Hack Squat vs Barbell Squat: What squats version should you do?
Many new weightlifters have an interest in getting stronger. To get stronger, you always have to do heavy squats.
But can you replace it?
The hack squat is a worthy opponent.
But you have to understand the differences between the barbell and a hack squat to know which will give you the maximum gains.
This article will help you make the distinction between these two movements in a clear and concise manner so that you can get stronger.
Should you do both?
Maybe, if you have time.
So what If you have to do any one exercise?
Then by all means always do the barrel squat. To me, a full-body, free-weight compound workout is always better than a machine-based workout.
If you are skinny, then you should pick the compound workout as well.
And if you need more muscle definition, then you should go for isolation workouts.[Trap or conventional deadlift?]
What is the Barbell Squat?
The back squat is a compound lift that builds several key muscles in the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
It is an effective way to develop the strength, definition and size of the quads. The squatting motion also works the hips flexors which can help improve athletic performance.
In every workout routine, you will see BB squat as a staple workout in it.
You can use BB squats for strength and increase muscle hypertrophy as well.
What is the Hack Squat?
The hack squat is a lower body exercise that works the lower body muscles like the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
The benefits of the hack squat include higher maximal weight loads and conventional squat carry-over.
Hack squatting is a low-risk conditioning tool that can be used to improve performance in other activities.
Why is this low risk?
With the hack squat machine, you do not need to adjust the barbell to balance.
The load on your lower back is also lower if compared with barbell squats.
However, I feel that installing a hack squat machine in a home gym can be costly.
Hack Squat Advantages
The hack squat is a machine-based movement that is similar to the back-squat, but with several differences. The hack squat is an excellent lower body exercise that offers unique advantages.
1) One advantage of the hack squat over the barbell squat is that it allows targeting the quads better. And since it focuses on the quads more, it will strengthen them a lot.
2) Additionally, the hack squat puts less stress on the spine and knees, making it a safer option for some people.
3) The hack squat is that it can be done with heavier weights safer.
The hack squat is easy to stack up weights in a safe way. Heavyweights on hack squats will not put much pressure on your spine as well.
[Bulgrian split squat vs BB squat]
4) With hack squats, you can get away with bad mobility. For example, doing front squats requires good wrist mobility, but with hack squats, you do not need anything like that.
Hack squats take away the balancing, and mobilizing issues.
4) hack squats are good for beginners if they want to load up the weights.
They can get away with mobility, stabilizing the weights with hack squats.
Hack squats will also teach beginners how to brace their core and create a mind muscles connection with their quadriceps.
5) The hack squat is great for beginners as it requires very minimal coaching cues or technique. It allows you to lift heavier than a barbell or dumbbells due to the added stability of the machine, and it allows you to focus on building strength in your lower body.
Hack squats also help improve your overall squat form by providing more stability than barbell squats while still providing similar benefits.
Hack Squat Disadvantages
1) Hack squats do not engage the core much. A 2019 research studied the effect of the same load on both hack squats and barbell back squats. And back squats always activated the core muscles more.
2) Hack squat machines by nature provide a path of movement, a stable platform to lift the weight. Thus hack squats do not train your stabilizer muscles. Barbell squats, be it front or back will always train your stabilizer muscles. And you will see good results in your daily life and sports because of that.
Advantages of Barbell Squat
The barbell squat is more advantageous when it comes to muscle activation and strength. This is due to the weight placement being different from the hack squat, which causes the two exercises to have different advantages and drawbacks.
1) Barbell sqauts are compound in nature thus they target many more muscles than just the quads. They also train your hamstrings, hip flexors, calves, abs, hip flexors etc.
2) They provide the most value for time spend in gym. A barbell squat trains your whole body thus if you have short time then this the one exercise that you should do. Squat is known as the king of exercise, after all.
3) Squat builds tremendous lower and mid body strength. Your legs and whole core muscles will be very strong and stable if you do squats. No wonder athletic trainer put emphasis on squats so much. From planter flexors, hip extensors to quad and glutes, squat trains them all.
In a routine like GZCL, the squat is programmed for strength with 5 sets of 5 (under 8 reps). And squat is also programmed for hypertrophy with 3 or more sets of 10 reps etc.
You build strength and endurance, both for a lot of muscles at once.
4) Squat improves sprint performance, jumping performance and almost any athletic ability that you can muster up.
This study from journal of strength and conditioning tells us that sprinters that do heavy squats were faster in their 40-meter sprints.
This 2010 study shows that heavy back squats can improve vertical jumps. Another 2016 study also confirms that squats can improve your jumps both vertically and horizontally.
5) Squat movement is something that we need to do every day.
Getting better of it means getting better at life. Squat also improves coordination and general sports performance.
6) Barbell squats also train your stabilizer muscles. This will help you with activating and stabilizing your core and other muscles. This will help you with your daily life and in sports.
Disadvantages of Squat
1) You need high mobility to do full back or front squats properly. Squats can also aggravate bad knee conditions.
However, it is unlikely that squats done in proper form will hurt your knees.
You will need a shoulder, ankle, and wrist mobility for squats.
2) Without attention to proper form you might hurt your back, knee etc. Although many would consider deep squats back.
But we Indians have been doing it for thousands of years.
This study also confirms that deep squats done with good form will protect you from injuries and will strengthen your lower body. Deep squats will not hurt your knees.
3) Squat done with heavy weights, without proper form might give you hip impingement, and knee pain and put a lot of pressure on the spine. You might want to use a powerlifting belt for this.
How to do a Hack Squat?
How to do a Barbell Squat?
What is the difference and similarities between a hack squat and a barbell squat?
Hack Squat vs Barbell Squat: Speed
The speed of a hack squat and a barbell squat are similar because both exercises require you to lift a heavy weight from the ground to above your head. In both cases, it is important to maintain proper form and control the movement throughout.
However, with barbell squat you can do squat jumps, descend and ascend faster. Which with a hack squat machine will be harder to do.
This BB squat is better for generating explosive power as well.
Hack Squat vs Barbell Squat: Stance
Both the hack squat and the traditional barbell squat focus on targeting the quadriceps muscles. BB squat may seem to be more flexible when it comes to foot placement.
But both hack and BB squat have similar foot placement, check the comparison image below!
However, the barbell squat requires more work from the upper body, hips and core compared to a hack squat.
The hack squat does not require you to maintain balance like the barbell squat does, so you can use a narrower stance which allows for more force transmission in a straight line.
Additionally, due to its simpler technique compared with the barbell squat, it may be easier for some people to master quickly.
Hack Squat vs Barbell Squat: Range of motion
The range of motion for both the hack squat and barbell squat is different.
In both exercises, you lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the ground and then return back up to a standing position.
But with squats, you can do ass-to-grass versions, which you can not do with a hack squat.
When it comes to the range of motion—squatting is better and tougher to do.
Also, both exercises require you to maintain an upright posture with your back straight and chest out while performing them.
But with the hack squat machine, the machine does this work for you, so it is quite easier to load the hack squat than BB squat.
Hack Squat vs Barbell Squat: Frequency
The hack squat should be incorporated into a routine if you want to increase strength, size, and definition in your quads.
The back squat should be included if you’re looking for overall lower-body fitness or if you’re following a program that includes essential lifts for fitness, strength, and muscle development.
But honestly, you do not need to do both.
I would pick squat because it targets the entire lower body, than just the quads.
Hack Squat vs Barbell Squat: Muscles
The hack squat primarily targets the quadriceps, which is the group of four muscles that make up the front of the thigh.
The back squat is a compound lift that works several muscles in the lower body, core, and back.
It involves lifting a heavier weight from a lower position than in a barbell hack squat so it requires more strength and endurance to perform correctly.
Additionally, it targets other major muscles in your lower body such as the hamstrings (back of thigh), glutes and hip flexors which are not targeted as much by a barbell hack squat.
Back squat also activates more trunk muscles than hack squats.
Hack Squat vs Barbell Squat: Weight Capacity
Barbell hack squats and back squats have different weight capacities.
With hack squat, you can load heavy weights easily since your back is rested, and you are focusing on the quads only.
However, experienced lifters can handle heavier loads with barbell squats than with barbell hack squats due to their increased muscle activation and balance requirements.
Hack Squat vs Barbell Squat: Form
The main difference between these two exercises is that while the hack squat can be stabilized by a machine, traditional barbell squats don’t.
Additionally, due to the lack of machine assistance in Barbell Squats, it can be difficult to lift as much weight as in Hack Squats.
Hack Squat vs Barbell Squat: Disadvantages
The biggest disadvantage of back squats is their higher risk of lower back strain due to balancing a weighted bar on your shoulders without any additional support or stability from other areas such as your core or legs.
Hack squats are safer for anyone with lower back injuries since they involve no lower back engagement at all and focus solely on leg exercises.
BB squat is at disadvantage here.
Hack Squat vs Barbell Squat: Who is it for?
Both the hack squat is an isolation movement and the barbell squat are compound lifts that work several muscles in the lower body, core, and back.
The hack squat is designed to target the quadriceps muscle, while the back squat works several large muscles at once.
The barbell squat is one of the staple exercises that is included in all workout routines.
Experienced weightlifters should prioritize back squats over hack squats since they activate more muscles and provide a balanced workout, leading to exceptional lower-body fitness.
Hack squats are suited for beginners or for those who want to focus on quad development more.
I do not think as a home gym user who is not competing or doing any pro-level work, then you should only do back squats.
Hack squat machines are costly as well, you might be tempted to do barbell back squats, but rather you should get a power rack and do barbell back or front squats.
What are the differences between free weights and machines?
The hack squat is a machine-based exercise that targets your leg muscles, specifically your quads.
Machine-based exercises are not as effective as free weights for building your abs and lower back.
The two exercises are equally good for building your leg muscles and increasing your lower body strength.
However, the hack squat machine is beneficial for improving muscle coordination and stability. The free squat is better for practising strength in real-world settings.
Which is better for building muscle, hack squats or barbell squats?
Between hack squats and barbell squats, hack squats are good for targeting specific muscle groups, but not great for muscle building.
They are good for bodybuilding, though.
A front squat or a back squat is more suitable for improving muscle ass and athletic performance.