Are Hack Squats Bad for the Knees?

Incorrectly performed, hack squatting can pose serious risk of knee injury.
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The hack squat is a compound movement which has great functionality and potential for adding lean muscle mass to your lower body. If you practice proper safety techniques utilizing proper form, the hack squat poses little or no risk of injury to your knees. However, individuals with a history of knee injury or special considerations (such as pregnancy) should consult their physician prior to performing the hack squat.

Hack Squat vs. Barbbell

    The hack squat requires no spotter and is done in a controlled motion. In contrast, the barbell squat requires many stabilizer muscles that can lead to increased torque on your knees. In fact, the barbell squat may seem bio-mechanically awkward for some, making the hack squat a safer alternative. This is why many athletes are substituting the barbell squat for the hack squat as a means of better control and knee safety.


    Start by placing your feet on the upper portion of the platform of the hack squat machine while settling your shoulders under the pads and grasping the stabilizer handles. Many machines require you to slightly squat to get under the pads. It is important to avoid rounding your back when doing so. Once comfortable, you may disengage the safety handles while you look directly forward for better orientation and safety. While beginning to descend, inhale and keep your breath steady. Descend until you form a 90-degree angle with your hip joints and knees. Then extend your hips and knees joints, making sure to drive with your heels while contracting your quadriceps and glutes as you exhale. Continue driving until you reach a full standing position, then take a brief pause while maintaining a slight bend in your knees and repeat.


    Proper stance is vital for targeting your lower body while avoiding knee injury. Pointing your toes forward should be avoided as this may overload your knee cartilage. Instead, keep your toes slightly bent outwards. The hack squat should be executed with your feet shoulder-width apart. For greater variety, you may use a narrow or wide stance, but a narrow stance increases forward knee movement. Using a medium or wider stance can help reduce possible knee injury. Check with your physician, if a narrow stance is acceptable for you.


    Safety guidelines for the hack squat start with your footwear and gear. A flat sole shoe is recommended to ensure your feet are in full contact with the platform so your knees stay stable. The use of knee wraps may be beneficial to you when lifting heavy. "Fitness: The Complete Guide," by the International Sports Sciences Association, states that the rationale for wrapping the knees prior to heavy squatting movements is that it reduces the pulling forces on the patellar ligament at its attachment to the shin. Use of knee wraps should only be used if you are using a weight greater than 80 percent of your maximum.

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