From the Archives : The Hack Squat

Wonderful exercise.

Walter Donald - image via Iron BarbellI'm travelling for a couple of weeks (back around March 15). In the meantime, here are a few hidden gems from the archives.


The Hack Squat

This is the third in a series of Timeless Exercises; a collaboration with Run to Win's Blaine Moore. The Hack Squat.

The Hack Squat is an exercise that seems to be commonly associated with a machine; however the barbell version is indeed a thing of beauty. If they aren't forming part of your current routine, perhaps it's time to give them a shot.


George Hackenschmidt - image via Sandow PlusThe exercise is usually thought to be named for its creator - or at least the first to openly harness its powers - wrestler George 'The Russian Lion' Hackenschmidt; or 'Hack'. As a wrestler he was seemingly unstoppable; competing in over 3,000 fights from 1889 - 1908 and winning all of them [1]. Yes, he was that good.

George Karl Julius Hackenschmidt (he was of Swedish descent, if you're wondering why he doesn't have a Russian name) was famous for many strength feats (including some that remained unequalled for an astonishing 50 years). The Hack Squat is at the centre of some of these (including a staggering 550 reps with 110lb).

A word on the name

The Way to Live - image via Super Strength BooksAlthough it is seemingly self-evident that the name 'Hack Squat' comes from the short version of his own name, Hackenschmidt claimed in The Way to Live that the name actually came from the word hacke, meaning 'heel'. Either way, the name 'Hack' is entirely appropriate.


Nate Dogg performing the Hack Squat - image via T-NationLoad up a bar and place it on the floor. Stand just in front of it, with feet roughly shoulder-width apart, and grasp it with a double overhand grip. Stand up.

The bar itself will mainly move vertically (there's very little horizontal motion). As with a deadlift, think of your hands simply as hooks, keep your back straight and move upward until you're standing upright.

Muscles involved

Vastus MedialisAlthough this is primarily a quadriceps exercise (especially for the Vastus Medialis), a number of other muscles come into play. These include [2]:


* Gluteus Maximus
* Adductor Magnus
* Soleus

Dynamic Stabilizers

* Hamstrings
* Gastrocnemius


* Erector Spinae
* Trapezius, Middle
* Levator Scapulae
* Trapezius, Upper

Antagonist Stabilizers

* Rectus Abdominis
* Obliques

Things to consider

Hack Squat with heels elevated - image via T-NationAs with other Squat varieties, there is a greater emphasis on the glutes when below parallel. Range of Motion is as important here as with any other exercise (with the usual exceptions, of course).

If you are unable to perform the full-range lift, simply set the pins of a power rack to the lowest position you can manage and perform them from there.

Keep the feet flat on the floor. If your legs are too tight to allow this, stretching is a better option that elevating the heels (standing on plates, for example). That said, elevate the heels if you find it's still necessary to perform the exercise.

During the upward portion of the exercise, push with your heels rather than your toes. This will help minimise the stress on your knees [3].


The Barbell Hack Squat's a great exercise - simple, inexpensive and quick to perform. If it isn't already part of your current routine, give it a run.


1. George Hackenschmidt: The Russian Lion.
By David Gentle
Natural Strength
(part 1, part 2)

2. Barbell Hack Squat

3. Hack Squat
ABC Bodybuilding

Images and video

Nate Dogg Hack Squatting 140kg

132kg Hack Squat (thick bar) [929kb .flv download]

Singapore Sports Council (exercise demonstration)

Fitrex (exercise demonstration)

You Might Also Like...

NB : For a complete list of everything we use and recommend, swing by the reviews area. And of course the Straight to the Bar Store. It's all in there.

To learn how to put it to work, swing by the Guides area.

Scott Andrew Bird

Scott Andrew Bird is a writer, photographer and a guy who just loves this stuff. He's been at home in front of a computer for more years than he cares to remember (OK, 35) and is now making amends for years of many mistakes noted in the De-constructing Computer Guy articles (part 2) on T-Nation.

Find out what he's up to via Twitter, Google+, Facebook; and of course his online home. Enjoy.

Like this? Check out :

The Hack Squat.

Wonderful exercise.

Unusual Goals Require Unusual Measures.

How do you train for something like that?

Getting a Few Zs.After doing a few Zercher squats the other day I decided to do them again as a max exercise, starting with the bar a little lower this time - about knee height. This also gave me an opportunity to test out a few different ways of holding the bar after seeing a little variation recently.
The First Year.It's been just over a year since I first began to share my bedroom with weight plates. Over that time the act of lifting weights has gradually moved towards the status of 'healthy obsession' (although there are some who would dispute the 'healthy' part of that phrase), and shows no signs of becoming anything less.
New Routine.

Down to 3 sessions per week.

The Zercher Squat.

Superb exercise.

Of course, if you enjoyed these, I'd highly recommend grabbing the Strength & Fitness Newsletter. Delivered weekly, and absolutely free.

(there's also a Daily Update, if you're looking for an even larger dose of training-related goodness.)

NB : If you'd like to write a guest post for Straight to the Bar, or if you'd like to join the team of Moderators here (I love hearing about everyone's training approaches) - get in touch. And if you've got a fitness competition or seminar coming up, add it to the calendar.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Over to you. Leave a comment below, or send us a tweet :

blog comments powered by Disqus
Straight to the Bar Strength Kit

Are You as Strong as You Could Be?

Grab the Straight to the Bar Strength Kit.

Training Guides, eBooks and of course the Strength & Fitness Newsletter. Absolutely free.