Back Squats, Hack Squats, and Then Some

squatA couple of days ago, I posted a question about whether I should do back squats, hack squats, or both. Yesterday, I came across a small article at Flex Online Magazine called On Trial: Back Squat vs. Front Squat.

Between the two, Flex favors the back squat:

Squatting with the barbell on your upper back forces a forward bend in your torso in the bottom position in order to keep the bar balanced. This causes you to use your hamstrings and glutes more as you come up to extend your hips to return to the start position with your torso and legs fairly straight.

The back squat allows you to go the heaviest, involves more of the lower-body muscles and is an easier exercise to perfect.

Use the back squat as your major lower-body mass builder. However, if you need to prioritize quads, use the front squat as well. Your best bet is to start with back squats and then include a few sets of front squats. If knee problems prevent you from doing back squats, give front squats a try.

But the interesting part came from someone who commented on the article:

Just do hack squats instead of front squats.

So instead of comparing the qualities of back vs. front squats, the matter becomes back vs. hack squats. Back squats are the best overall workout for the lower body, particularly the hams, glutes, and quads, but hack squats hit the outer quads more, so between the two of them, you get a great, all-around lower body workout.

That figures into what I did on Monday and again today. Here’s the routine for Week 1 of my first Workout B. I rested generally about 60 to 90 seconds, with the exception of the latter sets of deadlifts and hack squats, which required 2 or more minutes rest.

Barbell Back Squat in Squat Rack

10x 65lbs/29.48kg
10x 95lbs/43.09kg
10x 115lbs/52.16kg
10x 125lbs/56.69kg

Barbell Close Grip Bench Press

10x 75lbs/34.01kg
10x 95lbs/43.09kg
10x 105lbs/47.62kg
10x 105lbs/47.62kg

Barbell Bent Leg Deadlift

10x 125lbs/56.69kg
10x 150lbs/68.03kg
10x 175lbs/79.37kg
10x 175lbs/79.37kg

overhead press
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Barbell Overhead Press in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.41kg
10x 50lbs/22.67kg
10x 55lbs/24.94kg
10x 55lbs/24.94kg

Barbell Standing Curl

10x 45lbs/20.41kg
10x 55lbs/24.94kg
10x 65lbs/29.48kg
10x 65lbs/29.48kg

Barbell Hack Squat

10x 115lbs/52.16kg
10x 135lbs/61.23kg
10x 160lbs/72.57kg
10x 160lbs/72.57kg

Compared to Monday, I did back squats just a little bit heavier, with my heaviest set being 125 pounds as opposed to Monday’s 115 pounds.


  • Lifting the bar off of the rack, standing, and walking a few steps backward while keeping my balance.
  • Not allowing the barbell to “teeter” from side-to-side as I perform squats.
  • Getting as low as possible during the bottom on the squat so my thighs are parallel or near-parallel to the floor.

This accounts for me continuing to go light on back squats. It’s not so much that I’m really working my legs incredibly hard at this point (although I certainly feel it), it’s practicing good form and maintaining control of the barbell throughout the entire procedure.

By comparison, close grip bench presses were almost a breeze. The first two sets felt pretty light and I was able to especially keep my elbows from flaring out and work the triceps heads. It was only at the last few reps of my two working sets that the lift felt at all strenuous.

The first two sets of deadlifts were pretty easy as well, although 10 reps was a slight chore. Certainly getting such a light weight off the floor felt great.

The two working sets at 10 reps each tired me out and as I slammed the barbell on the floor after rep 10 of my last set, my sweat hit the floor with it.

I should say as an aside that the little training group was in the weight room the same time I was. When I was doing overhead presses (more on that in a minute), the trainer (who I discovered is about 28 years old and is named “Chase,”) had the two women in the class (I have no idea where the two guys were) doing deadlifts.

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I felt very sorry for one woman. She struggled to get a 95 pound barbell off the floor and couldn’t budge it. Chase had her put a couple of 45 pound plates on the floor and rested the barbell on the plates, so the bar was slightly elevated. The woman didn’t have to pull it up directly from the floor.

It helped, although I still thought she was bending too far forward at the start of her lift and worried about her injuring her back.

After my own deadlifts, I moved back to the squat rack to perform overhead presses.

This is always one of the more difficult lifts for me and at 4 sets of 10 reps per set, even at a reduced weight, the working sets were tough. I was worried at about the eighth rep in both sets 3 and 4, wondering if I was going to be able to make the last two reps. Especially on the last rep of the last set, I barely got the weight overhead.

I can see next week is going to be interesting.

Since it’s considered poor form to do barbell curls in the squat rack, I looked for an alternative.

The fixed weight barbells all progress by 10 pounds. That is, a 10 pound bar, 20 pounds, 30 pounds, and so on, up to 100 pounds.

Problem is, my set progression for curls was 45 pounds, 55 pounds, and 65 pounds.

There are only two flat weight benches in the weight room and both were being occupied. I used the bar and plates from the incline bench and managed to work around the people and equipment crowding me to do my curls.

45 and 55 pounds at 10 reps were pretty easy, but the latter reps of each of the two working sets at 65 pounds required a lot of effort, which is the idea.

When curls were done, I had a little less than 15 minutes left until I needed to get out of the gym, and decided it was enough time to do hack squats. At this point, both flat weight benches were available, so I selected my favorite, and got to work.

Those last two sets at 10 reps per set really wore me out, but then this is at the very end of my scheduled workout and represents a bonus exercise. I do hack squats as my final exercise because I don’t want to neglect my legs, and by the end, they certainly don’t feel neglected at all.

I’d forgotten that last Monday, I put the two working sets at 155 pounds each, and I automatically set the weight today for 160, which is what’s scheduled for week 1.

The “extra” five pounds felt fine, relatively speaking, but when I was done, I was well done.

No hanging exercises for me. It was just at the top of the hour and time to rush back home and get ready for work.

hack squat
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I was pleased, both that I was continuing to practice back squats and that I was able to incorporate some extra effort in my overall weightlifting workout.

Sleep was rather spotty again last night, but I did have a bit of protein and carbs for a pre-workout meal to “prime the pump,” so to speak. I can’t really tell, but I think it may have enhanced my performance a bit.

And by the time I got home, my stomach was rumbling telling me that it was time to suck down a protein shake and another banana.

So far, I’m liking my current adaptation to my workout routine, but I suspect things will start to ramp up as the weight increases and the reps go down.

She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.

Elizabeth Edwards


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