T Nation

Coming Off Smith Machine Use


For the past 2 years i've been working out regularly, however the gym i was using was in my apartment building and was far from the best, but it's hard to justify shelling out $80 a month for a good gym when you have one that's free and convenient.

Anyways, there was no bench, no squat rack etc.. so squats were done in the smith machine as were bench press. A couple weeks ago i moved and am now at a real gym, and had some humbling experiences squating and benching. (deadlifts were much easier with a real bar instead of an easy curl bar...)

Should i just be slowly working my way back up to decent weight with squats and bench, or are there other excercises I should be doing to get stabilizer muscles up to par with the big ones? Should i be going lower weight, higher reps until the stabilizers catch up, or is it safe to try to push the weight up quickly doing 5x5?

any advice would be appreciated.


lift what you can do. Your stabalizer muscles will catch up the more you use free weight. I would lift as heavy as you can and let your body set your limitations not someone on a message board.

Good luck


I would advise backing off on the the weight just a bit, more for your nervous systems benefit than anything else. Squatting heavy weights with good form is very taxing, and since the smith machine always kept the bar in a straight line for you rather than your stabilizers, you'll probably have a difficult time reaching your old stats with the free weights due to the motor pathways for the two movements(smith-machine vs. free weight) being similar but not the same.

''Unlearning'' something like and incorrect squat(not that the SM is incorrect, but it's an entirely different movement than the free weight squat) and learning the correct squat will be difficult, but ultimately only you can be the judge of what is 'too heavy'.

I have no experiance with this but if I was you I'd probably use something like 70% of your SM weight and judge form there.
Feel free to throw up a video of your squat to see if your form is correct.


There's no point in over thinking this.

Just use the heaviest weight possible while maintaining your form.




Even 70% of my SM weight would be too much, but that also could have something to do with the 2 weeks prior to my move being light in the gym and heavy at goodbye parties...

Sounds like my first move should be asking the trainers at the new gym to take a look at my form to be sure i'm doing ok on that front. thanks for the input.


I'd advise against this. Mainly 'cos 95% of trainers think squatting to or below parallel is bad for you and they'll probably have you do half-squats with the pretty pink dumbbells for 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
A video of your squat for put up on this site would be a much better idea.

Like I said, only you can be the judge of what is too heavy/light.