Are Pendulum Squats The Same As Hack Squats?

pendulum squat
January 25, 2023 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “are pendulum squats the same as hack squats?”. Both exercises are great for building up the quads and working the legs in general.

However, they are not completely the same. This article will explore both exercises in more detail and by the end you will have a good insight into the differences between them.

Are Pendulum Squats The Same As Hack Squats?

Pendulum squats and hack squats are similar in the sense that the back is supported by the pad with both exercises. This means that the back is not the limiting factor as you are performing your squats.

They are different though in terms of the strength curve and the range of motion. The pendulum squat involves more rotation around a pivot point. The hack squat is on rails and is a more straight up and down movement.

Many pendulum squat machines allow you to alter settings so that the movement becomes harder at the bottom and easier as you are coming out of the hole. This changes the strength curve and allows you also to target different areas to a greater degree.

You can also typically alter the foot pad angle on both the hack squat and the pendulum squat. However, this is not always the case. 

The Hack Squat Is More Common

It is important to be aware that the hack squat is a lot more common than the pendulum squat machine. The majority of commercial gyms nowadays have a hack squat machine.

However, this is not true of the pendulum squat. This is a lot more rare and typically is only in more specialised bodybuilding gyms. I am fortunate in that one of the gyms I train at regularly has a pendulum squat machine.

I have utilised both the pendulum squat machine and the hack squat in my training. As such I am well placed to offer my opinions on this subject.
hack squat

Is The Pendulum Squat Better?

From my experience, the pendulum squat is better than the hack squat. This is for various reasons. Firstly, the hack squat tends to put more stress on the knees and a lot of people can’t tolerate this.

The amount of stress that is placed on the knees varies between different models of hack squat. I have tried a few different hack squats at different gyms – generally it isn’t the most comfortable on the knees.

In addition the strength curve and motion doesn’t feel as natural with the hack squat. Personally, the pendulum squat feels better and is a more natural movement pattern.

Other people agree anecdotally with my experiences. In the video below, the late John Meadows is showing the pendulum squat machine to people and explaining how it is a very useful way of training your lower body, even if you have bad hips, knees or lower back.

For many people the traditional barbell squat doesn’t suit them and they are increasing their risks of injury. The pendulum squat allows you to train legs with a very low risk of injury and certainly will help to build them up.

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Are Hack Squats A Good Replacement?

If your gym doesn’t have a pendulum squat machine, should you just use the hack squat? This is a question that you may be asking yourself, the truth is you could.

There is nothing wrong with the hack squat – it is a great exercise for building up the quads and giving your legs a great workout. As there is a back support pad, your back isn’t a limiting factor like it is with a free squat.

You can effectively work your legs harder. The key with the hack squat is to pay careful attention to your technique. Once you fatigue with heavy weight and your form breaks down you should just rack the weight.

I learnt this lesson the hard way a while ago. I was performing hack squats every week with progressive overload and getting stronger on the exercise. One day I came into the gym to do the prescribed number of reps my program called for on the hack squat.

Even though the weight felt really heavy for me on this day and I was struggling a lot on quite a few reps, I just hammered on in order to complete the reps that my program called for. 

What resulted was a lower back strain. This strain took a good two months to recover fully from. So it really is crucial to listen to your body first and foremost. You shouldn’t give up on reps, but you shouldn’t keep going even after your form has broken down.

Lifting is a long term marathon, it is all about making small progress each time and living to fight another day. Injuries will only slow down your progress and very bad ones will completely derail your progress!

Final Thoughts

Are pendulum squats the same as hack squats? Well, they are very similar but not quite the same. I believe that pendulum squats are slightly superior, simply because the movement pattern and strength curve feels more natural.

In addition, they feel slightly better on the knees and back than hack squats. Pendulum squats also allow people who have bad hips to be able to perform full range of motion squats without pain.

For this reason, they offer great utility to lifters. I would certainly prefer pendulum squats over belt squats as well.

If you have any comments on this topic please leave them below. Have you ever tried the pendulum squat machine?

As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> Are Safety Bar Squats Harder?

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