V Squat vs. Hack Squat: What’s The Difference?
If you’re looking for an exercise to isolate your quadriceps and develop strong thighs, then consider squats leg day’s close, often-visited friend. And just as friends come in all shapes and sizes, there are a plethora of ways to remix the standard squat’s sit-down, stand-up motion.
Apart from bodyweight squats, the V squat and the hack squat are two popular variations for gym-goers looking to build powerful quadriceps. While the two exercises follow a similar pattern, understanding the key to how they compare can help you decide which one is best for enhancing your quad game.
Here, we highlight the similarities and differences between them, along with how to choose between them the next time you hit the mat area at your health club of choice.
V Squat vs Hack Squat: Key Similarities
Leg day consists of many different workout variations for different lower body muscle groups: glute, hamstring, quad, etc. But working out the same way each time can become boring. The next time you’re staring down the machines in your gym’s leg section and thinking of trying something new, perhaps a V squat machine or hack squat machine will catch your eye. If you don’t know much about either, they might appear fairly daunting—but it helps to respect both moves and the burn they can bestow upon you.
So what is a hack squat? And what is a V squat? Both of these traditional squat variations can leave your quads feeling on fire.
Aside from their potential to ignite a burn in the quad muscle group, the V squat and the hack squat have several key commonalities:
Target muscle groups – Both V and hack squats effectively isolate the quadricep muscles in order to optimally work and develop them. These twists on the conventional squat minimize the role of other muscle groups in the lift, such as the back and hips, to concentrate the load onto your quads.1
Use of machines – Both V and hack squats can be done using specially-designed machines to assist during the exercise. While V squats have a machine designed just for them, they can also be done on a hack squat machine using an altered stance.2 Using machines also means less worry and effort will go into balancing and stabilizing the weight you move.3 Thus, more energy is exerted from the target muscle (the quadriceps).
Corollary muscles worked – While modern machinery does its best to eliminate activating anything but the target muscles, no body part works out in a vacuum. Expect to get your calves, lower back, and hamstrings going at least a little bit with either of these squat variations.4
Range of motion – They don’t follow identical movement patterns, but both the V and the hack squat carry your body through similar motion pathways. Standard squats should adequately prepare you for the movements you’ll make during these altered versions.
Work and rest – The amount of squats to pop is the same for both the V and hack varieties. If you’re aiming to both increase muscle size and get stronger, aim for 3 to 5 sets of around 10 repetitions, with 1 to 2 minutes of rest between them. If you’re solely trying to build strength, add weight and do a maximum of 5 reps for the same sets with double the rest in between.5
Hack Squat vs V Squat: Main Differences
While these two squats might look the same from across the gym room floor, when you zoom in and dissect the hack and V squats it’s clear they diverge in more than just their names.
Several formal and technical factors distinguish the V squat and the hack squat, including:
Equipment type – As previously mentioned, V squats can be performed on a hack squat machine. However, there’s also a specific piece of equipment suited for the task: A hack squat machine is angled at about 45° with a backrest and pads that lay on your shoulders. As you squat on it, weight is pushed up and down the angled track in a straight line. Not to mention that there are also the different V squat and hack squat variations, such as the barbell squat, which can come in handy if a machine is in use perhaps.
A V squat machine, on the other hand, pivots and folds around a center point. The backrest and pads remain, but you’re pushed outward in more of a parabolic motion (rather than moving your back in a straight line).5 Your spine should remain upright with either piece of equipment, regardless of the path it takes.
Stance – When performing a V squat on a hack squat machine, the key difference comes down to the stance. During a regular hack squat, your legs should mostly align with your shoulders, with your feet pointed slightly outwards.6
During a V squat, you should widen your stance past your shoulders, creating an upside-down V shape with your legs. Additionally, you should position your feet at more of an obtuse angle, creating another “V” with your trunk.2
Secondary muscles targeted – The muscles worked by each squat variation is also a key difference between these two. The hack squat is a go-to for getting your quads fired up and your legs quaking. It was crafted with the intent to maximize resistance and exert these powerful leg muscles.
The V squat variant, however, targets the glutes as well as the quads.5 The V squat’s widened stance lessens the load borne by the quads, distributing weight more evenly throughout the leg muscles than a standard hack squat.2
Path of movement – While the hack squat follows a straight line, the V squat leads your body towards more of an arc. Differences in muscle employment aside, how each motion feels to execute will be unique to your body.
Weight used – While the two motions are similar, the exact muscles they engage differ—and so too should the load you bear with each exercise. Experiment with different weights to see what feels both comfortable and challenging for each exercise separately. Just be sure to go low first and build up to reduce the risk of injury.
Much like your legs in proper V squat form, the hack and V squat have a decent amount of separation between them; certainly enough variation to classify them as distinct exercises.
If both are an option at your gym, then your task is to decide which would make a handsome addition to your current fitness routine.
How to Choose Between a V Squat and Hack Squat
You may have questions when deciding to incorporate new exercises into your routine. Attending fitness classes or asking personal trainers are great ways to sort out any uncertainties about unfamiliar moves.
If you’re trying to pick between V and hack squats, considering the following factors can help you come to a decision:
Fitness goals – What muscles are you trying to develop and strengthen the most? Are you only trying to target your quads and build them up as much as possible? Or do you want to tone up your legs as a whole?
Hack squats are ideal for isolating your quadriceps and giving them the maximum strain possible. Alternatively, if you want to get more of your lower body in on the action, widen to a V squat to place more stress on your other leg muscles.
Physical ability – Those with joint or mobility issues may find the stance or motion of either variation more difficult than the other. If you find one suits your capabilities more than the other, then it’s the right choice for you.
Muscle fatigue – If you’ve just gotten off a strenuous quad routine a few days prior, tackling them again with hack squats may not be the best idea. Alternatively, if the upper thighs are feeling great but the rest of your legs are a little sluggish, keep those legs at shoulder-width to get the quadriceps firing. Read your body, assess how you feel on a given day, and decide which exercise is right for you.
Personal preference – The V squat’s range of motion might jive with your body and the extent of your flexibility. Conversely, perhaps the hack squat feels more natural to you. If one or the other is a standout, no-contest winner in regards to how it makes you feel, consider it your new go-to.
Regardless of which squat you’re gravitating towards, you’ll see optimal results when you practice your chosen style (or both, if you’re game) regularly. A committed workout routine promises the highest, most observable yields in both strength and hypertrophy—the physiological process of ramping up muscle growth.1 Once you’ve decided upon one (or both) of these effective squat variations, it’s time to hit the fitness floor and put that theory to the test.
Hold on—your gym doesn’t have a V squat OR a hack squat machine? Maybe it’s time to search “gyms near me” and Chuze somewhere new to train.
Choose Exceptional Squatting Facilities With Chuze Fitness
It doesn’t matter if you’re perfecting your grasp of the classics or want to weave something brand-new into your workout routine. For all the sweat you put into your gym time, fitness should be as enjoyable as it is physically rewarding.
If you’re a fitness enthusiast from California, Arizona, Colorado, or New Mexico, Chuze Fitness wants to grant you that gratifying, versatile workout experience. Our fully-stocked fitness facilities are furnished with modern, high-quality equipment suited for any style of workout—and any style of the squat.
Whether you’re V squatting, hack squatting, or not squatting at all, our expert trainers and iChuze fitness app offer a broad selection of videos with exercises to enhance your repertoire. When you’re ready to sign up, we’ll be here to help you conquer your fitness goals.
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
Men’s Health. Want Monster Quads? Time to Learn the Hack Squat. https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a28133625/hack-squat/
Your Workout Book. Hack Squats vs. V Squats: What’s the Difference?. https://www.yourworkoutbook.com/hack-squats-vs-v-squats/
University of Delaware. Free Weights Vs. Machines: How should you choose?. https://sites.udel.edu/coe-engex/2018/04/03/free-weights-vs-machines-how-should-you-choose/
Muscle and Strength. Machine Hack Squat Video Exercise Guide. https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/hack-squat.html
Blackridge Fitness. V Squat Guide: How To, Muscles Worked, Alternatives & More. https://www.blackridgefitness.com/v-squat-guide/
Inspire Us Foundation. The Hack Squat: 4 Benefits, Muscles Used, and More. https://www.inspireusafoundation.org/the-hack-squat/