If you belong to a well-apportioned gym, you probably have more than just the squat rack to build up your legs with heavy weights. Along with the leg press, the the popular hack squat machine can be a surefire method to pile on the plates to grow your quads.
But lots of gyms don't have this type of specialised rig—so you can turn to this hack squat hack for a means to blow up your quads in a similar manner. All you need is a barbell and some plates.
The barbell hack squat is a highly underrated, underutilised exercise that makes a tremendous leg-building alternative to the traditional hack squat machine, according to Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. This variation allows you to focus squarely on the anterior section of your legs, given the positioning of the bar, while allowing you the added advantage of utilising a heavy load.
How to Do the Barbell Hack Squat
To perform a barbell hack squat, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, heels elevated on a pair of plates, with the loaded barbell behind you on the ground. Squat down to grip the bar with your hands at about shoulder-width apart, then drive back up. From there, you're ready for reps. Keep your neck in neutral, with your gaze focused down and just ahead of you. Squat down and control the weight down to the floor on each rep, then stand straight up and squeeze your quads. Your knees will track over your toes, and that's okay; this will help to put the onus onto your quads.
What makes this barbell move so much more effective than others is load placement. Unlike other front-loaded, leg-dominant exercises—think goblet squats—the weight positioning forces you to stabilise your entire frame. Since the barbell hack squat places the load behind you, you're not forced to compensate in the same way, allowing you to use a heavier load while keeping the focus on your quads.
Because the barbell hack squat is a challenging move, be sure to perform these in a slower, controlled manner, aiming to reset and refocus between reps. Keep your core tight and shoulder blades squeezed as you aim to stay tall for each rep.
Aim for three sets of six eight reps of this exercise. The move is pretty taxing, and it will push your entire body, but as Samuel says, your quads are gonna love the burn.
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