Hack squats and V squats are machine-based exercises for building lower body strength. Hack squats focus on quadricep development, while V squats, also known as power squats, offer stability and are a good option for those with lower back or knee issues.
Both exercises can be performed using a hack squat machine and can be used to exhaust the legs after completing other barbell movements. V squats are easy for beginners to perform and can be progressed by increasing the weight used, while hack squats are a popular choice for machine-based leg workouts. Until you examine more closely and give each one a try yourself, you might not notice any difference between the two workouts, which at first glance may seem like two different ways to perform the same movement.
V squats and hack squats are both exercises that can be used to target and strengthen the muscles of the lower body. They each have their own unique benefits, a study found that machine squat training maximized jumping power compared with free weight squat training and can be used in a training routine to target different muscle groups. This post will provide an overview of the benefits of these exercises and will include instructions on how to perform them.
What Are Hack Squats?
Hack squats are a popular exercise for building strength in the quadriceps muscles of the lower body. They are performed using a machine that supports the back and allows the weight to rest on the shoulders while the individual squats on an inclined platform. The hack squat machine may feature a sliding rail or mechanical arms that move with the movement of the squat.
How To Do Hack Squats
The hack squat machine is similar to a leg press machine in that both exercises involve using your leg muscles to push against a weighted platform. However, the hack squat machine is designed to be used in a standing position, while the leg press machine is typically used while sitting.
To use the hack squat machine, you stand on a fixed platform facing away from the machine, with shoulder pads supporting your upper body. You then perform a squat movement by lowering your hips down towards the platform, before returning to the starting position.
- Stand in the hack squat machine with your feet shoulder-width apart and positioned in the top half of the platform. Place your shoulders and hips against the back rest, and hold onto the handlebars.
- Inhale and bend your knees to lower your body until your thighs are parallel or just below parallel with the floor. Keep your shoulders and hips pressed against the back rest.
- Exhale and press through your feet to straighten your legs and return to the standing position.
What Are The Benefits Of Hack Squats?
There are several benefits to incorporating hack squats into a training routine, including:
- Reduced strain on the lower back: The back is supported during the hack squat, which minimizes the engagement of the spinal erector muscles and lowers the risk of lower back strain.
- Greater focus on the quadriceps: The hack squat machine is designed to target the quadriceps muscles, often at the expense of the glutes and hamstrings. This can help to build larger thighs and improve front-of-leg power.
- Improved stability and safety: The machine provides balance and stability, making it a good option for individuals with balance issues or joint problems. A study proved hack squats may be a good choice for better knee and spinal stabilization.
Overall, hack squats are a safe and effective way to build strength in the quadriceps while minimizing strain on the lower back.
Hack Squat Alternatives
Some leg exercises that are great alternatives to hack squats and work the same muscles in a similar way are:
Barbell Hack Squat
The barbell hack squat is an exercise that uses free weights to mimic the movement and load of a hack squat machine. It is a challenging exercise that is not recommended for beginners and involves squatting while holding a barbell behind the back with an overhand grip.
The weight of the barbell will pull the body backward as you squat, which requires you to lean slightly forward and engage the quads more to maintain balance.
How To Do Barbell Hack squat
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes facing forward, with a straight spine and neck.
- Grip the barbell in an overhand grip behind your back, letting it hang down to your butt.
- Keeping your upper body as straight as possible, hinge at the hips and bend your knees into the squat.
- Allow the weight of the barbell to slide down the backs of your legs, and stop squatting when you reach a 90-degree angle.
- Drive through your heels and push the floor away from you to stand up.
- Pause for a 1-count at the top, then repeat as desired.
The leg press and hack squat are two similar exercises that isolate the lower body muscles and remove the lower back from the equation. The leg press is easier on the knees than the hack squat, and is effective for building strong quads and glutes.
How To Do Leg Press
- Sit or lie down on the leg press bench, with your feet pressed firmly against the sled and hands gripping the support handles.
- Press upward to fully extend your legs (without locking your knees), and remove the “safety” from the weight by turning the handles.
- Under control, let the sled slide down the track until your legs reach a 90-degree angle. Stop before your heels lift off the sled – they should stay firmly grounded at all times.
- Drive through your heels and push upward on the sled to fully extend your legs (never lock your knees). Pause for a 1-count at the top, then repeat as desired.
The goblet squat is a lower-back friendly exercise that targets the quads and provides a shoulder and arm workout by holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of the chest. It is similar to the hack squat in terms of the angles at which it hits the joints and muscles.
How To Do Goblet Squat
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, your back straight, and head up.
- Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your chest (typically about chin height).
- Hinge at the hips and bend your knees, keeping your back as straight as possible as you lower into the squat. Make sure to keep your knees tracking over your toes.
- Stop when you reach a 90-degree angle (or lower if you want a deeper squat and greater stretch), and pause for a 1-count at the bottom of the movement.
- Drive through your heels as you push back up to standing, finishing the movement with a forward thrust of the hips to engage the glutes.
- Repeat as desired.
What Are V Squats?
V squats are a variation of the hack squat that can be performed on the same machine or with free weights. They involve shifting the feet slightly wider than in a standard hack squat, with the toes pointed outward to create a V-shape. This allows the knees to track outward during the squat movement.
How To Do V Squats
- Start by positioning yourself on the Hammer Strength machine platform. Place your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly. Your toes should be pointed outward.
- Place your shoulders under the machine’s pads and grab the handles at shoulder height with your hands.
- Exhale and stand up with the weight, pulling out the handle that holds the weight in place.
- Inhale and move your hips back, bending your knees as you lower your body until the crease of your hip is in line with your knees.
- Drive your heels into the ground and raise your body back up to the starting position, exhaling as you do so.
- Repeat this movement for the desired number of reps.
What Are The Benefits Of V Squats?
Some benefits of including V squats in a training routine include:
- A more natural movement: The outward tracking of the hips and knees in the V squat may feel easier on the joints and more comfortable to perform than a standard hack squat.
- Targeting of multiple lower body muscles: In addition to the quadriceps, V squats also recruit other muscles in the lower body to help improve overall leg strength.
- Variety in training: Changing up the exercises in a routine can help to prevent boredom and keep motivation high. V squats can be a good alternative to standard hack squats to mix things up.
What Are The Differences Between Hack Squats And V Squats?
The hack squat and the V squat may appear similar at a distance, but upon closer examination, it becomes clear that these two exercises have several differences in terms of their form and technique. Some of the ways in which the hack squat and V squat differ include:
Equipment Type And Angle Of Incline
Hack squats and V squats are both variations of the traditional squat exercise that are designed to strengthen the muscles of the legs, particularly the quadriceps. Hack squats are typically performed on an angled machine with a backrest and shoulder pads, and the weight moves in a straight line up and down the angled track. This exercise targets the quadriceps muscles and minimizes engagement of the lower back muscles.
V squats, on the other hand, are typically performed on a vertical machine that pivots and folds around a center point. This exercise involves a more parabolic motion and requires slightly more engagement of the core muscles in addition to the quadriceps.
When performing a V squat on a hack squat machine, the main difference in form is the stance. In a traditional hack squat, the feet are positioned slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, your toes should be pointed straight forward and your knees should be over your toes, while in a V squat, the feet are positioned much wider than the shoulders, creating an upside-down V shape with the legs. The feet and toes are also angled outwards. This wider and more angled stance helps to target the quadriceps muscles more effectively and also involves slightly more engagement of the core muscles.
The V squat involves adjusting the angle and rotation of the legs, which results in more movement at the hips compared to the hack squat. Many people find this exercise more comfortable due to the greater balance between upper and middle leg joints, with less knee flexion and more hip flexion.
Stress On Knees
One potential downside of hack squats is that they can put a lot of strain on the knees due to the reduced knee flexion and the reliance on the quadriceps muscles. At the bottom of the squat, the position of the body places a large amount of pressure on the knees, which may be a concern for those with knee problems or those who want to avoid excess strain on their knees. In contrast, V squats involve more hip flexion and place less pressure on the knee joints, making them a safer and more comfortable option for those with knee issues.
Hip mobility is important for maintaining good overall fitness and movement efficiency, and it is often compromised due to prolonged sitting. Exercises that target the hips, such as V squats, can help to improve hip mobility and strength. V squats involve a natural-feeling range of motion that allows the hips to hinge normally, while hack squats limit hip flexion and rely more on the knees.
As a result, V squats are better for increasing hip range of motion and strengthening the hip muscles through the full squatting movement. Improving hip strength and mobility can have positive benefits for overall movement, agility, and fitness.
One advantage of hack squats is that they isolate the quadriceps muscles and allow for targeted muscle development. However, these types of isolation exercises are less effective for overall fitness than compound exercises that engage multiple muscles. While hack squats may be useful for building large quadriceps, V squats provide more overall strength and benefits for other squatting and lunging exercises.
In terms of muscle engagement, hack squats are primarily designed to target the quadriceps, while V squats also involve the glutes and distribute weight more evenly throughout the leg muscles. Ultimately, the choice between hack squats and V squats may depend on the specific muscle development and fitness goals of the individual.
Strain On Lower Back
Hack squats are a good leg exercise for people who are concerned about their lower back because they isolate the quadriceps muscles and do not require much lower back engagement. This makes them a safe option for individuals who are recovering from lower back injuries or surgery.
While V squats also involve less lower back engagement than some other leg exercises, they are not as effective at providing a break for the spinal muscles as hack squats. Both exercises can be performed safely, but hack squats may be the better choice for those looking to give their lower back a rest while still training their legs.
Both V squats and hack squats have unique benefits and may be suitable for different individuals and fitness goals. Hack squats can help to build large quadriceps muscles and protect the lower back, but they may cause knee strain due to the limited range of motion.
V squats involve a more natural range of motion and may be less risky for the knees, but they may not be as effective at targeting the quadriceps as hack squats. Ultimately, the choice between these two exercises may depend on an individual’s current fitness goals and physical condition, and it may be helpful to try both exercises to see which one works best.
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.