I began wondering this while I should have been counting the reps of the client I was training at the time.
This makes me a terrible coach.
It may, however, make for an interesting blog article!
What is a hack squat?
These days most hack squats are performed using a machine.
Bodybuilding.com describes the hack squat as follows:
There are many variations of the hack squat, including using the smith machine, standing facing away from the machine, facing towards it, using bands and a million other variations.
I encourage you to give them a try.
Hack squats weren't always performed like this. There is an original form of the hack squat that is rarely seen today that I will explain below.
Above we see two variations of the hack squat. One variation has the heels elevated on a wedge or elevated surface (or at least it looks that way to me) and another variation where the person must go onto their toes throughout most of the repetition.
Since the rise of the (resistance) machines, hack squats have almost exclusively been performed on machines. It's more convenient, it's simpler to load up and you can handle heavier loads in a safer fashion making it more beneficial in pretty much every way.
Not that you'll die performing this exercise, or that your knees will explode, it's just not the best choice 99.9% of the time.
There are simpler, more effective ways to achieve the same things.
If you are an iron culture aficionado who wants to sample all the horrible delights that 19th-century strongmen used to put themselves through then knock yourself out.
For me, like the inverted leg press, this exercise died a death for good reason.
Well done, modern-day bodybuilding. You made hack squats better.
Pat on the back!
In the West, George HACKenschmidt popularised the hack squat (as far as I can tell) in the book "The Way To Live" in 1941 but that may not be the full story behind the origin of the exercise.
Because Hackenschmidt popularised it (he may also have 'invented' the movement but I'm not sure) and his name is synonymous with the hack squat, it is probably because of Hackenschmidt for it still being called a "hack squat" in English speaking countries.
George Hackenschmidt or Georg Karl Julius Hackenschmidt to give him his full name was:
He lived from 1877 until 1968. I hope to write about George again before too long.
The name 'Hack Squat', comes from the German word 'Hacke' meaning 'heel', whether this is because the heels are elevated or because the heels would often be touching I'm not exactly sure.
Hackenschmidt mentioned this in his "The Way To Live" book from 1941. So the German word for heel + the Hackenschmidt name = people are still performing hack squats all over the world.
Hack squats aren't performed with the heels elevated anymore and heels touching variation wouldn't be seen very often.
The exercise could also be named after a Prussian dancing involving all sorts of madness.
Check out this video to see what craziness they get up to:
Amazing. Even though I don't think it's actually anything to do with the name of hack squats and I've only seen this suggested on Wikipedia with quite an obscure reference.
The dancing is incredible, especially to Hard Bass.
In Summary, the hack squat is called a hack squat because of heel positioning, because of the great George Hackenschmidt and is still performed today due to more convenient and effective variations becoming available through resistance machine innovations in the latter half of the 20th century.
Now you know!
Thank you for reading.
The Heavy Metal Strength Coach