Training

Do Both Barbell Squats And Hack Squats In The Same Workout?

February 15th 2020

Is it wise to do squats and hack squats on the same day if you want to train for strength?

When you’re a beginner starting to work on your form, you’re likely open to all of the different moves. 

Anytime you hear the name of another one thrown around while you’re at the gym, your head might flip around, wanting to see exactly what other lifters are doing—and to see whether you should add the same move to your own routine. 

You might have seen what a barbell squat looks like.

But have you seen what a hack squat is?

It is not as common but it is still widely used everywhere.

Today, let’s discuss what a barbell hack squat is, whether it’s a good idea for beginners to include both these squats in their general strength programs, and if there are any viable substitutes for the move should you wish to modify your own routine. 

What Is a Barbell Hack Squat? 

Dr. Joel Seedman of Advanced Human Performance notes that the Barbell Hack Squat is an ancient squat variation that was used by the previous generations of bodybuilders, Strongman and anyone looking to gain strength.

However, he says that it can also be an awkward move, requiring finesse and control—and therefore, while he doesn’t recommend it for beginners, he says that generally speaking, he guides his beginning students to focus on other moves first before progressing to the barbell hack squat. 

To help you do them properly, however, he does also include an easy set of instructions: 

  1. First, Dr. Seedman says on his website, you should start by setting your feet slightly narrower apart than you would for your average squat—perhaps 10-12 inches.
  2. With a flat back, reach down and grab the barbell. Your hands should be slightly further apart than your shoulders.
  3. Lift the bar. Since it is behind you and under your rear end, only lift until it touches your thighs. Pause.
  4. Lower the bar—but don’t set it down, yet. This is an isometric exercise aimed at sustaining tiny movements for a long time. Pause. Then, lift the bar again. Repeat for as many reps as is recommended by your program. 

For a great overview of exactly how to do a barbell hack squat, it may be helpful to actually see a pro do one! 

Check out this video for step-by-step, detailed instructions on how to do one safely and effectively.

 

Are Barbell Hack Squats Good for Beginners? 

Because barbell hack squats are a little more niche, most beginner general strength programs do not include the barbell hack squat—focusing more on the squat and deadlift, as they’re moves that effectively target multiple muscle groups. 

 

While the barbell hack squat is a good exercise, it’s generally recommended that you stick with your program—don’t make modifications to a trainer-recommended program just because you want to add a specific move in! 

The experts at Bodybuilding.com generally recommend this move for more advanced bodybuilders or for those looking to do barbell hack squats for very specific reasons (such as in the aftermath of an injury for physical therapy or as an accessory move for other motions). 

In that case, work with your trainer to make sure that you’re completing this move in a safe and effective way. 

 

What are Some Pros and Cons of the Barbell Hack Squat?

The Barbell Hack Squat can be considered a relatively divisive move, as some think it’s unnecessary and others think it is a fantastic tool for muscle development. 

Here, we’ll list out the most commonly accepted pros and cons of the barbell hack squat. 

Benefits of the Barbell Hack Squat: 

  • The pros at Muscle and Strength say that the first main benefit of the barbell hack squat is simply that it is a method for placing a huge amount of muscle-building tension in the hamstrings, quads, and glutes. 
  • It’s efficient, in that by studying this move, you can get better at both the deadlift motion and the squat motion in the same motion.
  • It works properly with your biomechanics so that your hips are treated like the hinge they are throughout the squatting motion.
  • The motion can help train you to keep your weight safely in your hips and heels, rather than lurching forward to the tips of your toes. 
  • Because of the full-body nature of the motion, the barbell hack squat does manage to target the upper muscles in your back (such as your traps) along with the lower body muscles.
  • Finally, the barbell hack squat can provide a slightly more easy-on-the-joints alternative to the classic squat and deadlift because of the relatively lighter load. 

Cons of the Barbell Hack Squat: 

  • There’s no getting around it: as an isometric exercise, it is a slightly less attractive and dramatic exercise than, perhaps, other exercises might be. 
  • Another con of the barbell hack squat as being possibly not that applicable for athletes or bodybuilders who are specifically doing the exercise to improve in more fluid areas because the motion of the barbell hack squat does require you to work at an extremely fixed angle. 
  • Because this is usually an exercise that features your being inside of a machine, you aren’t using key muscles which help you stabilize yourself—which doesn’t help you outside of the machine.
  • Because of the angle at which your knees are forced in this exercise, your knee joints are at a higher likelihood of getting damaged.
  • Finally, in regular barbell squats, your core has to work to compensate for the large load you’re carrying. This isn’t a part of a barbell hack squat, so that’s one entire muscle group that you’re no longer working. 

Can the Barbell Hack Squat be a Substitute for the Barbell Back Squat? 

There’s definitely more than one letter separating the barbell hack squat from the barbell back squat! 

As the coaches at CoachMag point out, they are very similar exercises.

However, there’s one very big, very poignant difference: the placement of the barbell.

In the barbell hack squat, the barbell will be beneath you, and you will be raising it between the floor and the back of your thighs as you squat. 

In the barbell back squat, your barbell will be hoisted above your torso and lay on the ‘shelf’ of your upper back muscles. 

You’ll then squat normally — which will carry with it all of the normal benefits accompanying back squats, including naturally protected knees and an implemented core — while holding the load with your upper back and arm muscles. 

Can the barbell hack squat be substituted for the barbell back squat? 

As they’re similar, this is a great question. However, the answer will mostly depend on what you’re specifically looking for. 

If you want to target your leg muscles in a very specific way, then, go for it—however, consider that if you’re a beginner, you’ll have more muscle development and strength while doing the back squat simply because it’s more taxing than the hack squat. 

If you’re a beginning bodybuilder looking to expand your repertoire of weightlifting moves, you might be interested in the barbell hack squat. 

It’s definitely a niche move that can target your leg muscles in a very intense, isometric way! 

However, before you incorporate it into your routine, definitely consider your goals and check with your trainer to make sure that it’s safe for you to do. 

Finally, should you do both squats and hack squats on the same day?

For beginners on a structured strength training program, you will most likely focus on doing only the barbell back squat. 

It is better to be more efficient and perform a general compound movement that has more carryover to general strength and conditioning. 

If you are making your own program, bodybuilding or looking for another lower body accessory, the hack squat is a good choice.

Conclusion

By the end of the article, you should have an idea of whether or not you should add hack squats into your routine.

Regular squats should always be a high priority.

Strength and conditioning coaches all realize how much explosiveness, power, strength, and general fitness functionality the barbell back squat can bring into an athlete’s life.

The hack squat, at best, can be used as an accessory, specific sport movement, or a recovery tool to not tax the body too much.

This is not an excuse to train your accessories light.

However, be mindful that you have a limited amount of energy during your workout and a large majority of it should be funneled into your main movements like the squat and deadlift.

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