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Can Hack Squats Replace Squats? (Pros, Cons + More!)

As a personal trainer, I’m often asked whether hack squats can replace squats.

So, in this article, we compare hack squats and back squats in terms of the muscles worked, benefits, and more, to see whether you can replace squats with hack squats.

Woman doing a hack squat in the gym

Can Hack Squats Replace Back Squats?

The answer to this is not quite as simple as yes or no.

If you’re trying to build bigger and stronger legs, then hack squats could be a suitable replacement for back squats in your training program.

However, if you’re looking for a replacement that activates exactly the same muscles as back squats, then hack squats might not be the best choice.

Ultimately, deciding whether hack squats can replace back squats will come down to what you’re trying to achieve in your training.

While this might not be the conclusive answer you were hoping for, it’s probably the most honest and accurate one you will find.

Do Hack Squats Work The Same Muscles As Back Squats?


Both back squats and hack squats are decent for hamstrings.

While hamstrings are not the primary muscles being worked in either exercise, they certainly come into play in both.


Your quads are the primary muscles being worked during hack squats.

This is why hack squats are great if you want to build muscular thighs.

During back squats, your quads are still activating and working but more emphasis tends to be placed on the backside of your body.

This means that quads are worked less in back squats than they are in hack squats.


Hack squats and back squats are seen as big muscle exercises.

They tend to be the focus of people trying to build up strength and size in the upper leg muscles.

That doesn’t mean your lower leg muscles don’t have to put in some work too.

Both hack squats and back squats require some level of activation from your calves.

While calves may not be doing a huge amount of work during these exercises, they certainly aren’t able to rest.


woman with big glutes

Back squats put an extremely high amount of stress on your glutes.

As hack squats move the focus from the backside of your body to the front, your glutes aren’t required as much during the movement.

Anyone looking to develop their glutes will probably spend a lot of time doing back squats.


During hack squats, your upper body is supported by the pad on the back of the machine.

This eliminates a lot of the work that your core muscles would do if you weren’t being held in a stable position.

As no part of your body is supported during back squats, your core muscles have to do a lot of work to keep you upright and stable throughout the movement.

You can imagine how much of a challenge this is considering you’re moving up and down with a heavy weight trying to pull you backwards (or forwards) if you lose your position.

Upper Back

When it comes to anything other than working your lower body muscles, hack squats can struggle a little bit.

The majority of the work done in hack squats comes from your lower body so a lot less stress is placed on your back muscles.

During back squats, your upper back will engage more than you might think.

A lot of this comes from having to support the weighted bar on the top of your back, as well as trying to maintain an upright position throughout the exercise.

Lower Back

Back squats can put a lot of stress on your lower back.

If you have a weak or injured lower back, then hack squats will likely be a better alternative to back squats as much less stress is placed on it.


Neither hack squats nor back squats directly target your shoulders.

However, your shoulders will likely have to activate a good amount during back squats in order to keep the bar in place and stable.

Benefits of Replacing Back Squats With Hack Squats

You’re Less Likely To Get Injured

As hack squats are performed on a stationary machine, it drastically reduces the risk of getting injured. 

Your upper body remains supported throughout the hack squat movement which removes a lot of stress from your lower back, upper back, and core muscles.

As these can be common places for injury to occur, it’s a very positive aspect of hack squats that they remain supported during the exercise.

Hack squats also remove the requirement for holding a heavy weight on your body with no support (as you need to do in back squats).

Holding a weight-loaded bar is an awkward thing for your body to do so any exercise that removes this will significantly reduce your risk of injury.

Hack squats can be seen as a safer alternative to back squats.

You’re More Encouraged To Use A Correct Technique

Any exercise performed on a fixed machine is usually much better when it comes to enforcing the correct technique. 

Machines, such as the hack squat machine, are designed to be moved in a specific way.

If you’re using the incorrect technique, the machine will usually not move or be much harder to move.

Technique plays such a huge role in your training, so anything that can help you perform exercises correctly is a very positive thing.

Benefits of Back Squats over Hack Squats

More Muscle Groups Are Targeted

Man doing a squat in a gym

Back squats require a lot more muscles to activate to perform the movement correctly.

If you want to work more muscles with one exercise, back squats will be a better choice than hack squats.

While hack squats do a great job of working pretty much all of your lower body muscles, your upper body is taken out of the equation during the movement.

Back squats bring your upper body muscles and your lower body muscles into the movement meaning a lot more muscles are worked.

You Can Increase The Weight More

Back squats allow you to increase the weight you are lifting more than hack squats do. This is for a couple of reasons.

The first is that more muscles are working during back squats so you have greater muscle power working to move the weight.

The second reason is that, usually, the hack squat machine will have a weight limit of the amount you can load onto it.

While this is probably going to be a substantial amount of weight, it can limit your progress as your strength increases.


In summary:

  • Hack squats can replace squats if you’re wanting to develop your quads.
  • Back squats are superior when it comes to glutes and hamstring development.
  • Hack squats are generally a safer alternative to back squats.

Hope this helped!


Hack Squats Muscles Worked