The Reverse Hack Squat
A hack squat is a machine you will find in many gyms. It is a useful lower-body training tool, most often used to strengthen the muscles that make up the anterior leg. When used traditionally, the hack squat adds strength and size to the quadriceps and hip flexors, improving strength, size, and injury resistance.
As you use the hack squat, you will notice your ability to manipulate foot positioning to increase the emphasis on specific muscles. For example, you can keep a traditional close stance to target the quads and hip flexor muscles or use a broader stance to emphasize the hip abductors and adductors. How you are able to manipulate the foot positioning will depend on the area of the hack squat platform.
However, these are not the only options for adding variation to your hack squat training. By performing a reverse hack squat, this anterior-focused lower-body training device quickly becomes a machine capable of efficiently training the muscles that comprise the posterior chain. Instead of primarily focusing on the quadriceps and hip flexor muscles, we can now use the hack squat to directly target the low back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
The reverse hack squat is an accessory exercise that can be useful for any athlete regardless of sport or training focus. Athletes will always need stronger glutes, hamstrings, and calves, so a machine that can be used in this manner will always remain an appropriate option when selecting accessory exercises. Considering the anterior training options also provided, you can see that the hack squat is a valuable training tool.
Here's how we recommend performing and programming the reverse hack squat:
Reverse Hack Squat Form
Like most exercises, no set-in-stone reverse hack squat form exists. The goal is to use the machine to maximally target the low back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. With this in mind, the athlete should develop a form that best fits their build and movement patterns. However, we offer some recommendations regarding using the reverse hack squat as a squat exercise, a good morning exercise, and a calf exercise.
When used with a reverse stance, the hack squat helps to emphasize the glutes, hamstrings, hip abductors/adductors, and calf muscles. When squatting in a reverse stance, you want to place your feet wide on the hack squat platform, with your torso as directly under the hack squat carriage as possible.
If done correctly, you should be able to stabilize your torso against the hack squat carriage so that you can intently focus on using the lower body to do all of the work. When executed correctly, traditional reverse hack squats will lead to improved size and strength for the hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
Another option when using the hack squat in a reverse stance is the reverse hack squat good morning. The execution of this exercise is simple; you will set your torso up similarly to how you would with a regular reverse hack squat while maintaining a slight bend in your knees. From there, you will lower the carriage by pushing the hips back and lowering the torso just as you would with a traditional good morning.
Reverse hack squat good mornings are a great way to target the trunk, glutes, and hamstrings when you're too sore to perform traditional reverse hack squats.
The final exercise we use a reverse hack squat stance is calf raises. This exercise is simple; you will set up just as you would when performing a reverse hack squat, except instead of moving through a full range of motion like a squat, or a partial range of motion like a good morning, you will only be focusing on one muscle group; the calves.
If you're having difficulty targeting your calves in this stance, try adding a board or mats to help elevate the front of the foot to allow the calves to travel a greater range of motion.
When to Perform Reverse Hack Squats
We recommend programming the reverse hack squat any time you require an additional way to target the prominent muscles of the lower body posterior chain. This machine provides torso stabilization that allows the legs to be the focus without worrying about overusing the back muscles to perform the squat.
Adding reverse hack squats will benefit you if you require more glute and hamstring strength and size. We recommend adding reverse hack squats at least once per week, following a three-week on / two-week off programming pattern.
Meaning, include the workout for three consecutive weeks, exclude for two weeks, then repeat the pattern.
When programming the reverse hack squat, we opt for higher volume performed at moderate or low intensity. Remember that this exercise will always be an accessory exercise, meaning a considerable amount of energy will be spent already, so it is best to avoid going for PR triples on the reverse hack squat.
We recommend 5-8 or 8-10 repetitions on a heavier day for 3-5 sets. On a lighter day focusing on volume and hypertrophy, we recommend performing 10-12 or 15-20 repetitions. It all depends on the training needs and goals of the athlete, along with the energy levels remaining once it is time to perform the reverse hack squat.
When to Perform Reverse Hack Squat Good Mornings
The reverse hack squat good morning is a great way to replicate the effectiveness of a good morning machine if you do not have access to a good morning machine. Therefore, we recommend including this exercise in your programming regularly. Considering the low back, glute, and hamstring benefits provided, the reverse hack squat good morning is a valuable exercise to all athletes.
An excellent way to program reverse hack squat good morning is as a finishing exercise featured towards the end of a lower body training day. For example, we could perform five sets of 15-20 repetitions of reverse hack squat good mornings before moving onto our abdominal work. We keep the weight light and the volume high.
The machine's intent is to perform targeted repetitions to improve the size and strength of specific muscle groups. If we wanted to use heavy weights with low repetitions, we would perform our good mornings using a specialty bar instead.
When to Perform Reverse Hack Squat Calf Raises
Regarding programming, athletes can perform calf raises nearly every training day without issue. Considering the resiliency and recovery times associated with the calf muscles, an athlete can train the calves up to four times per week without worrying about recovery issues or overuse injuries.
It is up to the coach or athlete to decide how much calf training is necessary. If you have small, weak calves, train them more. If you have naturally larger calves and no issues with strength, include them less often. Regardless of your genetic predisposition, train your calves at least twice weekly.
When performing reverse hack squat calf raises, we recommend 4-6 sets of 20-40 reps depending on the weight used and remaining energy levels. Calf raises should be programmed towards the end of the training day, so you may not always have 40+ rep sets in you every time you perform reverse hack squat calf raises.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does reverse hack squat work?
A: The reverse hack squat can target the low back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Of course, any time a squat is performed, the anterior leg is involved to some degree. However, the reverse hack squat places significant emphasis on the posterior chain.
Q: Can you perform a reverse banded hack squat?
A: Yes, you can attach bands, provided the hack squat you use features band attachment points.
Q: Can you use the reverse hack squat for conditioning?
A: Yes, by keeping the intensity lowered and volume high, the reverse hack squat is a great way to develop posterior chain muscular endurance.
Q: I'm coming back from injury. Would this exercise be a good way to reintroduce squats into my training program?
A: Yes, both hack squats and reverse hack squats allow an athlete to use a safe and stabilized machine to test the strength and feel of any existing or recovered lower body injury currently affecting movement quality.
Q: Do you recommend heavy sets of three or five reps using the reverse hack squat?
A: We sometimes perform sets of 5-8 reps. However, we often go with 10-12 or 15-20 repetitions per set.
Improving Posterior Chain Strength
As an athlete, you can never have a posterior chain that is too strong. The stronger your low back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves are, the faster and more dynamic you will be in your sport. Additionally, growing and strengthening these muscle groups lead to improved levels of resilience and durability.
The reverse hack squat is an extremely useful tool that can accomplish the task of increasing lower body posterior chain strength and muscle mass. When performed and programmed correctly, athletes can use this movement to improve their squat and deadlift strength and hip and knee durability, making this a valuable lower-body training option.
Like many other barbells and machines, the hack squat machine provides a platform that the coach or athlete can manipulate to achieve additional training effects not commonly associated with the initial design of the machine.
Creativity and innovation are necessary to take complete advantage of the training equipment at your disposal as a coach or athlete. This creativity will allow the athlete to reap the maximum strength training benefits from the training equipment possible.
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Verkhoshansky, Y., & Siff, M. C. (2009). Supertraining. Verkhoshansky.
Zatsiorsky, V. M., & Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Science and Practice of Strength Training. Human Kinetics.