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Do Hack Squats Work Hamstrings? (Yes, If You Do THIS!)

If you’re wondering whether hack squats work your hamstrings, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we look at whether hack squats are good for hamstrings as well the optimal foot placement to focus the exercise on your hamstrings.

We also look at some alternatives you can try to put even more emphasis on your hamstrings.

Do Hack Squats Work Hamstrings?

Hack squats work your whole lower body. In other words, hack squats work your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

While hack squats don’t isolate and work your hamstrings independently, they’re still a great lower body exercise that can build size and strength in your hamstrings, quads, and glutes.

As your upper body is supported by the back of the hack squat machine, your core muscles do less work resulting in more work being done by your leg muscles.

Why Hack Squats Are Good For Hamstrings

During a hack squat, the weight is being lifted entirely by your lower body muscles. 

When you’re doing other squat variations such as back squats or front squats, other big muscle groups come into play like your lower back and core. 

As your body is supported during hack squats, the load can only be moved using the muscles of your legs (including your hamstrings) so more size and strength are developed.

Usually, engaging your core muscles is a positive thing. But it can sometimes take some of the load away from the muscles you’re trying to target.

Hack squats keep the focus on your lower body so they’re a great exercise to add mass, strength, and endurance to your legs.

Hack Squat Foot Placement For Hamstrings

Foot placement can have a big impact when it comes to the muscles targeted during hack squats.

To focus on your hamstrings during hack squats, you should aim to have your feet quite high and near the top of the platform.

Having your feet lower down the platform tends to target your quads, so a higher foot position is preferred for hamstring development.

Your glutes activate more if you have a wider stance on the platform, so a narrower, high foot position will be most effective at engaging your hamstrings.

Are Reverse Hack Squats Good For Hamstrings?

During reverse hack squats, the main muscles being used are the hamstrings and glutes.

Your quads and calves will also activate but only as secondary muscles, so more emphasis is placed on your hamstrings. 

One thing to keep in mind that differs from doing standard hack squats is that when doing reverse hack squats, only your shoulders and feet are in direct contact with the machine. 

This means your core muscles will engage much more during a reverse hack squat.

When doing standard hack squats, your upper body is supported by the back of the machine. But this is not the case when doing the reverse variation of the exercise.

Are Barbell Hack Squats Good For Hamstrings?

The original version of the hack squat was actually performed using a barbell. 

As gyms looked for ways to help people exercise safer and more conveniently, machine versions of exercises like the hack squat became more commonplace.

A simple way of thinking about barbell hack squats is to consider them to be deadlifts done with the bar behind you, instead of in front of you. 

Barbell hack squats are more challenging than the machine version, so you’ll need to take care in choosing the appropriate weight and using the correct technique. 

The main muscles used during barbell hack squats are the quads. 

Your hamstrings do activate during the movement, but they mainly act as stabilizer muscles as opposed to being used to lift the bar.

As with reverse hack squats, your core muscles come into play too. Since your body will have no machine to keep you in the correct position. 

If you want to focus on building your hamstrings – reverse machine hack squats will likely be your best option.


In summary:

  • While hack squats mainly focus on your quads, they also work your hamstrings to some extent.
  • Placing your feet higher up on the hack squat machine can help focus the exercise on your hamstrings.
  • Reverse hack squats are a more effective alternative for targeting your hamstrings.

That’s all for this article, but can hack squats replace squats?

Hope this helped!


Hack Squats Muscles Worked