If you want to get serious about bodybuilding, then there’s one thing you really shouldn’t forget: your legs. These limbs do more than merely transport your upper body around – they’re an important part of the package and need close attention too. In fact, working out those legs will help to build your overall strength and stamina and ensure that the work you put into your chest and arms is more effective in the long run.
That’s where the hack squat can come in so handy. While squats, leg curls and extensions are all pretty commonplace, hack squats offer a super-effective way to build muscle.
Make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into
We’ve come use to the word ‘hack’ a lot in recent years. It’s used by some people in place of ‘cheat’ or ‘shortcut’, but not in this context. Misunderstanding the name itself could be your first mistake. The hack squat is actually named after George Hackenschmidt, an early 20th-century strongman, wrestler and writer.
As Muscle & Brawn notes: “He advocated this exercise because of its ability to develop leg strength quickly while avoiding excessive hip development common with barbell squats.”
You can, if you’re lucky, get your hands on some great hack squat machines which help you to maintain your balance and form and avoid slipping into bad habits. They also allow you to alter the weights so that you can work up to some serious resistance.
Yet, not all of us is blessed with the budget to land on one of those. If there’s not one in your gym, it’s important to consider how it’s done (properly).
You need to:
• Place your heels on a block
• Keep your legs close together
• Hold either a barbell or dumbbell behind you
• Move downwards, slowly and steadily until your buttocks approach your heels
• Then return to an upright position, pushing up with your legs
• Breath out as you go up, and in as you squat down
Other issues that you might face when hack squatting
It’s fairly simple – if you stick to that (and couple it with more common leg exercises too), you’ll achieve the look you’re aiming for.
There are, however, a few other things to be aware of.
Ignore the myths: Don’t be tempted to inch your feet forward so that you can focus on those quads – this doesn’t work. That person you’ve heard talking about taking a wider stance to focus on their quads? They’re talking nonsense.
Keep the right form: Leaning forward too much is a problem with squatting in general and really needs to be avoided if you’re going to keep your back fit and healthy.
Build up: Some people are tempted to pile on the weights and push themselves as much as possible from day one. You’ll just burn out this way. Start low and build up as you go. Pulled muscles and injuries aren’t big or clever.
Motivation: Leg training is hard. Really hard. We all know that but that doesn’t mean you can give in. If you’re going to commit to a big routine, including hack squatting, then you need to stick at it. Work your way through the pain and you’ll get through the other side and see the results.