Bodybuilding Training Article from

What's a Hack Squat?
The origin of and how to perform this exercise with a free weight barbell - OR - The way the old-timers use to perform Hack Squats before the invention of modern leg machines.
by Steve Stanko (AAU Mr. America 1944) -- 1977

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We were of the opinion that anyone who has ever done any weight training was well-acquainted with this movement and the manner in which it should be preformed. Yet, recently a number of questions have come in to the office -- for example, "How do you do a Hack squat?"...and, "What does it do?"

Before we answer these questions we'd like to point out that the exercise was named after the great Russian wrestler and strongman, George Hackenschmidt, who, along with his adviser, Dr. von Krajewski, "discovered" the exercise. The Germans call it the "Hacke" squat. Others call it the "Sissy" squat. Whatever the name, or how it's spelled, doesn't diminish or increase the results this movement can provide if it is employed regularly.

The movement is practiced by those who wish to diminish the action which regular squats impart to the hips and, more especially, the buttocks. They believe that while the Hack movement works the legs (thighs), its action upon the hips and buttocks is minimal. It's true that this action is minimized but contrary to some beliefs, it is NOT eliminated entirely. Anytime the legs are allowed to work i a knee-bending performance. the muscles of the hips and buttocks become involved. Perhaps not to the maximum degree, but they are activated.

Hackenschmidt and Dr. von Krajewski found that by rising high upon one's toes, more stress is placed upon the lower section of the thighs and less upon the hips and buttocks. Hence, the movement does aid in building the thighs. Because so many bodybuilders already have large wide hips, they practice this movement of building the legs wile keeping the hips and buttocks in proportion.

There is no doubt that the exercise works but it seems to work better for some than for others. If one's hip structure is naturally broad, there is no way whereby it can be narrowed or reduced - absolutely none. If this "oversize" is the result of excessive adiposity, however, it can be reduced or "melted down" through high-repetition leg movements that involve the hips. These movements must be done excessively, though, so that the region is "overworked". In time, this will result in a reduction.

The only way such a natural "pear shape" figure can be eliminated is for the individual to "grow up to his hips," and that means developing broader shoulders through the expansion of the chest cage, which in turn will help to spread the scapulae farther apart and thus increase shoulder width. Another way is to develop the deltoid caps. This will also add greater breadth to the shoulders. Both these methods of "growing up to the hips" are possible but they take time ...results cannot be realized overnight.

In employing this movement, Hackenschmidt took a fairly light barbell and held it behind his back just at the hip level. Then he rose up high on his toes and lowered himself into a full squat or knee bend ...while keeping the weight stationary behind the back.

The modern day performance of the Hack squat includes a long "T" bar. One grasps the T section while weights are attached to the lower end. The platform is usually raised about three or four feet and high blocks ar affixed to the platform so as to give the individual something on which to rest his heels (see photo). The body is kept upright but slightly inclined forward, thereby placing most of the stress upon the lower region of the thighs, or just about the knee area.

When dong this exercise it's a good idea to begin with the toes pointing directly front. Then, another set should be done with the toes pointing outward and finally one more set with the toes pointing inward. this variety will cause the muscle of the legs to be worked slightly differently each time and will have a greater effect on overall thigh development.

As to the number of counts that one should use; this decision is always problematic. But we recommend that one include as many reps and sets to bring about a feeling that the legs are fully congested and pumped up to their maximum. when this feeling has been achieved, there is no further need for more sets or reps and results should accrue after a period of time.

To those who are still curious about the term "Sissy" squats and how they are done, let me explain that the weight in this exercise is held as in this picture. Another way (Sissy squat) to do the exercise is to wear a heavy belt, loosely fitted around the waist so that the bar is rested on the belt in back. Then the movement is carried out similarly to the Hack movement.

If you are working towards leg development, keep in mind that the legs are made up of some of the largest muscles in the body and you must work them sufficiently if you want them to respond.

It doesn't matter whether you use the Hack, Sissy, Leg press, Jefferson or regular squat...just do enough to give the legs a complete workout...then, they'll come around.

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