How to Do a Hack Squat Without Hurting the Shoulders

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The hack squat is a variation on the standard squat in which you hold a barbell behind your legs as you perform the exercise. The exercise targets the quadriceps muscles in the front of each thigh and also works a variety of leg, core and back muscles. The hack squat places very little stress on your shoulders; as long as you execute the hack squat with correct form, it’s unlikely you’ll hurt your shoulders.

Things You'll Need

  • Barbell
  • Calf platform (optional)
  • Place a barbell on the floor and stand just in front of it, facing away, with your feet about shoulder-width apart.

  • Squat, then reach back and grasp the barbell. Position your hands just outside of your legs, with your palms facing backward.

  • Exhale as you straighten your hips and knees to lift the bar. Stop just short of locking your knees. This is the starting position.

  • Inhale as you squat slowly, bending your knees and hips until your thighs are roughly parallel with the floor. Keep your head up and your eyes facing forward throughout the exercise, to help maintain a straight back. Also keep your kneecaps aligned with your feet and don’t let your knees travel farther forward than your toes.

  • Exhale as you push through your heels and rise to the starting position. Keep your arms extended and your back straight throughout the exercise.

Tips & Warnings

  • Warm up with five to 10 minutes of light cardiovascular exercise before you perform hack squats.
  • If you’ve previously done standard squats, with the barbell across the back of your shoulders, use a lighter weight for hack squats. The bar should still be sufficiently heavy to make your final repetitions challenging.
  • If you’re a beginner, you may wish to elevate your heels on a small block to make the exercise less intense.
  • If you have difficulty lifting the bar off the floor to begin the exercise, assume the starting position and have a training partner hand you the bar.
  • The hack squat is a safe exercise for many people who’ve suffered from shoulder and rotator cuff injuries, according to exercise physiologist Dean Somerset. Nevertheless, check with your doctor to be certain that hack squats are safe for you, particularly if you have any health concerns, such as previous injuries.

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  • Photo Credit Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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