Squats are usually the go-to exercise when it comes to building leg mass, as they’re one of the ‘big-3’ compounds that everyone is pointed to when it comes to creating a well balanced physique.
However, when it comes to hypertrophy and bringing out each individual muscle, we have to be more efficient with our training and choose exercises which are more specific to particular muscle areas.
The hack-squat is an exercise which puts more emphasis on the vastus medialis, otherwise known as the teardrop. This can be found on the inside of the upper leg and gets its nickname from the shape it forms.
Barbell Back Squat
The barbell back squat is one, if not the most popular forms of squat to perform.
It’s worth noting that the hack squat requires you to take a similar path throughout the movement to this conventional movement.
However, the weight is focused more on the vastus medialis due to the differentiation in your stance and the position in which you hold the weight.
Machine Hack Squat
Using the machine to perform the hack squat takes away the necessity in using your core strength to make sure you keep a balanced range of motion throughout the movement.
You’re also able to alter the positioning of your feet to target particular angles of your quadriceps and more specifically the vastus medialis.
Some of the most successful bodybuilders have been known to incorporate hack squats into their routines – such as Tom Platz.
How to Perform
✓ Retract your scapular and use the shoulder pads to cushion your shoulders.
✓ Keep your head upright, take hold of the safety bars and unlock.
✓ Straighten your legs (without locking them) and stand with your feet at shoulder width apart.
✓ Slightly face your toes outwards.
✓ Inhale when you perform the eccentric part of the movement (descent) and exhale when exploding on the concentric.
✓ Maintain a tight posture, descend until you break parallel and explode back up with control (without bouncing up from the bottom of the movement).
✓ Drive through the ball of your heels.
Barbell Hack Squat
Using a barbell for this exercise makes it similar to the deadlift. By starting with the weight on the floor and having to pick it up from the ground, the risk of falling underneath a weight is taken away and allows for you to ‘bail-out’ of the exercise if you feel uncomfortable at any point.
In terms of hypertrophy benefits, the barbell hack squat allows you to put more emphasis on driving through your legs from being down in the hole as a starting point, as opposed to beginning the movement at the top and descending into the hole, which is unusual for a squat movement as you’ll usually un-rack the weight and begin by descending – therefore this exercise is a great way to challenge the quadriceps, and more specifically, the vastus medialis.
How to Perform
✓ Start with the barbell behind you and imagine you’re sitting on an imaginary chair above the bar
✓ Take hold of the bar, keep your back straight and head neutral
Tip: Use weightlifting shoes, or place slight platforms underneath your heels to get into a comfortable position to perform the exercise
✓ Drive up through your heels and engage your quadriceps.
✓ Do not lock-out at the top of the movement.
✓ Once you reach the top, squeeze your quadriceps and then descend.
✓ Control the barbell by concentrating on not letting it bounce off the floor each repetition.
✓ Exhale when exploding upwards, and inhale when descending back down into the hole.
Take Home Message
Hopefully you should now be more knowledgable on how to increase hypertrophy of the vastus medialis and sculpt your quadriceps effectively.
I’d recommend performing 4 sets of either one of these exercises on your leg-day. You could use each variation every-other time you train your legs.
For hypertrophy, rep ranges of 8-15 are most effective; if you can reach 15 repetitions on all 4 sets, increase the weight.
If you cannot reach at least 8 repetitions on each set, decrease the weight.