Hatfield Squat

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What Is A Hatfield Squat

The Hatfield squat is a type of back squat variation, that is performed using a safety squat bar. This type of bar is specifically designed to help lifters squat with good technique and a reduced risk of injury. It is a special barbell that has neck and shoulder pads. The pads allow the bar to securely rest on the back of the athlete, without the need to hold onto it with the hands.

The Hatfield squat encourages a more upright torso position and helps lifters to keep their weight back on their heels. This reduces the risk of injury and makes the exercise more effective for building lower-body strength.

The bar rests passively on the back, while the athlete’s hands are grabbing the safety rack during the exercise. This helps to keep an upright torso position because the arms and hands support balance – the ascend of the Hatfield squat gets easier. More weight can be used.

This exercise requires:

  • Lower upper back strength levels
  • Lower balance and coordination levels
  • Less mobility in the ankles, knees, and hips

This makes the Hatfield squat an excellent and easier variation of the back squat.

How To Do The Hatfield Squat – Hatfield Squat Technique

A key difference of the Hatfield squat is the position of the hands during the movement.

The hands grab a stable set of handles on the safety rack. Several lifters also simply hold on to the upright of the rack or use another barbell placed on the opposite side of the squat rack.

The handles will help you to maintain a vertical torso during the up movement.

Important: Never perform the Hatfield squat with any bar other than a safety squat bar.

1. Rack Set-Up

Start by placing the safety squat bar on a rack at about shoulder height. The base of the neck pad should be at the same height as your armpits. The safety arms should be positioned slightly lower than where the bar will come to a halt when you squat down.

2. Preparation & Un-Rack

Step under the bar and position it on your back. Make sure the pads are placed comfortably on your back. Grab the safety bar with your hands, at the beginning of the exercise.

3. Step Back

Step away from the rack, grab the safety rack with your hands, and position your feet hip-width apart.

4. Squat Down

Brace your core and keep your chest and upper body up (vertical torso) as you squat down. Also, keep your grip on the hand supports. Push your knees forward and out to reinforce the mechanics of the Hatfield squat.

5. Lift Back Up

After you reached your squat depth (bottom position), press through your heels to stand back up, while keeping an upright upper body. Use the handles and your arms to assist you with the ascent. 

6. Re-Rack

Complete your desired reps. Then step forward and re-rack the safety squat bar. Make sure that the bar makes contact with the hooks before you let go.

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Hatfield Squats Benefits

The benefits of the Hatfield squat are: 

  • It can be utilized as an injury workaround
  • Safety
  • Serves as an overload exercise
  • It helps to increase strength
  • Can increase lower body hypertrophy
  • Can add variety

Injury Workaround

The Hatfield squat is often used to work around an injury or help lifters make their back feel better & achieve an optimal training effect after exercising.

Compared to the traditional back squat, the Hatfield squat allows the lifter to maintain a more upright torso position. This effect is increased due to the assistance of the arms, which help with balance.

This exercise also makes a great squat variation, because it enables less loading to the lower back. Additionally, Hatfield squats are more specific than for instance a leg press as a variation to the leg workout. It allows full hip extension, which is beneficial for the athlete.

Safety

If you are training mostly alone the Hatfield squat can provide more safety, as you can use your arms to pull yourself back up, if the weight was too heavy.

Overload

The Hatfield squat can be used as a sufficient overload exercise. This means using more weight than usual (overloading).

In addition to the assistance of the arms during this movement, the reduced need to actively balance can be used to push harder. More weight can be lifted by using the Hatfield squat compared to the traditional back squat.

This can lead to more gains in size and strength.

Helps To Increase Strength

Hatfield squats are similar to the traditional squat but allow more weight.

It axially loads the athlete (loads the spine), trains similar muscle groups, and is performed using comparable joint angles. Because of these similarities, Hatfield squats will increase strength that can be transferred to the back squat.

The similarities make the Hatfield squat also a better choice than different machine variations.

Increase Lower Body Hypertrophy

A majority of muscle breakdown and hypertrophy come from the lowering (eccentric) part of a lift. This is what is overloaded before the arms assist in the uplift & eliminate sticking points during the movement.

Building muscle mostly comes down to:

  • Training volumes -> you can increase the weight (volume) because you use your hands as assistance
  • Using a full range of motion -> since you use your hands, you don’t have to focus on balance, which makes a full range of motion easier
  • Performing sets close to failure -> the assistance allows you to work closer to failure

The Hatfield squat is a great choice for lower body hypertrophy because all three factors are fulfilled.

Variety

If you don’t want your progress to stop, it is important to not just add weight, total reps, or more sets, but to use exercise variety. Ideally targeting the same muscle groups. This will help to push through strength plateaus.

It also helps to keep things interesting and fresh. Variety can give new enjoyment to your workout routine. This can make sure that you stick with it long-term.

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Hatfield Squats Muscles Worked

The primary muscles used in the Hatfield squat are:

Gluteus Maximus

The Gluteus Maximus (glute max building the glute muscles) is the largest muscle in the hip region – gives the buttock a rounded shape. This muscle is responsible for hip extension. The glute max functionally allows you to stand upright by bringing your legs in line with the body.

Quadriceps

The Quadriceps (quads) are located on the front of the thigh and are formed of four strong muscles. The prime function of the quadriceps is to extend the knee joint.

One of these muscles, which is positioned on the front of the pelvis, also aids in hip flexion.

You can walk, run, jump, lunge, and squat because of these large muscles in your legs.

Adductors

The Adductors are a group of muscles located on the inside of the thigh. These muscles work together to bring the legs back inward to the middle of the body.

In most lower-body exercises, they are very active at the bottom and provide a substantial amount of strength and assistance.

Supporting Muscles

The supporting muscles are the trunk muscles (front abs, side abs, lower back) & calves.

The trunk muscles keep the spine from collapsing and protect the midsection from folding over because of the weight.

The calves help extend the knees and assist in standing up.

Lastly, as you use the arms during the Hatfield squat, the biceps and front delts will be used as support as well.

Are Hatfield Squats Right For You?

The Hatfield squat was invented for lifters with strong lower backs and weak legs. 

If you want to focus on building your quads and glutes, this exercise can help. If you have trouble with mobility or balance, the Hatfield squat can also be a good choice.

The main benefit of the Hatfield squat is that it allows you to use more weight than a traditional squat. If you are looking for an exercise to increase your one-rep max, this could be a good choice for you.

The main downside of the Hatfield squat is that it can be difficult to set up. You need the equipment (important: a safety squat bar), but if you don’t train in a home gym, most gyms are equipped with it.

If you want to focus on building your quads and glutes and are willing to put in the extra effort to set up the exercise, the Hatfield squat could be a good variation to add to your workout routine.

Final Thoughts

The Hatfield squat is a great choice for lower body hypertrophy because all three factors are possible to fulfill – volume, range of motion, and performance/sets close to failure.

Additionally, Hatfield squats can help you push through strength plateaus and keep your workout routine interesting and fresh. The main downside is that it can be difficult to set up the equipment (you need at least a safety squat bar), but the benefits outweigh this one negative. But see for yourself and give it a try!

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