The hack squat is a perfect exercise to target your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
However, did you know that your foot stance can impact which muscles work dominantly during the exercise? This article will reveal the hack squat foot stances and how they affect your muscles.
But before I do that, let’s briefly explain a hack squat so you can better understand the movement.
What Is a Hack Squat?
A hack squat is a gym equipment (machine) designed for squatting at a different angle than free weights. By positioning the body at a 45-degree angle, the hack squat machine can help reduce the stress on the lower back and knees, benefiting people with back or knee pain or injuries.
It is also a great alternative to traditional squats or leg presses for people with difficulty performing those exercises correctly. Hack squat also allows for localized muscle fatigue without other muscles tiring first (like the lower back).
The angle of the hack squat machine can place more emphasis on the quadriceps muscles, which you can change with different foot placements that I show you below.
It consists of a back and headrest/support you lean onto and a foot platform you place your feet on, providing you safety and stability.
How To Do a Hack Squat!
- Load the machine with weight plates.
- Stand on the foot platform and lean back against the backrest.
- Grasps the handles on each side of the machine to maintain stability and balance.
- Extend your legs to unlock the safety clip.
- Keep your core braced and maintain a neutral spine position.
- Take a deep breath, start bending your knees, and lower your body into a squat position without letting your back push away from the backrest.
- Exhale and push through your heels to lift the weight back up to the starting position, and avoid overextending or locking your knees out!
Hack Squat Muscles Worked
As mentioned above, the hack squat targets the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. Each muscle has a vital role in performing the movement:
The quadriceps are one of the primary muscle groups worked during hack squats. It is responsible for generating the force needed to lift the weight, push yourself up, and control the weight on the way down.
What is the best hack squat foot placement for quads?
You can work your quads to a higher degree by maintaining a narrow, lower foot position.
The glutes are crucial in pushing you back to standing from a squat position (hip extension).
It is a very powerful muscle, producing high force to perform the movement and stabilize the pelvis. So having strong glutes can save you from many injuries, including knee, back, and ”pinging” hip pain.
The smaller glute muscles, like the glute medius and minimus, prevent the knee from dropping inwards (knee valgus).
What is the best hack squat foot placement for glutes?
A higher regular foot stance can work your glutes more!
It also helps stabilize the knee joint, which is crucial because it is under a lot of stress during squatting. Simply, it prevents any unwanted movement or stress on the joints.
Regarding your foot position, a wider, higher foot stance generally places more emphasis on the hamstrings.
The adductors are a group of muscles located on the inner thigh that play a stabilizing role during the hack squat exercise. It prevents the knees from dropping outwards (Varus Knees) and drives the body (hip extension) upward.
The degree to which the adductors are activated during the exercise can vary depending on your form and foot stance.
Like a sumo stance, a wider stance with the toes pointing outwards can emphasize the adductors more.
5 Different Foot Placements
When performing hack squats, you can adjust your feet width, height, or position based on your current or past injuries or to target specific muscles during your workout. Whichever the reason is of your choice, let’s take a closer look at the different foot stances, their pros and cons, and how they impact the muscles targeted during the exercise.
1. Regular Stance
Suppose you want to simultaneously work your quads and post-chain muscle like the glutes and the hamstring. In that case, the regular (most common) hack squat stance is the best choice.
With your toes pointed in, you work more of the outer thighs, while pointing your toes out works more the inner portion of the quads (the teardrop muscle).
Whether it feels better to turn your toes outwards depends on your anatomy (hip socket). So, if it helps you gain more depth and more efficient lifting technique, that’s what you should do!
- Pros: It is an excellent choice for beginners and those who want to challenge the weight they lift.
- Cons: If you want to focus on a particular muscle, it might be a drawback that it doesn’t highlight any specific muscle.
2. Narrow Stance
This stance loads the outer thighs and hip abductors (glute medius and minimus) more than the others. This means stronger hip stabilizers, handy while walking or running and completing everyday tasks.
Place your feet together (closer than shoulder-width apart) in the middle of the platform to perform the movement, with your toes pointing straight ahead.
- Pros: Less stress on your lower back, making it an excellent choice for people with lower back pain.
- Cons: It can put more strain on your knees.
3. Sumo Stance / Wide Stance
In this image, I have combined three different pictures, including those of a wide (1,2) and (3) sumo stance. These stances can recruit more adductors (inner thighs) and glutes as the feet are set wide (wider than shoulder width), hips open, and toes pointed out.
However, when it comes to your toes’ position, you can point them out more (sumo stance) while pushing the knees out (towards the toes) or keep them straighter while maintaining a broad stance.
The best choice ultimately depends on your preference and what feels most comfortable for you.
- Pros: It puts less stress on your knees, making it an excellent choice for people with knee pain. Due to the shorter range of movement, you can lift more weight.
- Cons: The range of movement can be a disadvantage to some too.
4. High Foot Stance
Putting your feet high on the platform shifts more load to the glutes and hamstrings due to more hip flexion at the bottom of the squat.
- Pros: Great stance to work on (athleticism) explosiveness for jumping sports. This position also allows more depth.
- Cons: As a result of more depth, there is more risk you will be rounding your spine. Practice the technique, maintain a strong, neutral spine, and avoid rounding.
5. Low Foot Stance
The low foot position puts most of the load on your quads, making it a ‘quad-dominant’ stance.
This position may be difficult or uncomfortable if you have poor ankle mobility. Your knees travel over your toes (more knee flexion), which requires a good amount of ankle movement.
- Pros: It is a great stance to build muscles in the front thighs.
- Cons: It loads the knee joint more, which can be difficult for those with knee issues.
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