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Hack Squats vs Reverse Hack Squats (Key Differences!)

If you’re looking for a hack squats vs reverse hack squats comparison guide, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we compare hack squats and reverse hack squats in terms of which leg muscles they target most, difficulty, and how to do each one safely.

woman doing a hack squat in a gym

What’s The Difference Between Hack Squats And Reverse Hack Squats?

The most obvious difference between the two exercises is the way you’re facing while using the hack squat machine.

During regular hack squats, you’ll be facing out with your back supported by the back pad on the machine.

When doing reverse hack squats though, you’ll be facing the back of the machine with the backside of your body pointing away from the back pad.

It’s not just in appearance that these exercises are different though.

Hack squats predominantly rely on knee flexion to make the movement happen whereas reverse hack squats are more about hip flexion.

Another key difference is that your back is fully supported during hack squats but isn’t supported at all during reverse hack squats.

If you have a weak back as a result of an injury, this can be an important point to keep in mind when deciding which one is best for you.

Hack Squats vs Reverse Hack Squats: For Quads

Hack squats are a quad-dominant exercise.

As the main movement involved is knee flexion, your quads do a lot of work during the exercise.

Your upper body is supported throughout hack squats by the pad on the back of the machine.

This helps prevent other muscles (like your core) from needing to activate so a lot of focus is placed on your quads.

Your quads will be involved in reverse hack squats but traditional hack squats will be better for them.

Hack Squats vs Reverse Hack Squats: For Hamstrings

Although your hamstrings come into play during both exercises, they’ll play a much bigger role in reverse hack squats.

As your back isn’t supported during the exercise, your hips move a lot more (flex and extend) which results in greater activation of the muscles on the backside of your body.

(Including your hamstrings.)

Hack squats primarily focus on your quads whereas reverse hack squats bring in a lot more lower body muscles.

Hack Squats vs Reverse Hack Squats: For Glutes

Reverse hack squats are better for glutes compared to hack squats.

If you think about it in terms of the look of each movement, reverse hack squats more closely resemble a traditional back squat whereas hack squats look more like the movement of front squats.

This comparison is a good way of thinking about which muscles are being worked in each exercise.

Front squats are quad dominant (just like hack squats) and traditional back squats bring more muscles into play (just like reverse hack squats).

With this in mind, it makes sense that reverse hack squats are better for your glutes as they cause activation in pretty much all your lower body muscles with a big focus on the backside of your body.

(Which includes your glutes.)

Which Exercise Is More Difficult?

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

This reduces the number of muscles that need to activate during the movement, as your body’s supported in a stable and balanced position.

However, reverse hack squats remove this support, as shown below.

As your upper body isn’t supported, more muscles come into play making your body work harder.

Another way to look at it is to think about the muscles being targeted by each movement.

Hack squats primarily target your quads.

Other muscles do play a part in the exercise but your quads will be the ones doing most of the work.

However, during reverse hack squats, your hamstrings, glutes, calves, and quads all have to work as well as your core muscles and your back too.

As more muscles are required to assist in the movement, reverse hack squats are a more difficult exercise than hack squats.

Safety Considerations

Although machine-based exercises like hack squats and reverse hack squats are normally a bit safer to perform than their free-weight alternatives, you still need to take care when doing them to ensure you stay safe and injury-free.

The first thing to keep in mind is to be sensible and realistic in the amount of weight you’re trying to lift.

You may think that you can lift heavier as the machine will help you out, but this isn’t the case.

If you try and lift too much weight too soon in either of these exercises, you could very easily pick up an injury.

Probably one of the most common reasons why people get injured in the gym is down to them lifting more weight than they can safely manage.

If you get the weight right, both hack squats and reverse hack squats can be very safe exercises.

Another safety consideration to keep in mind is to make sure your technique is correct.

While machine-based exercises are usually easier to get right compared to free-weight exercises, you still need to make sure you’re moving in the correct and safe way.

Even small errors in your technique for either exercise can put excessive stress on your working muscles and joints.

This should be avoided if you want to minimize your injury risk.

Hack Squats vs Reverse Hack Squats: Which Is Best?

Both hack squats and reverse hack squats are very effective leg-building exercises.

Deciding which one is best for you will likely come down to your fitness goals and your personal preferences.

If you want to put a lot of focus on your quads and add a slightly easier exercise to your workout, then hack squats might be better.

However, if you want a machine-based exercise that more closely resembles a back squat, brings more muscles into play, and offers less support for your upper body, reverse hack squats will likely be better suited to you.

That’s all for this article, but why are hack squats so hard? Or why does the hack squat cause lower back pain?

Hope this helped!


Hack Squats Muscles Worked

Reverse Hack Squats Muscles Worked