Learn Proper Form, Benefits, Why Are They Controversial And Should You Do Them Or Not?
Full-body compound exercises, such as the squat, are an excellent method to enhance overall muscular strength. keep in mind that maintaining correct body posture and angle while doing a squat is one of the most essential factors because it will maximize the benefits on your muscles, such as the glutes and quads. This is where Smith Machine squat comes into the picture.
Let’s admit it, the Smith machine is one of the most ridiculed pieces of equipment in the gym however, it’s about time for you to change your opinion as It is one of the most helpful tools in building up the strength and body posture for full squats. Needless to say, if you are performing the exercise for the first time, you should surely consider doing it through the Smith Machine.
Not just for beginners, there is a well-deserved place for it in your strength-building regimen too. This piece of equipment enables you to attempt heavy lifts without the assistance of a spotter, and it maintains the barbell on a guided path, which is a disadvantage for some exercises but a benefit for others.
Furthermore, because Smith machines — named for their inventor, Rudy Smith— are popularly regarded as inferior to free weights and the squat rack, they’re more likely to be available, so there you go.
Smith machine squats do have a few disadvantages that have made them controversial. But does this imply that Smith machine squats are that bad for you?
The fact is, smith machine squats have their own set of advantages that make them a viable and, in certain cases, superior substitute to barbell free weight squats.
Smith Machine Squat: Muscles Worked
The Smith machine squat mimics the barbell squat in terms of muscle activity. The quadriceps (front thighs) and glutes are the main movers, while the hamstrings play a supporting role. Even the calves (gastrocnemius) get some involvement.
Free weights are generally thought to be superior since they engage the stabilizer muscles more. However, research has shown that while performing the Smith squat, the core and abs are still activated to brace the midsection.
How To Do Smith Machine Squat
- Adjust the safety stops just above knee height and position the bar at shoulder height or just below it
- Adjust your hands to shoulder-width spacing on the bar and lightly grip the bar with an overhand grip.
- Get under the bar, and rest it on your trapezius muscles looking straight ahead. Unlock and raise the bar up and forward with your feet about hip distance apart.
- Begin to descend into a squat by shifting your weight back into your heels and bracing your abs. Ensure to keep your head and spine in a neutral position. Keep your knees as close to 90 degrees as possible. Hold for one second.
- Once your thighs reach parallel with the floor, drive through your heels to stand back up while keeping your core still braced. At the top of your squat, be sure to squeeze your glutes. That’s one rep.
- Complete three sets of 12 reps.
To Make This Move Glutes Centric
Reposition your feet in front of the bar about 15 to 18 inches: When you follow this approach, the hamstrings and glutes become increasingly active, thereby lowering (but never completely eliminating) the emphasis on the powerful quadriceps. This can be a useful adaptation if you’re weak in the hamstrings and glutes, when compared to your quads. When your body is out of balance, it’s more prone to injury. It not only produces an unsymmetrical appearance, but it may also be the source of low-back discomfort and other ailments.
Smith Machine Squat Advantages
Helps To Develop Proper Squat Technique
Smith Machines are constructed with safety measures in mind, and it makes performing exercises without the assistance of a spotter easier for individuals. This is particularly useful if you’re not comfortable at lifting heavy weights in workouts such as the squat. You don’t need a training partner or a personal trainer to help you do your squats because the Smith Machine allows you to work out on your own.
Because the bar in the Smith Machine is guided during movement, performing a squat with a Smith Machine is ideal for individuals who are just getting started with resistance training. It will allow you to add more weight to the bar as opposed to conventional squats, which will help you increase strength. Even if there is a difference between the free squat and Smith Machine Squat because it needs less stabilization than normal squats, performing Smith Machine Squats will assist you to perfect your technique and enhance your body posture and stance to ensure that your muscles get the most out of the activity.
Reduces The Chances Of Injury
Because the bar follows fixed guide rods much like other machines workouts like leg curls, you have a more stable movement and need less balance. This enables you to focus on pushing with your quads and maintaining upright body posture, allowing you to worry less about drifting forward or backward while performing the move. There is a feeling of mental safety and comfort, allowing you to do the activity better. The Smith Machine also includes safety catches in the lower region that may be adjusted as per requirement. The best part is, it’s a hook system which provides the benefit of re-racking the bar with a simple flick of the wrist at any point during the exercise as and when you find the weight on your shoulders too heavy to carry or there is an unfortunate and sudden onset of cramps or muscle strains.
These safety measures lessen the risk of injury by a great deal when performing squats using smith machine. In addition to that, the Smith Machine allows you to squat with your feet out in front, to the sides, and with a variety of other angles and body positions. When there is too much-increased demand on specific muscles, this allows users to shift muscle patterns, reducing stress on specific joints and lowering the chance of damage.
So Why are Smith Machine Squats Controversial?
This is a polarizing opinion, as many lifters and strength coaches argue that squats should only be done in the squat rack. They believe that the fixed vertical path of the machine causes damage because it does not allow for a change in movement.
Although we can’t dismiss their claim entirely, when done with proper form, a Smith machine squat can result in serious gains. A 2010 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research discovered that free weight and Smith machine squats engaged the most muscles, except for the biceps femoris (the back part of the thigh), gastrocnemius (calf muscle), and vastus medialis (the inner quads), which all responded better to free weights.
Smith machines, on the other hand, were found to produce a greater one-rep max than free weights in a 2005 study published in the same journal. This was due in part to an easier need to balance oneself during the exercise.
The Smith machine squat is identical to a free-weight squat, except that your feet should be somewhat in front of the barbell rather than directly beneath it. It’s also important that your knees don’t go too far beyond your toe line, which is fine to some extent, but going to the extreme has been shown to be harmful to your joint health.
During a free-weight squat, you must follow the laws of gravity (your center of gravity stays over your feet). In the Smith machine, the equipment may allow you to move in an unnatural manner and you might not even realize it until something starts hurting weeks or months later.
Free weight barbell squats are preferred and exclusively used for sports training and powerlifting by bodybuilders, whereas the Smith machine is commonly utilized for muscle building.
Smith machine squats also activated the quadriceps significantly less than free weight barbell squats, according to one electromyographical (EMG) study. While many individuals advocate for Smith squats in order to build quads, it’s likely that free weights are still superior on the hypertrophy front.
It becomes clear by this point that depending on your objectives, body structure, the presence of pre-existing ailments, and the form you employ, changing squat biomechanics on a Smith machine may be advantageous or harmful.
Should You Do Them?
The squat is a very basic exercise that has significant importance for overall leg and other muscle growth. Keeping a proper weight and posture are essential aspects of performing safe and efficient squat exercises. If you’re still a beginner when it comes to performing the activity, the Smith Machine is an excellent alternative. This way, you can improve your squat technique without risking injury. It’s an excellent method for beginners to get started with their squats since there is no need for a personal trainer or training partner to assist them. Furthermore, because there is no need to concentrate on balance, the concentration for development in muscle is increased.
You may change the width of your stance to match your comfort, flexibility, and preference for balancing different muscle groups. The squat is more quad dominant with a narrower stance and/or a higher vertical trunk (and high bar position). With a wider stance and/or more forward trunk lean (and low bar position), it becomes more hip and glute-dominant, putting greater strain on the low back.
We feel that if you believe squatting is difficult, you should attempt the Smith Machine squat and you’ll be shocked by the significant differences in your squat form and muscular strength over time.
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.