Doing the Barbell Hack Squat

Strengthen Legs and Back with the Barbell Hack Squat

Barbell hack squat

The barbell hack squat is, simply, a squat with the bar held behind the legs instead of at the chest or hanging in front of the body. (See diagram.)

This exercise was more popular in early years before machines proliferated in gyms. Here's how to do it and some points to look for. I like it a lot.

How to Perform the Barbell Hack Squat

  • Select a barbell of appropriate weight for 8 to 12 repetitions for 3 sets. You should be working hard at the last repetition of each set.
  • Place the barbell behind the legs on the floor.
  • Squat down and grasp the barbell and raise it as you stand, behind the legs. This is a lot easier than it sounds if you've not done this exercise previously.
  • Proceed to do a set of 8 to 12 exercises. You don't have to rest the bar on the floor. Stop just short.
  • Rest for 30 to 90 seconds.
  • Ensure good form by keeping the back straight and not curved over, legs about shoulder width apart, toes pointing out just a little, and knees not buckling inward or outward during the lift.
  • This is a great lower-body exercise with benefits for the legs, butt, and lower back. It also makes a nice change if you have trouble with back or front high bar squats because of shoulder or wrist flexibility.

Add the barbell hack squat to your program for variety and results.

Muscles Targeted by the Barbell Hack Squat

The barbell hack squat is a compound push exercise. It engages many muscles, not only in the lower body and back but also the abs in either contracting or stabilizing the motion.

The primary target for this exercise are the quadriceps muscles at the front of the thighs. They will provide the lifting power. This squat and other squats are often used to build the quads.

The synergistic muscles for the squat are the gluteus maximus of the buttocks, the adductor magnus of the groin and the soleus of the calf.

 Stabilizing the lift are the back muscles - the erector spinae, the traps, and the levator scapulae. To balance the lift, the antagonists are the rectus abdominis and obliques of the abs.

More Exercises for the Quadriceps and Lower Body

  • How to Do the Squat: Steps to take for a perfect squat for the quads and buttocks. 
  • 9 Kinds of Squats: Do you never get enough squats? Use these variations to challenge your lower body.
  • Bodybuilding Movements to Beef Up Your Quadriceps: If your goal is to grow your quads, use these exercises.
  • Quad-Strengthening Exercises: If the quads have been weakened by injury or surgery, these exercises can be used in physical therapy to rebuild the quadriceps.

Find out more about weight training terminology and exercise prescription if you need background information before you try this exercise.