The Barbell Hack Squat is an old-school strength exercise that's been around forever. Essentially a Deadlift that begins with the barbell behind your heels instead of in front of your toes, the Barbell Hack Squat is mainly known for its ability to craft impressively muscular quads.
However, it also can be a bit awkward. The concentric portion is particularly unwieldy and becomes more so the longer one's limbs are. Combine this with the uncomfortable "hack" portion as the bar clips the hamstrings on the way up, and you have a recipe for some ugly repetitions. For a solution-oriented Hack Squat that protects the integrity of a good squat pattern while still providing all the benefits to the Vastus Medialis (the muscle that gives the interior of well-developed quads that "tear drop" shape), try using a Swiss Ball.
Place the Swiss Ball between the lumbar and thoracic regions. This gives the trainee something to push into. I find this improves the movement in a couple different ways.
One, the Swiss Ball allows you to "lean" back into the movement in a way you otherwise could not, enhancing the ability to train the knees and patellar tendon to handle the stress of deceleration actions.
Two, the Swiss Ball allows the trainee to retain a more upright torso, reducing or eliminating the hamstring "hack" and the lumbar rounding that often occurs during the concentric portion of the repetition.
After the ball is in place, all one has to do is keep the scaps nice and packed as they pick up the bar and boom—A healthier, more enjoyable Hack Squat! To really torch the quads, ensure the feet are close enough to the wall for the knees to travel just beyond the toes during the eccentric portion of the repetition. You can also try slightly elevating the heels using 5-pound plates to see if that helps optimize your form and enhances the burn in the targeted muscles.
One more tip: start light! The Barbell Hack Squat is no walk in the park, so don't rush to pile on the weight at the sacrifice of good form.
Photo Credit: shironosov/iStock
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