Home / Health / Leg Press vs. Hack Squat | Which One Is Better?
leg press vs hack squat

Fitness enthusiasts look forward to having a killer leg day at the gym. The two most commonly used machines on this day are the leg press and the hack squat. Both of them have similar benefits: increasing the size, strength, and definition of your leg muscles. However, there are certain key differences in how they work your muscles. Knowing them will help you choose the right machine for your fitness goals. Let’s discover the main differences between the leg press vs hack squat machines.

Leg Press Machine: Muscles Worked, How To Use and Benefits

Leg Press Machine: Muscles Worked, How To Use and Benefits

The leg press machine targets your lower body. The machine has a large platform that moves up and down. The leg press machine also has footplates that can be adjusted and a backrest. The resistance of the machine imitates a squat but in a machine format. A horizontal leg press is the standard version of this machine. The other version is the incline leg press. This variant of the machine has a seat reclining at a 45-degree angle. Those using inclined leg press press their leg diagonally upward by sitting at an angle.

Read Also: What Is PR in Gym?

Muscles Worked

Leg press machines target three major muscles.

  • The quadriceps, which are on the front of your thigh.
  • The hamstrings are on the back of your thigh.
  • The glutes, which are present on the buttocks.

How to Use the Leg Press Machine?

To fully gain the benefits of the leg press machine, it is important to use it properly. While performing leg presses, pay attention to your form. Follow the technique below to the best of your ability.

  • Start by setting up the machine. Adjust the seat so you can sit comfortably and perform the movement. If you are using the standard or the horizontal leg press machine, put the pin at the weight you desire. For the incline leg press, add plates as weight.
  • Now, sit on the machine. Put your legs shoulder-width apart in the middle of the large platform. Do not at any point raise your butt off the seat. On the same note, avoid arching your back.
  • If using the incline leg press, press the weight up. Then, release the safety clasp.
  • Push the weight away from you while keeping your core. Exhale while pushing the weight away. Extend your legs till they are almost straight.
  • Now, slowly bend your knees till your legs are at a 90-degree angle. As the weight comes back to you, avoid moving your hips and back.

PRO TIP TO FIND THE RIGHT WEIGHT: Always choose a weight with which you can perform all your reps without taking a break on the first set. The exercise should become challenging by set three. However, you should still be able to perform it while maintaining proper form.

Benefits of Leg Press Machine

Doing leg presses offers a range of benefits. These include the following:

  • Exercising on the leg press machine helps you build your quadriceps. Thus, it increases the strength and stability of your lower body.
  • Leg presses engage the hamstrings and glutes, which stabilizes your lower body. It reduces the likelihood of injuries during workouts.
  • The leg press machine lets you adjust the weight. You can focus on weaker muscles, effectively improving muscle imbalance.
  • Leg presses enhance your range of motion in the knees, ankles, and hips. Thus, they promote better joint health and lower the risk of injuries.
  • Pressing the weight on the leg press machine also engages your abdominal and lower back muscles. They are forced to work to maintain the correct form. This, in turn, helps build core strength, which is critical for overall fitness.

Hack Squat Machine: Muscles Worked, How To Use and Benefits

Hack Squat Machine: Muscles Worked, How To Use and Benefits

Hack squat machine works targets major lower body muscles. The machine imitates the classic squat movement. The hack squat machine is somewhere in between the leg press and the weight squat. It resembles the leg press because the exercise is performed on a machine for stability and squatting because the core movement is squatting. The one area through which hack squat differentiates itself is stability. The hack squat machine also gives you more room to target specific muscle groups as you can change your foot position. For example, to target your quadriceps, move your feet backward. But if you want to target your glutes, move your feet forward.

Muscles Worked

The hack squat machine works the following muscles.

  • Quadriceps to extend your knee and straighten your legs.
  • Glutes to extend your hips as you move upward from the bottom position.
  • The hamstrings help control movement.

How to Use the Hack Squat Machine?

It is essential to use the hack squat machine with proper form. Follow the technique below.

  • Set up the machine to the appropriate height.
  • Place your shoulders on the shoulder pads.
  • Put your feet shoulder-width apart, slightly in front of the sled’s base.
  • Disengage the sled locks and extend your legs.
  • Inhale, keep your core engaged and squat deeply without sacrificing your form.
  • Extend your legs up again as you reach the starting position.

PRO TIP FOR FOOT POSITION: To target your hips, place your feet higher on the platform. To target the quadriceps, place your feet a bit lower. Do not lift your heels.

Benefits of Hack Squat Machine

There are several benefits of a hack squat machine. These include the following:

  • Haqck squat requires less ankle mobility. Thus, it is great for those with mobility issues.
  • Quadriceps drive the entire hack squat movement in the upward phase. This makes the hack squat machine one of the best equipment for growing the size and strength of quads.
  • The hack squat machine supports your back throughout the movement. This makes this exercise a safer and more stable alternative for those with back pain issues.
  • Hack squat lets you increase the weight without worrying about dropping it. All that is required from you is to focus on pushing the sled as hard as possible. Thus, it allows you to challenge your muscles effectively.

Read Also: Best Hack Squat Alternatives

Differences Between the Leg Press and Hack Squat

Differences Between the Leg Press and Hack Squat

Leg press vs. hack squat differs from each other on various fronts.

1. Design of the Machine

The leg press machine is designed to place you on your back with your feet high on a sled. You are challenged to push the weight away from you. Contrarily, the hack squat machine always keeps you on your feet. You are aligned in a modified standing position. These different designs let you engage differently with both machines while working different parts of the targeted muscles.

2. Targeted Muscles

The movement of the leg press machine causes your glutes to go into deep flexion. Your knees, on the other hand, cannot go as deep. It means that it’s a great machine to target glutes but not the right one for those who want to grow their quads. The hack squat machine targets quads as it mimics the classic squat. But it also targets glutes and hamstrings. Since the machine imitates the squatting movement, it is the right choice for those wanting to grow quad muscles.

3. Loading the Weight

When it comes to loading the machines with weight, we have two very different pictures. Leg presses are all about using your legs to push away the weight. The focus is only on the legs, while the rest of your body isn’t used that much. So, you can easily increase the weight while performing the movement with the correct form. On the other hand, the hack squat involves almost the entire lower body, along with the back and shoulders. Since the focus is more on the full body, it isn’t possible to overload as much as in leg presses. However, even with less weight, a hack squat is capable of sculpting your muscles.

4. Range of Motion

Both leg presses and hack squat targets different ranges of motion. In simple words, a hack squat enables you to achieve a deep movement at the knee joint. Thus, it has a broad range of motion. When it comes to leg presses, the range of motion isn’t that deep. This is chiefly because of the seated position, which makes your hips flexed throughout. You cannot achieve a deep motion with them as in a hack squat.

5. Exercise Difficulty

When it comes to how challenging is both the exercises, the answer is obvious. Performing a full hack squat is much more difficult than a leg press. This is because a hack squat imitates the squatting motion, which is a compound exercise targeting almost the entire body. It makes it much more difficult to perform with proper form. Leg presses are more straightforward, as they majorly involve only the legs. The focus is only on pushing the weight away with the legs. It does not involve the entire body, making it a bit more beginner-friendly.

Final Words

There cannot ever be a straightforward answer when it comes to deciding which is more effective. Both machines serve their own purposes and are essential to building lower body strength. However, if you want to specifically gain size in your lower body, doing leg presses often will give you the desired result. If, on the other hand, your goal is to improve your squat and work your entire body with a focus on growing quadriceps, a hack squat will be more suitable. Beginners wanting to challenge themselves with more weight can use leg presses. Advanced lifters wanting to level up their strength training routine should focus on hack squats. At the end of the day, it’s all about weighing the advantages of both exercises. After that, consider your specific goals and include both exercises as part of a well-rounded routine.