Smith Machine Hack Squat Guide

How to Do Hack Squats on a Smith Machine to Build Quads

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTUpdated: November 7, 2022

The hack squat is one of the best exercises for targeting and building your quadriceps muscles. The problem is that it requires a specific machine. And most gyms just don’t have it!

The good news is you can replicate the body mechanics and movement pattern with a common piece of equipment found in almost every gym… a Smith machine.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to do hack squats on a Smith machine. So you can get the same benefits of the hack squat machine, without any fancy equipment.

Smith Machine Hack Squat

What Is a Smith Machine Hack Squat?

Hack squats are a leg exercise and variation of the squat movement where your back stays relatively vertical. This upright posture reduces hip flexion and increases knee flexion.

A typical hack squat machine has a weighted sled that travels on angled rails, like an inverted leg press. But you may not have access to this particular equipment.

A Smith machine hack squat replicates the body mechanics of the hack squat machine, and it works similar muscle groups.

Smith Machine Hack Squat Muscles Worked

With a traditional barbell squat or leg press, your torso leans forward relative to your legs. This body position makes it so you use more glute and hamstring muscles.

Conversely, the hack squat exercise results in much less forward body lean. So you end up using less of the posterior muscles and more of the quadriceps— the large muscles on the front of the thighs.

Smith Machine Hack Squat

In the figure above, you can see how the body position of the hack squat affects the muscles worked. We will reproduce that body position with the Smith machine hack squat to target the quads.

Smith Machine Hack Squat Benefits & Limitations

The main benefit of the Smith machine hack squat is you don’t need a dedicated machine, as mentioned above. And most gyms have a Smith machine, making this variation more accessible to most people.

Another benefit is getting more core engagement since you must hold your body upright during the squat. However, this stabilization means you can’t go as heavy as you might on the hack squat machine.


  • You don’t need a dedicated hack squat machine.
  • Excellent for building quads.
  • More core engagement.


  • You can’t go as heavy compared to a hack squat machine.

How To Do Hack Squat on Smith Machine

Now let me explain exactly how to do hack squats on the Smith machine safely and effectively. I’ve included a short video tutorial and some additional form tips.

Step-by-Step Directions

To do a Smith machine hack squat, start by adjusting the equipment to suit this exercise. Set the bar at about shoulder height, and the safety stops at around waist level or just below.

Next, step under the bar and lift it off the safety stops. Then, step forward where your feet are about 12 inches ahead of your hips.

Now perform the squat by lowering your hips and bending at the knees. As you squat, try to keep your back straight and vertical.

Lower the weight until your thighs are below parallel to the floor. Then lift the weight back up by extending your knees and squeezing your quads.

To recap, here are the bullet points:

  1. Set the bar and safety stops to the appropriate height
  2. Put the bar on your shoulders and lift it off the safety stops
  3. Squat down while keeping your back upright
  4. Lift the bar by extending your knees and squeezing your quads
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps and rerack the bar

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Smith Machine Hack Squat Form

When performing the hack squat on a Smith machine, I recommend using the low bar squat technique. Putting the bar lower on your shoulders prevents it from sliding up your neck.

Smith Machine Hack Squat

As you get set up, position your feet far enough forward that your hips drop straight down. This is what helps you keep the upright back position.

At the bottom of the squat, your knees should be bent less than 90 degrees. And your hips should not be bent as much as your knees.

Smith Machine Hack Squat Form Bottom
Smith Machine Hack Squat Form Side View

Smith Machine Hack Squat Alternatives

Of course, the Smith machine is not the only option for performing the hack squat. Here are some additional hack squat variations and alternatives.

1. Machine Hack Squat

This variation is the gold standard of hack squat exercises if you’re lucky enough to work out at a gym with a hack squat machine.

The weight sled keeps your back straight during the movement. And the foot platform gives you multiple options for targeting your teardrop or outer quad sweep.

Click here to learn more about hack squat foot placement.

2. Barbell Hack Squat

Another way to simulate this exercise is with the barbell hack squat. With this variation, you essentially do a deadlift with the bar behind you.

By shifting the center of gravity behind your legs, you can keep the upright posture associated with the hack squat. However, this variation is not easy for beginners.

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3. Dumbbell Hack Squat

An easier hack squat variation involves squatting with your back against a wall and your feet out in front. You can use a foam roller or exercise ball to help your back roll down the wall.

Perform this exercise with a dumbbell in each hand to increase resistance.

4. Smith Machine Front Squat

A front squat is where you hold the bar on the front of your shoulders instead of your back. With front squats, your body stays upright like the hack squat.

Additionally, a Smith machine front squat makes it easier to balance the bar and lets you focus on squeezing your quads.

5. Landmine Front Squat

The landmine front squat is a quad exercise with a barbell attachment that allows one end to pivot on the floor. You then hold the free end in front of your chest while squatting.

6. Heel Elevated Goblet Squat

One of my favorite quad-isolating exercises is the goblet squat. With this movement, you hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest while squatting.

The forward center of gravity helps to target your quads. But you can make it even more challenging by elevating your feet on a weight plate.

Smith Machine Hack Squat vs Back Squat

The Smith machine hack squat is excellent for targeting your quads without needing a specialized hack squat machine. But if you want to work your glutes and hamstrings, it’s not the best exercise.

For that, you should consider the Smith machine back squat. And I have specific tips for teaching you how to target your glutes with the Smith machine squat.

Smith Machine Squat

More Smith Machine Exercises

While you’re on the Smith machine, you might as well use it for multiple exercises! So here are some other great Smith machine movements.

Smith Machine Romanian Deadlift

Smith Machine Shoulder Press

Incline Smith Machine Press

Smith Machine Shrug

Smith Machine Upright Row

Bent Over Row On Smith Machine

Smith Machine Good Morning

Smith Machine Calf Raises

Smith Machine Bar Weight

With this information, you’re well on your way to building a better body. And if you found this article useful, I hope you’ll check out some of my other informative content below!

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By |November 7, 2022|Workouts|0 Comments
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