed to work your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes – much like a basic squat – but also works your core and back muscles while having the added benefit of being safer than a traditional squat performed with a barbell.
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The History of the Hack Squat Machine
You may be tempted to think that a “hack” squat is just a back squat with a typo. In actuality, the hack squat is German in origin and Prussian in name, originally being called the Hacke squat (Heel squat), and was first made popular by the wrestler George Hackenschmidt in the early 1900s. It is also known in some circles as the rear deadlift.
According to documents on file with the U.S. Patent Office, the hack squat machine was first patented by Lloyd J. Lambert for the purpose of providing the exerciser with a way to “discontinue [the exercise] along any portion of the cycle without a deleterious effect upon the user.” He also wanted to provide a way for the user to be able to adjust the machine to fit their own physique (short people squat, too!) while being safe, long-lasting, and fairly inexpensive.
Makeup of the Hack Squat Machine
A hack squat machine consists of two tilted, parallel rails, a back support sled connected to weights, and platform on which to stand. The back support sled has two shoulder bars to keep the user from sliding up past the pad as well as handholds either above or below the top of the pad.
The machine can be used with or without the addition of weighted plates that are slid onto the horizontal bar attached beneath the back support sled.
What Muscles Are We Working?
The thighs, both quads, and hamstrings, are the main muscle groups engaged when performing a hack squat. Depending on the position in which the feet are placed on the platform, you can also focus the effort on other areas of the legs, though you should be careful not place your feet too far back on the platform as you could risk injuring your knees.
Being an exercise of leg extension on an inclined plane with the load on the shoulders, the hack squat eliminates some of the activations of other, stabilizing muscles. But, proper usage of the machine – ensuring your back is flush with the pad and your abs are engaged, for example – can ensure you still receive a full-body effect from the machine.
From the methodological point of view, in a lower body workout in which muscle failure is desired, the work to be performed must be very intense. Therefore, completing a total series of hack squat exercises is important.
Typically 3 to 4 sets of 8 – 12 repetitions each would be enough for beginners. Once you find you can easily complete this recommended starting amount, you can begin to increase your weight by 5-10%. The estimated execution time is approximately 10-20 minutes.
How to Use the Hack Squat Machine, Properly
- To execute the hack squat using a machine begin by resting your back against the pad with your shoulders under the bars.
- Place the feet on the upper portion of the platform, shoulder-width apart, with the toes pointed slightly outward.
- Place your hands on the handles and straighten your legs. This is the point where you can gauge if you need more or less weight. Once you’ve settled on the correct amount, disengage the safety – generally located on the sides of the machine – and breath in as you lower yourself until your legs are at, or just past, a 90 degree angle. Ensure your knees do not extend past your toes at this point, if they do then your feet are not high enough on the platform.
- Exhale as you push back up to your starting position, being careful not to lock your knees at the top of the movement. Remember to keep the weight in your heels as you continue through your reps, and keep your movements slow and controlled.
You can also try variations with quicker movements and less weight if you want to incorporate cardio into your hack squats. Lower your body as normal, and then push off the balls of your feet, performing a small hop as you push back up.
The Best Tips to Use the Hack Squat Machine
Here are some simple tips to make sure you maximize the effort you put into your workout on the hack squat machine:
- Avoid locking your knees. Keeping your legs slightly bent, even at the top of the movement not only protects you from injury, but keeps tension in the muscles which allows you to work them to their fullest potential.
- Concentrate on keeping your abs engaged throughout the exercise.
- Don’t push yourself too hard. 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps are the ideal zone to work in while slowly adding weight. Pushing too hard results in injury and downtime meaning you get losses instead of gains.
- Always keep your head and back pressed firmly against the pad to protect your spine, and ensure that you are working the correct muscles.
- Keep your weight in your heels to ensure maximum muscle engagement.
How Many Reps is Enough?
The ideal number to reach muscle failure is 8 to 12 repetitions, and 3-4 sets with a minute or two rest between each set. Once you can easily perform these, increase your total weight by 5-10%. You can also do 2 sets with slightly lower weight, and then increase on the third set as a way to vary your workouts with the machine.
Now that you know how to use the hack squat machine, the fascinating history behind the machine and how to execute the movements correctly, do you think you will incorporate the hack squat machine into your leg day routine? Let us know in the comment below!