Added On October 24, 2011
Machine Hack Squats Vs. Front Squats
/What's better for bigger QUADS?/
The front squat and the hack squat are two of the greatest quad exercises you can perform. Both movements hit the front of the leg directly and put tons of stress on your quadriceps. However many people ask which is better when it comes to pure leg hypertrophy? Well, it depends.
The front squat is a great quad exercise but it has some limitations. The exercise requires a lot of upper back strength in order to hold the bar correctly during the movement. The minute your back is fatigued you are going to drop the weight. This is the biggest problem presented by the barbell front squat - your upper back will usually fail before your legs had the chance to be set on fire. This problem is discussed by coaches such as Bill Starr who prefers to use triples when it comes to front squats due to the reason that once your trunk gives up the form goes to hell rather fast. This is great but triples don't build that much muscle unless there is very short rest between the sets. In the past I've experimented with a lot of different rep schemes and the best I discovered when it comes to leg hypertrophy produced by front squats was the rest-pause principles popularized by H.I.T. trainers such as Mike Mentzer, Arthur Jones and Dorian Yates.
Test rest-pause principle is pretty simple - you do 3 reps - rest - 10 to 15 seconds - and do 3 more reps until you reach at least 6 reps. I've done that with front squats and it works relatively well. I've went up to 5 sets of 3 reps with 10-15 seconds of rest between them. So that's a total of 15 reps done with the same weight with extremely small pauses between all sets. There is no doubt that I would fail to perform 15 reps with the same weight if I went for one straight set. So that's one tip you can use in order to hit your legs using front squats while keeping your back fresh as much as you can. However I also recommend using the pre-exhaust principle and fatigue your quads prior to performing fronts squats in order to make the legs the weak link.
At the same time the machine hack squat helps you achieve quad stimulation rather easy because your back does not have to support a heavy barbell in front of you and the mechanics of the machine make the front leg do all the work. This is why the machine hack squat is a very useful exercise when going for pure lower body hypertrophy - you can destroy your legs without any kind of limitations coming from your upperbody muscles. There is absolutely no need to perform any kind of pre-exhaustion exercise prior to hack squats because you lifting everything with your quads anyway. However as you can guess this exercise also has its downsides - knee stress. Due to the position of your knees all of the stress is placed on your front leg which is what we want but many people with sensitive tendons might experience some patella problems if they do too much hack squats or can't tolerate them due to other reasons. If this is you don't get sad. There are a lot other exercises to choose from and never hesitate to throw away any exercise that causes you pain when your form and programming are correct. Bodybuilding and training in general is about finding what works for you. Not what others want you to do. You have to make your own decisions based on how your body reacts and feels.
Conclusion: For me the hack squats is the "better" exercise when it comes to pure front leg hypertrophy provided that the individual can perform the exercise without knee pain. At the same time the front squat will remain the better full body exercise due to the extra upper back development, coordination and balance required during the movement.
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