What's Wrong With Using The Smith Machine For Squats?

A conditioning specialist in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a Bachelor's of Science in Exercise Science. His articles will help you!

What's Wrong With Using The Smith Machine For Squats?

Is there a problem with squatting with a Smith Machine and if so how can I solve it or compensate for it?

The Smith Machine has been one of the biggest mistakes in strength training equipment, in my opinion. This may sound like an extreme comment to make considering almost every gym and even some rehabilitation facilities now have them for their people to use. Please let me elaborate before you stop reading.

My biggest problem with the Smith Machine is that people are convinced they are still doing free weight movements when they perform exercises on the Smith Machine. Because an Olympic bar is attatched to the machine does not make this a free weight piece. The reason is this piece only allows movement in a fixed plane of motion. This is one of the many disadvantages of machines that Coach Snideman has stated in his article, Free Weights vs. Machines.

In any movement that a human performs, almost never are the same muscles or patterns of movement replicated. This is obviously not new to machine training, but with the Smith Machine this becomes even more complicated. A squatting movement is rather complex, especially considering the variations that are available. Even though the bar does not look as though it moves but up and down, all the joints are revolving and this simple movement is not simple. The Smith Machine locks into a very unnatural movement pattern which has the potential to stress inappropriate structures and not train the body in various planes.

How is this fixed? Really easily, just do the free weight equivalent. If you are worried about getting pinned then you have two options. Work within a power rack in which you can set the bars to help you if you do get stuck, secondly, don't work till failure. As I have stated on numerous occassions you do not need to train to failure to have phenomenal success in the gym. In fact, many would benefit from not training to failure for the majority of their workouts.

Related Video Front Barbell Squat
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If you have problems performing a traditional closer stance squat you also have many variations possible. You may perform a wider low bar squat, overhead squat, front squat, or use box squats. So, there really is no way to say squatting is impossible. Sometimes finding a trainer with a great educational background can help you individual needs.

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About The Author

Josh Henkin, CSCS, has been in the fitness industry for over 20 years, and is highly sought-after for his innovative approach to functional training.

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squats MURDER my lower back so I'm clearly doing them wrong. But I LOVE the burn in my glutes and thighs. . . . any tips?

Dec 30, 2013 11:48am | report

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Squat form takes a long time and a lot of work to get correct. I'd drop the weight down to just the bar for a while and squat by a mirror so you can see how you look from the side to see where you're going wrong. The bar should always be directly over your heals so you're probably leaning too far forward if your lower back hurts. Also make sure you stretch your hamstrings a lot, tight hamstrings can cause your hips to get pulled down and curve your lower back when you're lower in the squat. I'd go on youtube and check out some squat form videos.

Jan 24, 2014 11:32am | report
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