The Best Hack Squat Alternative Exercises

Hack squats are a great exercise for targeting the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. However, if you don’t have access to hack squats or want to switch up your routine with some other exercises that target similar muscle groups, there are plenty of alternative exercises you can use. From traditional barbell squats to single-leg variations like Bulgarian split squats and pistol squats, these alternatives will help you get stronger and build more muscle in your lower body. Read on for the best Hack squat alternatives that will fire up your muscles without requiring a hack squat machine!

Muscles Targeted during the Hack Squat

The primary muscles involved in the Hack squat are the Quadriceps (Quads), Gluteus Maximus (Glutes), and Hamstrings. Secondarily, the Hack squat also targets the Calves and Abdominals.

The quadricep’s main function is to extend the knee. The glutes are the primary hip extensors, meaning they’re responsible for straightening your legs during standing and jumping movements as well as helping us move our hips side-to-side. Finally, the hamstrings assist with hip extension and help to provide stability in the knees in a bent position.

What makes an effective hack squat alternative?

As stated, hack squats generally target the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings all at once. To replicate this motion, many Hack squat alternatives focus on multi-joint exercises that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. The stabilization that the hack squat machine provides is an important factor in replicating the Hack squat’s effectiveness; therefore, Hack squat alternatives should also incorporate more stationary and/or controlled movements.

Best Hack Squat Alternatives

The following exercises are great Hack squat alternatives that you can incorporate into your lower-body routine.

Exercise #1 – Leg Press

The leg press is a great Hack squat alternative because the machine-based exercise allows the load to be focused on the muscles of the lower body without placing too much weight on the spine. A key to think about while performing the leg press is to focus on keeping your hips and glutes engaged throughout the entire movement.

How to perform the leg press:

1. Adjust the seat of the leg press machine such that your knees are aligned with your hips and your feet are flat on the platform.

2. Engage your glutes and core, then begin to lower the weight until your thighs are parallel to the platform.

3. Drive through your heels as you press back up to starting position.

Exercise #2 – Barbell Squat

The barbell squat is a staple exercise in many gym-goers’ lower body routines. Because it is a free-weight exercise, it requires a lot of balance and stabilization. This makes it an effective Hack squat alternative because it simultaneously strengthens many of the same muscles while also incorporating more full-body engagement.

How to perform a barbell squat:

1. Place the weight on your shoulders, making sure your feet are placed firmly on the ground with your toes pointed slightly outwards.

2. Begin to lower your body by pushing your hips back and bending your knees.

3. Keep your core tight throughout the movement and drive through your heels as you return to the standing position.

Exercise #3 – Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian Split Squat requires you to perform the movement on one leg, therefore it helps to build unilateral strength and stability. A key objective to focus on with this Hack squat alternative is to keep your chest up and maintain good posture throughout the entire exercise.

How to perform the Bulgarian split squat:

1. Place one foot on an elevated surface, such as a bench.

2. Keeping your chest up, lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the floor.

3. Drive through your heel and press up to starting position while squeezing your glutes at the top.

Exercise #4 – Pistol Squat

The pistol squat is a challenging Hack squat alternative that requires you to perform a single-leg squat while keeping your non-working leg elevated off the ground. This exercise challenges your balance and is a great way to build strength in your lower body. This exercise is challenging, so you may want to focus on form before adding weight.

How to perform the pistol squat:

1. Begin standing on one leg with the opposite leg extended out in front of you.

2. Keeping your chest up and shoulders back, slowly begin to lower yourself down as if sitting in an invisible chair.

3. Once your non-working leg is parallel to the ground, press through your heel and squeeze your glutes as you return to the standing position.

Exercise #5 – Step-Ups

Step-ups are a great Hack squat alternative that can be done with minimal equipment. This exercise is perfect for developing strength in the lower body as well as improving coordination.

How to perform step-ups:

1. Place one foot on an elevated surface, such as a bench or platform.

2. Drive through the heel of your working leg to press up and bring your opposite knee up until it is parallel with the surface you are stepping on.

3. Step back down with control and switch legs.


If you do not have access to Hack Squat equipment or are looking for an alternative exercise that will help you develop strength in the lower body, then give the above Hack squat alternatives a try. All of these exercises provide effective and safe ways to develop strength in the lower body. Give them a try during your next workout!

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