Skip to content

12 Hack Squat Alternatives For Building Your Lower Body

Maximizing your leg workout often means being resourceful with what's available. But what happens when your go-to hack squat machine is occupied, or your gym lacks the fancy gear? That's where adaptability becomes your greatest asset for achieving your fitness goals. 

In this article, we'll look at 12 effective hack squat alternatives and variations that will challenge and sculpt your lower body, regardless of your gym setup. 

Hack Squat Alternatives:

Leg Press

The leg press is the first popular hack squat alternative, working primarily on the quadriceps and glutes while reducing stress on the lower back. The leg press is safer for people with lower back pain or those looking to isolate either their quadriceps or glutes. The leg press allows them to get full range of motion while reducing spinal loading. 

The ability to change foot stance provides adaptability to target different parts of the quadriceps and glutes while also allowing for gradual overload of weight. The leg press is a good option for those wishing to increase leg strength and growth without the use of a hack squat machine.

Hack squat alternative - leg press

Barbell Back/Front Squat

The barbell squat is a staple lower body lift in the gym world. Some experts describe it as the most beneficial leg workout out there while others don't agree with the negative impacts it can have on your lower back. Love it or hate it the barbell squat works the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles. 

Similar to the hack squat, the barbell squat activates many complimentary muscle groups, making it an ideal choice for lower body growth. If you are hesitant about lower back pain after squats, the front squat is a great alternative. You may have to decrease the weight a little bit, but front squats place a stronger emphasis on the quadriceps and core muscles, making it an excellent option.

Hack squat alternative - barbell squat

Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is a straightforward hack squat alternative, making it great for anybody looking for a lower-body workout that doesn't require much equipment. The goblet squat, which involves holding a kettlebell or dumbbell close to the chest, enables a comfortable squatting motion that works for both beginners and experienced lifters. The simplicity of the goblet squat also makes it a smart choice for high-repetition sets, as it provides a tough but doable technique to improve endurance with low risk of injury.

Wall Sit

Wall sits are one of my personal favorite at-home hack squat alternatives that target the quadriceps while offering a low-impact, joint-friendly workout. Wall sits, which include sitting against a wall with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, successfully activate the quadriceps muscles in an isometric contraction, allowing you to increase strength and endurance without the need of any equipment. Wall sits are especially good for anyone trying to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint as the exercise improves stability and promotes healthy knee function. 


Lunges are an incredibly versatile lower body movement and effective hack squat alternative that provides numerous benefits for lower body strength and stability. Lunges feature dynamic movement, which helps to improve hip flexibility and range of motion. The movement of the lunge increases not only muscle flexibility but also replicates functional patterns that we see a lot in athletic performance and everyday life.

Another benefit of the lunge is it can be completed in a wide variety of ways. Barbell, dumbbell, sandbag, holding a medicine ball, you name it. As long as your form doesn’t suffer and it’s comfortable, whatever you have available should do the job. Lunges mainly target the quads and glutes (gluteus maximus) promoting the development of a powerful and well-defined posterior chain. This not only improves aesthetics but also adds to better performance in exercises like running and jumping.

Split Squats

Split squats, sometimes called Bulgarian split squats, are an effective hack squat alternative that improves unilateral leg strength and stability.

Hack squat alternative - split squat

By isolating each leg, the split squat encourages slower motions, which are great for developing strength and endurance. This exercise is especially useful for athletes since it mimics unilateral actions found in sports.

The split squat is typically an exercise you have full reign to max out on. Being a slower, low-risk movement, progressively overload allows long-term strength improvement. 

Sissy Squats

Another alternative that resembles a similar movement to the hack squat is the sissy squat. Sissy squats can help promote quad strength, mobility in your hip flexors, and overall lower body flexibility without the need for specialist equipment. While there is equipment intended for sissy squats, they are not a necessity, in fact doing the exercise without a machine will help in many facets. The greater range of motion without a machine will result in a deeper stretch, creating a more mobile and resilient muscle over time. Not relying on a machine also utilizes core muscles to keep balance and stability throughout the activity. 

Hack Squat Variations:

Reverse Hack Squat

A popular variation of the hack squat is the reverse hack squat. This is done using the same machine, just turned around with your back facing away from the hack squat machine. Because of the reverse hack squat machine setup, the exercise is primarily intended to target your glutes and hamstrings. However, if you narrow your foot stance and keep your depth to a minimum, it can be a great quadricep exercise too. 

The reverse hack squat is not a beginner exercise, and if performed, should be done with a specific purpose. There are plenty of great reverse hack squat alternatives out there, and risking a lower back injury just isn’t worth it if you’re just starting out.

Hack Squat Smith Machine

The hack squat smith machine is a variation of the hack squat that uses a smith machine rather than a standard hack squat machine. In this variation, the barbell sits behind the body, and the movement closely resembles a hack squat. The hack squat smith machine is perfect for people who don't have access to a Hack Squat machine or prefer the slower and controlled movement the hack squat smith machine has to offer.

Landmine Hack Squat

The landmine hack squat is a variation that involves inserting a barbell inside a landmine attachment. One end of the barbell is fixed to the ground, while the other is used for movement and adding weight.

The landmine hack squat can be done using different grips and barbell placements to target various muscle groups. Squating the barbell with the weight on one side of your neck, for example, can be effective in completing the landmine hack squat. On the other hand, some find it more comfortable to hold the barbell facing forward, comparable to a front hack squat. 

Linear Hack Squat

The linear hack squat is a machine variation that is very similar to the standard hack squat. The only difference is where your body holds the weight. As opposed to on your shoulders with your traditional hack squat, the linear hack squat requires you to bear the weight on your butt and lower back.  

To perform the linear hack squat you need a linear bearing system or a guided arrangement. This version successfully targets the quadriceps and glutes just like the original hack squat while creating a safer and more regulated setting for adding more weight. 

Dumbbell Hack Squat

The final variation of the hack squat is the dumbbell hack squat. Essentially the exercise is just a regular squat while holding dumbbells. To attack the quad muscles more, elevate your heels an inch or two by placing a plate or something sturdy underneath. That little change in the angle of the squat will have your quads burning like never before. The dumbbell hack squat is great because of how accessible and beneficial it can be.

Hack Squat Alternative - FAQ:

Do I need a machine to do a hack squat?

No, there are plenty of variations of the hack squat out there. If your gym does not have a standard hack squat machine, the exercise can still be done effectively with dumbbells, a barbell, or a smith machine.

What's the closest hack squat alternative?

If you have access to specific machines, the leg press and linear hack squat are about the closest hack squat alternatives. The standard barbell and goblet squat are also great alternatives, and if you don’t have access to a gym or equipment, wall sits, lunges, and sissy squats are all great at-home exercise replacements.

Can hack squats cause lower back pain?

If done incorrectly hack squats can cause lower back pain. To prevent this, start with a lighter weight and make sure your form is correct before you decide to go all out.

Now that you've read about the hack squat, check out our page on the V squat!



[1] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.

[2] Davies, Clair, and Amber Davies. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. 3rd ed., New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2013.

Leave a comment

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive emails every few days with back pain relief tips, testimonials, and resources