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Learn About the V Squat AKA the Sumo Squat

If you want a stronger lower body, there’s no doubt that squats can be your best friend. Not only is there a huge variation of squats you can try but the benefits are plentiful. Having chiseled quads and toned inner thighs are only some of the positive aspects you’ll notice.

Let’s get into the details of a V squat and why you might want to try it out!


How to Do a V Squat

  1. Start with your feet shoulder-width (or slightly more) apart on the platform, toes pointed out slightly.
  2. Place your shoulders on the designated area on the machine, keep your knees slightly bent, spine straight (but neutral), and core tight. 
  3. Start with placing hands on handles, and stand up
  4. Squat down - bending your knees until your butt is parallel to the ground (and close to your calves). Mimic movement as though you’re sitting down into a chair. 
  5. Push down into your heels, using your feet to push up back to the starting position
  6. Repeat reps as desired
  7. 3-5 sets of 10 reps is adequate for muscle building. 

Things to consider:

  • Keep your back straight (spine neutral position)
  • Keep your core tight and engaged and your chest upright
  • Keep your knees aligned in the proper position 
  • Don’t forget to breathe! Inhaling during downward movement and exhaling as you ascend to the starting position. 

What is a V Squat?

The V squat is also called the sumo squat, and just like most squat variations, your lower body muscles (especially your quadriceps) will be on fire if you do them right! 

Once you get going with this modified squat, you’ll notice why it’s also known as the sumo squat - the stance with feet slightly wider than shoulder width and toes pointed out are what make it similar to a sumo wrestler’s fighting stance. 

Allowing yourself to have a wider base of support (feet placement) helps you to push more forcefully into the ground - just as a sumo wrestler needs to do so before attempting to force his opponent out of the ring.

Just like these massive fighters need a strong lower body to beat their opponent, a V squat also works out the following muscles:

  • Quads 
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings 
  • Adductor muscles (inner thighs)

V Squat vs. Hack Squat

There are specific machines for each of these squat exercise at the gym, however, V squats can be done on a hack squat machine - just with a different starting position. Using the proper machines for these exercises allows you to focus on the specific movement you are doing without worrying about the angle or weight being lifted. 

Just like the V squat, the hack squat also targets the lower body and quads in particular. Strengthening your lower body is an important element in preventing knee, hip, and back pain. Everything is connected in this way - as it will affect other things such as mobility, overall movement, and body posture. 

Major differences:

  • The hack squat machine utilizes a 45° angle, with an angled track for you to push the weight as you squat - leaning back allows you to put more weight on your quads rather than your spine. 
  • Because of the difference in movement paths, the hack squats are known to isolate your quads more, while V squats can target your glutes and hamstrings(and a little core) as well
  • Stances are different - a V squat should be slightly past the shoulders
  • Hack squats are noted to be similar to wall squats and V squats are similar to free-weight squats 


Reverse V Squat

The reverse V squat is exactly what it sounds like, where you utilize the V Squat machine, but facing inward rather than away from it as you normally would. This would also target your glutes and hamstrings. 

Check out this short clip on how to do a reverse V squat!

Knee Strain Risk

The difference in angles for the V squat machine and the hack squat machine is what makes the amount of pressure higher during a hack squat. Increased knee flexion means more weight on your knees and a higher risk for knee strain. 

The V squat machine allows for a different movement path that will help remove some of the weight from your knees, reducing the risk of strain and injury.

As you continue on your leg day, whether you’re doing v squats or hack squats, here are also some other tips to help you prevent knee strain:

  • Remember to do proper form (knees typically aligned with toes, chest up, core engaged)
  • Warm up adequately before your workout routine
  • Proper range of motion, do not overextend or squat deeper than you are flexible!
  • Progress gradually - know where you’re at strength-wise to prevent overuse/strain
  • Don’t forget rest and recovery! 

Benefits of Squats and Variations

The benefits of doing squats are shown to affect our activities of daily living - a strong lower body and core influences movements such as:

  • Walking
  • Going up and down stairs
  • Sitting down 
  • Standing up [2]

Since we explored the V squat and hack squat, there are many other variations out there. Some of them include:

  • Back squat
  • Overhead squat
  • Goblet squat
  • Bulgarian split squat
  • Pistol squat
  • Box squat

A study published in BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation states, “…different types of executions clearly influence both musculoskeletal movement and loading conditions; thus specific variations in squat techniques (depth, speed, stance width, and bar load) can be optimally tailored to achieve an athlete’s or patient’s training goals.” [2]

This same study goes on to conclude that the range of motion of your legs and lumbar curvature is dependent on how you place and angle your foot - therefore, be aware of your position and know that your execution affects your results.

In contrast, a study published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal concluded that although squats are beneficial to quadricep and glute hypertrophy, not much difference can be seen in hamstrings. 

They go on to report, “Seemingly, individuals can include different squat variations in their training schedules when aiming to train the quadriceps and the gluteus maximus muscles, although little evidence is available on the magnitude of the hypertrophy on each muscle portion for each variation within the squat pattern.” [3] 

Despite this contradicting perspective on squat variations, it appears as though using modified squats has not been extensively studied. They do, however, support the notion that doing a variety of squats can be beneficial in overall muscle growth. 

V Squat FAQ

What is V Squat good for?

The V squat is good for targeting your quads and glutes. In comparison to the hack squat, the V squat (when using the V squat machine) can help you to train your legs - focusing on your quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings - while the hack squat isolates the quads more. 

Is V squat similar to hack squat?

It is similar in the basic sense that it is still a squat and helps to strengthen your lower body. The main muscle focus is different however, and is answered in the previous question.

What is the correct foot position for V squats?

Your feet should be slightly wider than your shoulders and with toes pointed out (hence why they’re also called sumo squats). Your whole foot should be on the foot plate for stability, of course.

Is hack squat better than squat?

It can be difficult to conclude whether one is better than the other, but depending on what you are trying to physically achieve, one may better suit your needs. 

Because of the angle of the hack squat and its ability to put more pressure and weight on the quadriceps, it may be the preferred choice to build this particular muscle. The caveat about more pressure and flexion here is that you are at higher risk for knee strain.

Getting the right pump in on the hack squat machine may leave you feeling like your quads are on fire! 

Compared to a regular squat, you can use weights, so it can be better for growing muscle in that regard. Also in comparison, the V squat does not isolate your quads as much and can help you work out your glutes and hamstrings as well.

man doing reverse v squat

V Squat: Key Takeaway

With proper form using a V squat machine, you will be able to target your lower body muscles in a more comfortable way compared to a regular squat. Because of your back placement, movement path, and ability to add weight, you’ll be able to successfully target your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and likely your calves as well. 

As mentioned on this page, the beauty is in the details - any tiny changes in your execution can affect how your leg muscles will be worked - maybe you’ll be able to lift more while keeping your knees happy. So whether you’re doing a V squat, hack squat, or even a regular squat, don’t sleep on these variations on leg day!


[1] Poirier-Leroy, B., Hack squats vs. V squats: what’s the difference? Your Workout Book.

[2] Lorenzetti, S., Ostermann, M., Zeidler, F., Zimmer, P., Jentsch, L., List, R., Taylor, W., Schellenberg, F. How to squat? Effects of various stance widths, foot placement angles and level of experience on knee, hip and trunk motion and loading. BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2020.

[3] Ribeiro, A., Santos, E., Nunes, J., Nascimento, M., Graca, A., Bezerra, E., Mayhew, J. A brief review on the effects of the squat exercise on lower-limb muscle hypertrophy. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 2023. 

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