The smith machine squat is a great leg day accessory movement, to help you improve your range of motion, getting deeper into your squat, and improving your form. The squat is a compound movement and easily one of the best lower body exercises that will increase strength, mobility, core stability and help improve overall athletic performance. We’re going to talk more about what smith machine squats are, how to do them, and how they can improve your training outcomes.
What Is The Smith Machine Squat
Like the traditional barbell back squat, the smith machine squat, is a lower body compound strength training movement. As opposed to a free-standing squat, the smith machine, helps assist the bar, in a fixed plane, which offers a bigger range of motion under constant tension, with a built-in safety mechanism.
The smith machine can help improve your form, and increase your range of motion, providing for a deeper squat. However, smith machine squats do require a slightly different stance, with your feet positioned in front of you, as opposed to directly beneath you.
The smith machine bar can weigh between 6 and 45 pounds, but on average, the smith machine bar weights between 15 and 25lbs.
Smith Machine Squat Muscles Worked
The smith machine squat will work the same muscles as the traditional barbell back squat, or any variation of the squat such as zercher squats, Jefferson squats, front squats, or sumo squats. The main focus of the smith machine squat is to work the muscles in the posterior chain, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hip abductors, and core.
Your quad muscles, or quadriceps femoris, are a group of four muscles at the front of your thigh. Together, they contain more mass than any other muscle group in your body, helping with a variety of movements, including kicking, running, jumping and walking. The quad muscles are composed of the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius.
Your hamstrings are a collection of three muscles extending from your hips to the back of knees, comprised of the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris muscles.
Your hamstrings cross two major joints – the hip and the knee, making them more complex than other muscle groups. Together these muscles work to bend your knees, extend the hips, and tilt your pelvis posteriorly.
The glutes, or your butt as most would call it, is composed of three different muscles – the gluteus maximus, minimus, and medius. The glute medius (med for short), and the upper glute max, are the specific areas that are responsible for the “shelf” appearance within your physique, when working on the upper glutes.
The gluteus medius sits at the posterior, or upper backside of your hip, and lies underneath the glute max. The gluteus medius has two primary functions, helping stabilize the lower body and hip rotation from the hip joint, specifically the internal rotation of the thigh and abduction.
Smith Machine Squat Benefits
1. Promotes Squat Form
The smith machine is on a fixed plane of motion, which unlike the traditional barbell back squat, will help promote better form. Since the smith machine is fixed, you can squat, with direct safety measures in place, as opposed to increasing your risk for injury. To be fair, the smith machine is a great accessory implement for those who are just learning how to squat, for those that want to improve their squat form, and as an added accessory movement. This does not mean that the traditional barbell back squat is dangerous, especially with proper form and repetition, it simply eliminates the chance of dropping the barbell. The smith machine has a hook and pin system to catch the barbell as well as unrack, or rack at any time.
2. Improves Range Of Motion
In the barbell back squat, you can go as deep as you’d like, however the smith machine, does help improve range of motion, as well as control your tempo, without being afraid of dropping the barbell, or becoming suck while in motion due to the loaded weight. Overall, the smith machine squat is a great movement for beginners, to help get them in a comfortable place to utilize the traditional squat.
3. Reduces Chance For Injury
Any mistake in form you make through the execution of a traditional squat, may result in an injury. The smith machine will help improve your form, as it translates on a fixed plane of motion, with the assistance of the slide.
How To Do Smith Machine Squats
The smith machine is different than a free weight barbell back squat. You are still getting into squat form, however the stance, and execution is a bit different.
The smith bar should be set to level with your shoulders. Position the bar on the upper traps and rear delts. Position your hands at shoulder width with an overhand grip.
Place your feet in front of you, with toes slightly pointed out about 3-6 inches forward as where they would be directly beneath you in a traditional barbell back squat.
Now unhook the bar, by pushing up, and slightly rotating the bar and rotating your wrists back.
From here, you want to start your motion and descend into the squat. Push your hips back keeping your chest up and shoulders retracted.
Once you are parallel, or slightly past, ensuring your knees are behind your toes, pause, then push your feet into the ground, and force the bar back into ascent.
Drive through your heels and keep your spine straight until you reach starting position.
Repeat for the prescribed number of reps.