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Leg day for any gym-goer is typically considered the most challenging and most people have a love hate relationship with training their legs. This tends to be because your legs form the strongest muscle groups in your body meaning you can lift more and push them to greater levels of strength.
Using machines such as the V Squat allow you to load heavier weights as you don’t recruit as many of the stabiliser muscles in the legs but many people want to know are V Squats effective.
But first let’s discuss the basic movement which is performed in the operation of a V- Squat which is the Squat.
Whether this is a free weight barbell squat, a hack squat machine or even sissy squats, there are quite a view variations and pretty much all of them offer a great way of building muscle mass and increasing strength gains.
- Recommended Reading – What Is A Hack Squat And How It Can Benefit Your Training
What Is Squatting?
Essentially, squatting is a compound exercise where the individual would drive their hips back until their hamstrings are parallel to the floor. A freeweight squat can be more commonly associated with the powerlifting community as regular barbell squats make up one of the three competitive lifts.
The other two being the bench press and the deadlift. Over time, it has become a popular exercise to incorporate into leg training due to the benefits it provides.
Whilst the movement may sound straightforward, it is in fact a very technical exercise that requires excellent form in order to prevent injury. When squatting heavy loads, this becomes even more important.
Performing a free-weight squat will work pretty much all muscles of the entire body and it’s a good choice for many people.
That being said, a barbell squat isn’t for everyone.
As mentioned above, there are variations of a squat and people aren’t just limited to using a barbell to perform back squats or front squats.
If, for example, you wish to squat but also minimize the weight load on your lower back, a better option could be using a hack squat or a v squat machine as they use a back pad for better stability.
In this article we discuss a specific squat machine, the v squat and whether it’s as effective as other squat variations.
What is a V Squat?
A V Squat machine is a plate loadable piece of gym equipment that allows the user to perform a squat movement whilst placing less pressure on the lower back when compared to a barbell squat.
Typically, a V squat machine allows the execution of both front and back squats, making it more versatile when compared to other squat machines such as the hack squat.
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V Squat vs Hack Squat
Sometimes a V squat machine can be confused with a hack squat. Whilst both allow for squatting with a fixed plane of movement, they are quite different machines, specifically when it comes to the movement patterns.
A hack squat makes use of a carriage which runs up and down on linear rails, whilst the back pad provides support to the upper body and alleviates stress on the lumbar spine and stabilizer muscles.
By comparison, a V squat machine rotates around a pivot point resulting in an arc plane of motion. This means that the V squat is a better replication for the barbell squat.
Another point to note is that the weight on a hack squat machine remains consistent throughout the movement.
In other words, if you load 100kg onto the machine, this stays the same whether at the top or bottom of the movement.
Conversely, the weight load on a V squat machine is typically heavier at the bottom of the movement and lighter at the top. This is due to the location of the pivot point when compared to the weight load.
Both machines are great for building strong legs and will allow you to squat with a full range of motion whilst targeting the hamstrings, glutes, and quads.
- Recommended Reading – Is A Hack Squat Worth Using For Muscle Hypertrophy?
Benefits of the V Squat
They Help To Build The Lower Body:
The V squat machine will effectively work all the leg muscles. By varying your foot placement on the foot plate, you can put greater emphasis on the different muscles of the legs.
Aside from switching up the positioning of your feet, you can even perform a reverse V squat. This is where you would undertake the exercise whilst facing towards the machine, making it good for improving hip flexion. What’s more, the grips on a V squat machine could allow you to use it as a kind of Viking Press so you can add mass to your delts.
They Can Prevent Back And Knee Strain
If you perform the exercise correctly, you can reduce the likelihood for lower back and knee injuries. The support provided from the back pad, reduces the activation of the core and stabilizer muscles and the fixed plane of motion makes it more likely you can perform the exercise with better form.
V Squat Alternatives
If you don’t have access to a V squat machine in your gym or perhaps, you’re new to training and not quite ready to move to barbell squatting, there are other squat machines that are worth considering that will work the muscles of your lower body
Belt Squat Machine
If you want a true representation of a regular barbell squat, then the belt squat machine that makes use of a pivot system is the best alternative. The weight load remains equally distributed either side of you and sits at around hip height. It offers safety bars which means you can squat without a spotter on hand.
What’s more, it’s a great starting point if you plan on moving over to barbell squats. The location of the weight means that it helps to correct tilting of the pelvis as you squat. Essentially, it’s forcing you to adopt the correct squat position whilst keep spinal compression at bay making it a great learning tool.
Another big plus of the belt squat machine is that it’s very versatile and not just limited to squats. You can easily perform lunges, back rows and donkey calf raises on this machine.
The pendulum squat is a gym machine that targets the lower body by allowing the user to squat following an arc plane of motion. There is good activation of the knee extensors during the exercise resulting in a deep-set squat with minimal spinal compression.
Essentially, it’s kind of the reverse of a V squat machine when it comes to the weight load. The resistance profile of a pendulum squat means that the weight load is lighter at the bottom of the movement but heavier at the top. This is the opposite of the V squat.
As stated above, the hack squat machine does often get mistaken for the V squat. It runs on rails meaning the movement is fixed and thereby helping you to keep the correct form. It’s a great option if you want to keep the weight load off of your upper body and is also a great quad isolation exercise.
This is one of the most common leg machines found in a commercial gym and whilst typically not viewed as a squat machine, you are essentially mimicking a squat as you are hinging at the hips and knees. As with the hack squat, the leg press provides full support to the upper body and is good for quad isolation. However, by altering your foot placement you can target different leg muscles.
A sissy squat is an exercise that is performed on a sissy squat bench. It’s quite an unassuming and small piece of equipment but is a fantastic quad developer. Easy to use, you just lock your feet into place and hinge at the hips, pushing back the glutes until your hamstrings are parallel to the floor. The size of the machine also makes it a great addition to a home gym.
Are V Squats bad for your knees?
Squatting incorrectly can put significant stress on your joints which may result in an injury, especially if squatting heavy. As mentioned above, a barbell squat is a very technical exercise in which you should seek advice from a personal trainer to learn the correct form.
When squatting on various machines, whilst these do essentially help with form it’s also advisable to ask the gym PT how to use them. Correct form not only prevent injuries it also ensures you are working the muscles efficiently.
Should you use machines when squatting?
Not necessarily, bodyweight squats are great for beginners or those that may have a pre-existing injury preventing them from squatting with weight, whilst free weights are great to strengthen stabiliser muscles. Remember you can still burn calories and improve muscular endurance from squatting with no weight and it’s also a great way of improving flexibility to your joints.
Squatting on machines can help you to improve different parts of the squat movement. For example, if you are weak in the upper portion of a squat, a V Squat could develop this as the weight load decreases slightly at the top of the exercise.
If you decide to squat on a machine, it’s worth mentioning that you’re still squatting some weight due to the weight of the machine itself. For example, if using a hack squat, you’re still pushing the weight of the carriage and, depending on the brand of the machine, this can vary anywhere between 20kg and 50kg.
How low should I squat?
Barbell squats can carry an element of risk in terms of how low you squat. Machines however usually provide safety features to prevent injury in the event of a failed lift.
When it comes to squat depth on machine, this really depends on your ability and your anatomy. Deep squats are typically undertaken if you want to work more of the glutes and can help with improving joint flexibility.
When it comes to your anatomy, how easy you can achieve a deep squat will depend on the length of your legs. If you have long femur bones (top of the leg) squatting deep is much more difficult. To overcome this, you could take a wider stance allowing you to squat deeper.
Another aspect of deep squats is ankle mobility, if you have poor ankle mobility then you’re going to find it tricky to achieve that deep squat. A potential solution to this would be to slightly elevate the heels.
Research has shown that for better muscle gains and strength, it’s more beneficial to squat deep with a lower weight than it is to squat shallow with a heavier weight. When using machines, you’ll likely find you can squat more weight when compared to using a barbell. It’s also worth noting that certain squat machines will allow you the mobility to squat deeper than others.
Conclusion – Are V Squats Effective?
If you want to squat but have limited core strength or want to minimize stress on the lower back, the V squat is definitely effective and a great way of isolating and building muscles of the lower body.
When compared to squatting with a barbell, a V squat machine will provide a lot of stability and ensure you keep your form as you squat. Whilst this of course, can be beneficial to many, it does meaning you’ll be working less muscle groups. By comparison, a regular barbell squat is a movement that works your entire body and will tax your central nervous system.
Even though the V squat machine will be less challenging than if you were to do regular squats, if you have access to one, it should have a place during your leg workouts.