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The SQUAT part 3: Hacksquat, Dumbbell Squat, Incline Leg Press

The first part of this article pointed out the various reasons why the "SQUAT" is rightfully called the "King of Exercises". There is no doubt that the SQUAT is truly the most effective movement of all resistance exercises. The only problem is that exercisers often have difficulties performing this indispensable movement with correct technique due to lacking physical capabilities or physical limitations.

Fortunately there are various versions and varieties of the SQUAT available among which fitness enthusiasts can choose in accordance with their level of training experience (proficiency) and individual needs.

Having previously featured the BARBELL SQUAT and SMITH SQUAT, let us today have a closer look at the HACKSQUAT, DUMBBELL SQUAT and another most valuable, squat-related movement, the INCLINE LEG PRESS.

The HACKSQUAT

The HACKSQUAT mainly stresses the quadriceps, our large frontal thigh muscles, with secondary emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings. It may not be entirely as effective as the BARBELL SQUAT, and can therefore not replace it, but can in certain situations be a quite satisfactory substitute and complement. It is a particularly sensible choice if you have not yet learned to master the proper technique of the barbell squat; if your back is tired or injured; or if no reliable spotters are available.

The HACKSQUAT is even safer yet than the SMITH SQUAT, as your back is supported by the padded back-support of the machine's weight-loaded sled throughout the entire range of motion; in addition to that, the sled's padded yoke eliminates the discomfort which a loaded barbell can cause to the back of your neck. As the machine also allows for placing your feet forward on its foot platform, during the descent your knees do not extend beyond the toes, which reduces the stress to your knee joints to the minimum. The HACKSQUAT device provides a similar amount of control over the movement's range of motion as the Smith Machine, but, of course , the deeper you go down the more benefit you will gather.

The most important advice for the safe performance of this exercise is to keep your back arched and in touch with the padded back-support throughout the entire movement. Keep your knees perfectly in line with your toes at all times and do not lock out your knees on the top. Breathe in during the descent and exhale while returning to the start position.

The DUMBBELL SQUAT

The DUMBBELL SQUAT as correctly shown in the picture on the left illustrates one more example of how weight resistance can be applied to a SQUAT movement. The DUMBBELL SQUAT is an option for anyone who doesn't have a fully equipped gym at his disposal, but trains at home or during travel and has to get by with such basic equipment as a pair of dumbbells. All the directions for the performance of the above described SQUAT varieties of course also apply to the DUMBBELL SQUAT.

The INCLINE LEG PRESS

The INCLINE LEG PRESS is a safe way to strengthen all major lower body muscle groups, while virtually eliminating potential back strain if performed correctly. It is, in fact, nothing else than an inverted SQUAT with a reduced range of motion and without lower back involvement. Thus it becomes a good exercise for people with knee problems or for people whose lower back is injured or too exhausted to safely perform other SQUAT varieties. It may also be the safest option for beginners, especially if there are no qualified spotters around, who could assist during any other SQUAT version.

Performing the INCLINE LEG PRESS, the exerciser is seated on a padded seat with back support and uses his legs to push a plate-loaded sled up along angled guide rods as shown in the picture. The advantage is that the exerciser does not have to work against his own bodyweight, but can fully concentrate on applying the strength of his thighs against the provided weight resistance.

The INCLINE LEG PRESS offers, however, much more than mere leg development. For the safe performance of this movement it is vital to forcefully pull on the handle bars next to the device's padded seat in order to ensure, that your buttocks will stay in contact with the padded seat throughout the entire movement; allowing your buttocks to lose contact with the seat and move upwards would cause undue back strain and could lead to serious injury. What is important to realize is that continuously pulling on the provided handle-bars also brings your upper body muscles, especially upper back muscles, shoulders and arms into play which isometrically contract; this makes the INCLINE LEG PRESS in essence rather a whole body exercise than a mere leg movement.

It is another strong point of the INCLINE LEG PRESS that its technique is not very difficult to master.

Start the most basic version of the INCLINE LEG PRESS by placing your feet about shoulder-width apart on the machine's foot platform. Unlock the weight-loaded sled, then pull on the handle-bars next to the padded seat, and begin the controlled descent by bending your knees; gradually go down as low as possible without allowing your buttocks to curl up and lose contact with the seat in order to avoid back strain. Also don't go as deep that your heels would come off the foot platform; both soles of your feet must always stay in contact with the platform throughout the entire movement. During the descent as well as the ascent, make sure that your knees always stay in line with your toes and never lock out your knees on the top of the movement, as this could strain your knee's ligaments. It is also most important to pay attention to correct

breathing: inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. Holding your breath, especially during the exertion phase, may lead to momentary dizziness or even to a temporary black-out, especially in individuals with poor physical condition.

Keeping all these points in mind and performing the INCLINE LEG PRESS as above described, it will not only prove to be a valuable and safe compound (multi-joint) exercise for your initial period of weight training , but it will become and stay an indispensable complement and most valuable part of your thigh and hip training throughout your entire fitness career.