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Reverse Barbell Hack Squat ๐Ÿ‹๏ธ

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

Is it leg day in your newly designed workout routine and you are hit with something called 'Reverse Barbell Hack Squat'?

If so you're probably wondering about how you are going to carry something out that you've possible never tried before?

If you're an experienced gym lifter chances are you will already be somewhat familiar with this particular exercise movement. If you're one of the unfamiliar few but looking for a spectacular workout blast for the legs and glutes, read on.๐Ÿ‘‡

Reverse Barbell Hack Squat

Named after Russian bodybuilder and wrestler George Hackenschmidt, Reverse hack squats were traditionally designed with the intention of carrying out the movement using a barbell.

Traditional Back Squats and Deadlifts typically use a similar bar 'line path' when compared to your everyday hack squat. The similarities in a barbell back squat and Reverse barbell hack squat are also virtually identical when good form is followed and not compromised.

The Hack squat can be further modified meaning you are able to carry out the same movement using a multitude of equipment including:

- reverse / inverted hack squat machine

- smith Machine

- barbell

- dumbbells

Like any compound exercise movement one's muscular potential will depend not only on the load used but also on muscular activation and form used throughout the movement.

Pros & Cons of Reverse Hack Squat?

Learning the correct way of performing a particular exercise improves the investment on return (muscular hypertrophy) and dramatically reduces the risk for injury.

Like any other compound exercise movement, there are various pro's as well as certain drawbacks one can encounter with a Reverse Hack Squat.

This applies whether the exercise is performed via machine, barbell or dumbbells all further influencing some of these variables: ๐Ÿ‘‡

Fixed Body Angle

One of the most common drawbacks of using a hack squat machine is the fixed body angle required when performing a reverse hack squat. However as you will have to move at a fixed position, this can further assist you by giving you both stability and focus when performing multiple repetitions. A barbell hack squat or dumbbell hack squat further allows greater freedom of mobility but less stability.

Going to Muscular Failure (safely)

Given the extra stability & support of the reverse hack squat machine, you will be able to perform the exercise movement to absolute failure. This is largely due to the machine providing you with the correct posture and needed back stability when carrying out the exercise. A barbell hack squat or dumbbell hack squat may further strain the lower lumbar region when training to failure.

Knee Problems

Whilst the hack squat machine is generally considered to be safe, this is largely dependent on an individual's foot placement, stability & lower torso. Much like a Leg Press machine, failure to keep form stable i.e. feet slipping or knees above toe line can cause accidents and further problems. Individuals with long femurs are encouraged for a higher foot placement (above knee line) to prevent any unnecessary strain on the patella / knees.

Muscular Recruitment

For a small population demograph whom have a unique skeletal structure i.e. long femurs, short humerus may experience difficulty performing the hack squat movement. Those performing a barbell hack squat can encounter further hindrance when attempting full ROM (Range of Motion). Those with an overall balanced skeletal structure however will generally experience a spectacular blast from DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness) in the targeted quadricep, hamstring and glute regions.

Performing the Barbell Hack Squat

For those whom don't necessarily have access to a hack squat machine, only a barbell or dumbbell then read on. If you're one of the lucky few individuals whom has access to a reverse squat machine, then yay for you: ๐Ÿ‘‡

  • Start with a barbell either on a low rack (below glute region) or on the floor.

  • Pickup the barbell from behind you (pronated grip) using a shoulder width hand position.

  • Keeping a neutral (straight) back, flex your core and lift the barbell off the rack / floor making sure the barbell touches the back of the legs.

  • Start moving upward keeping your feet firmly on the ground letting the barbell slide upwards behind your body extending both the hips and knees.

  • Perform full ROM until knees are at a perpendicular angle or the thighs are parallel to the floor. The bar should be behind you locked int a locked position.

  • At the top of the movement, start lowering the barbell back on the rack or floor by performing the steps in reverse order. Once completed proceed to lift the bar again to carry out the desired number of repetitions and sets.

Note: ensure barbell always touches back leg & hamstrings when performing full ROM. Keep back neutral to avoid any unnecessary strain or injuries to the spine.

Common Reverse Squat Alternatives

Dumbbell Hack Squat

Whilst dumbbells allow you to easily carry out the exercise further (no locked in position). You will need to ensure extra stability and maintain appropriate posture when carrying out the exercise:

  • Pickup and stand with the dumbbells behind you keeping a shoulder width stance with the toes pointed outwards. bend the knees.

  • Begin lowering the dumbbells by bending both the hips and knees keeping spine neutral (straight).

  • Push your gluteus muscles back whilst maintaining movement motion keeping knees pointing out towards toes.

  • Lower the dumbbells until you are about parallel to the floor. Keep your body aligned and tight at the bottom end of movement.

  • Start raising the dumbbells back to beginning position. Maintain controlled movement until back to original starting position. Knee locking optional.

  • Once complete, carry out the desired number of repetitions and sets. Note: ensure dumbbells touche the legs & hamstrings when performing full ROM. Keep back neutral to avoid any unnecessary strain or injuries to the spine.


So there you have it. A popular alternative to the traditional barbell back squat.

The Reverse hack squat is perhaps one of the best ways to recruit more muscles in both the lower torso alongside activating some of the upper torso. It is also a great movement to supplement alongside the leg press machine and can be further modified or used as a reverse squat finishing movement.

Remember to always ensure to never compromise form when increasing weights and / or intensity. Happy Squatting!

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