Is There an Ideal Leg Press to Hack Squat Ratio? (Explained!)

Last updated on October 29th, 2022 at 03:37 pm

Who else wants to know whether there’s an ideal leg press to hack squat ratio?

You’ve no doubt seen people regularly performing leg press and hack squats in the gym.

And possibly you’re no stranger to these fantastic lower body exercises yourself.

However, should you be able to leg press a certain weight compared to your hack squat?

Or is there no direct correlation between the two movements?

Let’s find out.

Leg Press to Hack Squat Ratio

There isn’t an exact leg press to hack squat ratio to aim for, as there are numerous variables to consider. That being said, the load is entirely supported by your legs during leg press, whereas upper body musculature can be a limiting factor during hack squats. Therefore, you should be able to leg press significantly more weight than you hack squat. There are statistics which show that most people will leg press 26-35% more than they hack squat.

Is Hack Squat Harder Than Leg Press?

A Muscular Man on the Leg Press Machine

I think most of us often try to compare similar exercises to each other.

What I mean by this is that if a couple of exercises appear to follow the same movement pattern, we typically want to know how much weight we should be lifting for both.

Forget the lower body for just one moment, I would hazard a guess that one of the most popular comparisons is how much you should dumbbell press compared to bench press, and vice versa.

I guess this always gives us something to aim for, although you’ll generally find that no two exercises are exactly the same.

Plus, how our individual bodies react to various exercises can dramatically differ from each other.

So, going back to discussing the lower body, it can be extremely difficult to give you an exact or ideal leg press to hack squat ratio.

However, one thing I can say for sure is that the hack squat is “harder” than the leg press, and therefore you won’t be using as much weight with hack squats.

The Main Differences Between Leg Press and Hack Squat

Okay, I will say that there’s nothing wrong with comparing the two exercises, although I don’t feel they can be used interchangeably.

Firstly, the hack squat typically has your torso at 45 degrees and the weight is loaded on your shoulders.

This immediately brings your upper body into play, and often it can be torso strength that is the limiting factor.

Basically, due to the fact that your shoulders are supporting the weight, your shoulders, upper back, and core will take up some of the strain.

Now, you would think that because you’re using these “additional muscles” that perhaps you should be able to shift more weight.

However, as I’ve said, it’s usually your upper body muscles that limit how much weight or how many reps of hack squat you do.

The legs house the largest and strongest muscles in the body, so they are always capable of “lifting” more weight than the upper body.

When it comes to the leg press, you are almost lying down, but it is your legs that are angled at 45 degrees, and it’s your legs that push the leg press platform away from you.

So, this means that you don’t have to worry about your upper body potentially limiting how much weight you can push.

In fact, the leg press is far more of an isolation exercise than the hack squat.

That being said, both exercises will mainly work the quads, although there is also a fair amount of glute activation with both exercises too.

The Leg Press to Hack Squat Weight Comparison

Okay, I’ve tried to get across that you can’t really compare the exercises, but we can still look at some statistics for both lifts.

When looking at the “average lifts” of several thousand people it appears that men will generally hack squat 28% less weight than they leg press

And the “average lift” for women shows that they hack squat 35% less weight than they leg press.

Finally, when looking at elite lifters, people who’ve been regular gym-goers for at least 5 years, things seem to even out a little more.

Elite-level men can hack squat 26% less weight than they leg press, and this figure ever so slightly increases to 28% for women.

So, putting this into actual numbers, the average male leg press is 484.4lbs (from a total of 9,960 lifts analysed), and the average male hack squat is 346.9lbs (from a total of 16.753 lifts analysed).

Can Hack Squat or Leg Press Replace Squats

I’m hoping that you potentially already know the answer to this.

I’ve mentioned that although leg press and hack squat can be compared, I don’t feel they can be used interchangeably.

And I will say exactly the same thing for squats.

I’ve also spoken about how your upper body comes into the mix during hack squats, as the weight is supported on your shoulders.

This “upper body involvement” significantly increases with barbell back squats, as you’re now using free weights and your back is totally unsupported.

Realistically, there’s a lot more going on with barbell squats than there is with hack squat and leg press.

So, you would expect to back squat the least amount of weight, then hack squat, and finally leg press the most amount of weight.

Basically, even though squats are mainly viewed as quad exercise, they also work the glutes, adductors, and hamstrings.

Plus, let’s not forget that as you have a loaded bar on your back, with NO back support, your shoulders, traps, upper back, and core will work fairly hard too.

And once again, as with the hack squat, these stabiliser muscles are likely to fatigue far quicker than your legs.

That being said, the stabiliser muscles are used much less with the hack squat.

And hardly at all during leg press.

This in itself should tell that you can’t perfectly replace squats with either hack squats or leg press.

In fact, if you do, you may find that the stabiliser muscles become weaker through lack of stimulation.

Plus, your glutes and hamstrings won’t be getting anywhere near as much activation as they did with squats.

This unfortunately can lead to muscle imbalances, and eventually injury.

So, if you feel barbell squatting isn’t hitting the spot (squats aren’t for everyone), you can obviously use hack squats and leg presses.

However, I would also “replace” the lost muscle activation by working the glutes, hamstrings, and even your core, with other exercises.

A prime example of this would be that you stop squatting and replace it with hack squats and Romanian deadlifts.

Then again, you may choose to replace squats with leg press, hip thrusts, and leg curls.

So, as you can see, neither exercise is a like-for-like substitute for barbell back squats.

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Final Thoughts

So, I hope you understand that there isn’t an exact hack squat to leg press ratio.

This simply comes down to the fact that even though both exercises are similar, they shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

Basically, the movements don’t work exactly the same muscles.

That being said, most people will agree that hack squats are harder than leg presses.

And although not “exact”, it is estimated that most people will hack squat 26-35% less weight than they leg press.

The main reason for this is that the weight during the hack squat is supported on your shoulders.

Therefore, you have to consider that your upper body musculature will fatigue far quicker than your lower body.

This isn’t an issue with the leg press machine, as the entire weight is being pushed by your legs, which houses the largest and strongest muscles in the body.

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