Smith Machine Squat: How to Perform, Benefits & Expert Tips 

 The smith machine squat is an unsung hero in the fitness world, being that many people perform this exercise without even knowing it. 

The smith machine squat has a few surprising benefits over its more traditional counterpart, and once you understand it properly and know how to perform it correctly, it can be an incredible addition to your routine. 

Let’s get right into it and take a look at how to perform the smith machine squat, the benefits that come from performing the smith machine squat, and some expert tips to maximise your muscle and strength gains.  

How To Do Squats on a Smith Machine 

  • Adjust the bar height: Start by setting the barbell on the Smith machine to a height that aligns with your desired squatting position. It should be slightly lower than shoulder level. 
  • Position yourself under the bar: Stand inside the Smith machine, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Position yourself under the bar, ensuring it rests comfortably on your upper traps (the muscles between your neck and shoulders). 
  • Grip the bar: Grab the bar with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your elbows pointing down and your chest lifted. 
  • Set your stance: Take a step forward or backward to establish a stable and balanced stance. Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly outward. 
  • Perform the squat: Brace your core and initiate the movement by bending your knees and lowering your body. Keep your chest up, back straight, and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement. Descend until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly lower, ensuring your knees stay in line with your toes. 
  • Drive through your heels: Push through your heels and engage your leg muscles to return to the starting position. Extend your knees and hips until you reach a fully upright standing position. 
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions: Continue performing squats on the Smith machine for the desired number of repetitions, maintaining proper form and control throughout. 

Seven Common Form Mistakes To Avoid on a Smith Machine 

Relying too much on the machine: Avoid putting all your weight on the machine and using it to assist your movement. Instead, focus on actively engaging your muscles and controlling the weight. 

Incorrect foot placement: Ensure your feet are positioned shoulder-width apart or slightly wider, with toes pointing slightly outward. This helps maintain stability and proper alignment during the squat. 

Leaning too far forward: Avoid excessive forward leaning, as it puts excessive stress on your lower back and may compromise proper squat mechanics. Keep your chest lifted and maintain an upright posture throughout the movement. 

Allowing your knees to cave in: Pay attention to your knee alignment. Keep your knees in line with your toes throughout the squatting motion to avoid unnecessary stress on your knee joints. 

Inadequate depth: Aim to achieve at least parallel depth or slightly lower in your squat. Going too shallow limits the activation of your leg muscles and may compromise the effectiveness of the exercise. 

Bouncing or locking out at the top: Avoid bouncing at the bottom of the squat or locking out your knees at the top. Maintain control and a smooth tempo throughout the movement, without relying on momentum. 

Neglecting core engagement: Remember to engage your core muscles throughout the exercise. A strong core helps stabilize your spine and maintain proper form during Smith machine squats. 

What Muscles Do Smith Machine Squats Work? 

Quads   

The quadriceps muscles, located on the front of your thighs, are the primary muscles activated during Smith machine squats. They play a significant role in knee extension and provide the main driving force for pushing back up from the squatting position. 

Glutes 

Your gluteal muscles, including the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, play a significant role in stabilizing and extending your hips during Smith machine squats. 

They work in conjunction with the quads to provide power and help you maintain an upright posture. 

Hamstrings 

Although the quads are the primary movers, the hamstrings also assist in knee flexion during the descent phase of the squat.  

They work synergistically with the glutes and quads to stabilize the knee joint and contribute to overall leg strength. 

Calves 

The calf muscles, specifically the gastrocnemius and soleus, help provide stability and assist in maintaining proper foot positioning throughout the movement.  

They play a supporting role in the squat, particularly during the push-off phase. 

Core and Back Muscles 

 While not the primary targets, the muscles of your core, including the abdominals and obliques, as well as your erector spinae in the lower back, are engaged to stabilize your torso during Smith machine squats.  

Keeping a strong and stable core is crucial for maintaining proper form and preventing injury. 

Smith Machine Squats Benefits 

  1. Muscle development: Smith machine squats effectively target the quads, helping to develop and strengthen these muscles. With consistent training, you can expect improvements in muscle size, strength, and endurance. 
  1. Joint stability: The fixed vertical bar path of the Smith machine provides stability and assists in maintaining proper squatting form. This can be beneficial for individuals who may struggle with balance or have limitations in stability. 
  1. Variation and control: The Smith machine allows for controlled movement and the ability to perform squats with variations, such as wide or narrow stances. This versatility can help target different muscle fibers and add variety to your workouts. 
  1. Confidence and safety: The Smith machine’s built-in safety features, such as adjustable safety catches, can provide an added sense of security for lifters. This can be particularly beneficial for beginners or those recovering from injuries. 

What Makes Smith Machines So Controversial? Are Smith Machine Squats Really Bad? 

Smith machines have been a topic of debate among fitness enthusiasts and professionals.  

Some argue that they restrict natural movement patterns and can lead to muscle imbalances or poor biomechanics when used exclusively.  

This is also the case with other Smith machine exercises, like the smith machine hack squat or smith machine deadlift. 

However, when used properly as part of a well-rounded training program, Smith machine squats can still offer valuable benefits. 

While Smith machine squats provide stability and assist in maintaining proper form, they do limit the activation of stabilizer muscles compared to free weight squats.  

The fixed bar path may not accommodate individual variations in biomechanics, potentially reducing the demand on certain muscles.  

Therefore, it’s important to include a variety of squat variations, including free weight squats, to engage a broader range of muscles and movement patterns. 

Some Disadvantages To Smith Machines 

Limited range of motion: The fixed bar path of a Smith machine may restrict your range of motion compared to free weight squats. This limitation can limit the activation of certain muscles and potentially hinder functional movement patterns. 

Reduced muscle activation: Smith machine squats may not engage stabilizer muscles as much as free weight squats. This can affect muscle activation and overall strength gains. 

Limited functional transfer: The fixed movement pattern of Smith machine squats may not fully transfer to real-life functional movements or sports-specific activities that require more dynamic stability. 

Should You Do Smith Squats? 

Including squat machine  squats in your training routine can be a viable option, especially if you have specific goals or limitations.  

Beginners who need to develop proper squat form and stability can benefit from the added support and safety features of a Smith machine.  

Additionally, individuals recovering from injuries or with mobility restrictions may find Smith machine squats helpful in maintaining lower body strength and range of motion. 

However, it’s important to remember that Smith machine squats should not be the sole focus of your leg training.  

Incorporating a mix of free weight exercises, such as barbell squats and lunges, along with Smith machine squats, can provide a more comprehensive and well-rounded lower body workout. 

Smith Machine Squat Tips 

Maintain proper form: Focus on maintaining good squatting mechanics, including an upright torso, aligned knees, and controlled movement throughout. 

Use a full range of motion: Aim to lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly lower, ensuring you achieve adequate depth for maximum muscle activation. 

Gradually increase the weight: As you become comfortable with the exercise, gradually increase the weight to provide an appropriate challenge for your muscles. 

Supplement with free weight exercises: To address the limitations of the Smith machine, incorporate free weight exercises like barbell squats and lunges to engage a wider range of muscles and movement patterns. 

Seek guidance if needed: If you’re new to squatting or unsure about your form, consider seeking guidance from a qualified fitness professional to ensure proper technique and prevent injuries. 

Smith Machine Squat – FAQs 


Is It Ok To Squat On Smith Machine? 

Yes, it is okay to squat on the smith machine. 

While squatting on the smith machine will not work your stabilising muscles, it is better for those with joint pain and is still an incredibly efficient exercise.  

Why Is Smith Machine Better For Squats? 

Smith machine is better for squats because it is safer, better on your joints, and may even allow you to lift more weight.  

How Much Does Smith Machine Add To Squat? 

Most people see a 5% increase to their squat when done on the smith machine.  

This can vary slightly from person to person.  

Is Squatting On Smith Machine Same Weight? 

No, squatting on the smith machine will not be the same weight. 

In general, most lifters can lift 5% more when on a smith machine compared to free weights. 

Are Smith Machine Squats Bad? 

No, smith machine squats are not bad. 

Smith machine squats are safer and easier on the joints. 

The only real negative is that they do not train your stabiliser and core muscles as much as free weight squats.  

How To Use Angled Smith Machine? 

An angled smith machine works exactly the same as a regular smith machine.  

Just set up the spotter arms and barbell height and you are good to go.  

We hope this article will be of some you to use.  

The smith machine squat can be an incredible exercise when used correctly, and if you decide to incorporate it into your routine, you might just be doing yourself a favour. 

For more fitness advice, head over to MovingForwards

See you next time.  

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