T Nation

Joined The Squatting/Deadlift Fold

I have just come back from the gym, where I did my first proper leg day (my routine, called the Frank Sinatra 5 dayer, from bodybuilding.com), and I am so surprised at how fun it was.

I go to a University, so the gym is not the best, but has a smith machine whre I was able to perform alright squats. I never realised how draining they are to do. I’d get to a bit further than parallel, and then stand, and at that point I think “Oh my God, my legs are burning” (in a good way of course).

I also tried out doing deadlifts, mainly to practice form, and I did about 45kg, but I was surprised because I could have easily got to about 60kg. I am surprisingly happy with my workout today, and I now love squats/deads.

I do have soe questions however. I seemed to get a sharp pain in my knee. I don’t know why this happened, as it started when I did deadlifts, and I want others iopinion on the matter. It could just be that I went a bit to far, or could be the fact that when I bend my left knee to a certain point (no matter what I’m doing) I am in pain.

Also, I have weak hamstrings, and they feel painful. Could this just e that I have never worked my hamstrings before and that they are being given literally a punch, waking them up.

Once again, I have to say i now love squats and deads. Lush.

Congrats on joining in on the great lifts. It’s hard to make any judgements on the knee pain without seeing your deadlift form. It could be flexibility issues, poor choice of footware, or even simple as moving your stance a little more out or in and pointing your toes out a little. It may also have to do with your admittedly weak hamstrings.

The first thing I’m going to recommend is to stop squatting in the smith machine. It is not the same as a free squat. You’re missing out on valuable stability training in your back and abs.

Second, work on your hamstrings and glutes. Mix in some RDL’s, Good Mornings, and Pull throughs. Either follow up your heavy squatting/deadlifting with higher reps of these or even use them as your heavy exercise. For instance, instead of straight deadlifting one day, do RDL’s. Sled dragging can help as well.

Good luck in your endeavors, you have chosen a fine path to start down…

1.) Ditch the Smith machine. It sucks. Do real squats.

2.) Were you doing deads in the smith machine? If so, do real deads.

I had this pain, make sure you find a foot position that you can smoothly complete the movement in. I was using what is considered the “correct” foot position for deadlifts, but I was having knee problems, and by tweaking my feet outwards by about 1cm I eliminated this problem completely. Do what feels right, but don’t do anythign drastic, just work it till it feels right and remember the position.

So is the smith machine seriously that bad, or will I still get a good leg workout that you’d get from proper barbell squats (I know it won’t be as good, but is it good enough). I’m at a University, and the gym, is well, more for the ‘runners’. I was actually unhappy that there was no power rack as I wanted to use one, and I’m only using the gym because its on campus (I walk for 2 minutes from my room to get to it) and cheap as chips.

The only ‘free’ bar it has is an easy curl bar, which I’m using for deadlifts, but it would be impossible to use it for squats, as I’d have to literally clean jerk it to get it to my back (I don’t have a gym buddy yet). The smith machine actually feels comfortable to use, except for the possibility of it crushing me, lol.

Basically, would the smith machine be good enough for now for me to do squats, or should I look into using dumbbells (the dumbbells only go to 30kg I think) instead. I’m guessign that the smith machine is a bad choice for any exercise as you are not controlling all the weight, it is suspended to the sides of you.

Anything can work in a pinch, but it sounds like your getting exactly what you’re paying for…“cheap chips”.

Smith machines are not a great choice and I don’t even know what to say about deadlifting with and ez curl bar. Dumbell work might be a better place for you if you need to stay at the “gym” you are using. Otherwise, find someplace else with a squat rack and free weights.

Yes, the Smith machine is seriously bad for anything other than hanging your towel on. As previously said, your stabalizers are not in the picture. As well, the position is unnatural and it’s easy to injure yourself as a result. Work with the dumbbells until you find a squat rack. You can also do hack squats, sort of a deadlift with the weight behind you.

Your curl bar should work. Tell your gym manager that you need a straight barbell. He may just get one. It’s not a great expense. Once you get it you can clean to a front squat, probably not enough weight but it’s better than nothing. You can overhead press while you have the bar up. A squat rack takes up space and if your gym caters to runners, it’s not likely that they’re going to squat. They’d be better off if they did, but they won’t.


Sharp pain = stop.

Is your pain just from this workout, or is it a lingering problem? If the latter, you should seek out a orthopedist to look at it.

If it just happened, give things a rest, ice the knee for the first 48 hours or so, take some ibuprofen, and then see how it feels (having stopped taking the ibuprofen for at least 8-10 hours so it is not masking the pain). If the pain persists check out the orthopedist option.

On the gym, ask around you might find an alternative. If you are planning on trying to lift heavy, you need good form and proper equipment. You will need to work on the former, and unless you can find a better alternative to your gym you’ll need to get creative in a smart way by doing some reading for ideas about how to use what you have to get a decent workout.

All I’ve heard is negatives on Smith machines, but having never had to worry about them, I haven’t paid much attention. Search out Smith machine on this site & I’m sure you’ll find articles and lots of forum posts.

On your deadlifts, if the pain you experienced is not a serious injury or structural problem, you’ll want to learn how to do them well. This isn’t an easy exercise to do correctly, as with almost every complex movement lift there is a lot to keep track of and some neuro-muscle learning that needs to happen.

I’m not really sure about using an EZ-curl bar for the exercise (others will surely chime in on this), but you may want to seek out some help. There is probably a strength coach for one or more of your schools athletic teams. See if they can point you to someone to work on your form (they may help you themselves but your less likely to get told that they can’t help if you just ask if they know someone who can help).

Your gym probably won’t have anyone you can trust from what it sounds like, but in asking around you might find a gym, club, or trainer. You can also read up on proper squat and dead form in articles on this site, and Mark Rippetoe’s beginning strength book is a great resource on these lifts.

Having someone knowledgeable observe you is always best, because know matter how much you learn about the lifts you can’t always see all the little (& not so little) things you do when you perform a lift.

Start wimpy light (like just an empty bar on squats and a bar with plates or some other way to raise it to where it would be w/ 20kg plates on for the deads), and train on getting perfect form. Each session that you perform a lift add some weight (2.5 or 5 kg.). And only progress if you can do the planned number of reps with good form (i.e., a bad form rep doesn’t count).

You may feel a bit self conscious, but training your body to perform a complex exercise with good form will allow you to later lift heavier, target the muscles correctly, and minimize the risk of injury. In other words, be patient and don’t try to skip ahead. The heavy weight will come soon enough, and you are trying to build a long-term habit that will produce life-long results not get to x weight in 2 months.

My final caution is watch doing too many deads in the same session you squat. Deads are tough if done right and you’ve already nailed many of the same muscles with squats. 1 low-rep set of deads is enough after several sets of squats. If you are doing too many of both, you are asking for an injury and will probably make slower long-term progress than by doing fewer quality reps with higher weight.

Good luck. I know what it is like to work with less than ideal equipment available, and the frustration of being a limited-income student who couldn’t join a quality gym. Stick with it and keep seeking out others in your area who also lift and hopefully you will find help. You never know, you may stumble upon a new friend or two and even be invited to train in someone’s well-equipped home gym.


The pain in my knee only occurs during the exercise, and its not that bad, but saying that I have had pains in my left knee for years, and so its probably just me.

I will try and be creative, as from reading comments and articles on T-Nation, have found that the exercises on my workout from bodybuilder.com, as not 100% brilliant (hammer curls for example, I feel don’t work me out as good as concentration curls). I guess part of weight training is finding what works best for you.

This may be blasphemy to people here, but would it be better, if I only have a smith machine for squats, to do more deadlifts, as they work the legs. And take them out.

My gym has a leg press, so would that be a better alternative, or am I barking up the gym noob tree. I look at it and feel that squats on the smith would be better, whats your opinion.

Use the dumbbells and do single leg exercises. Try Bulgarian split squats exrx.net/WeightExercises/Quadriceps/DBSingleLegSplitSquat.html and 1 legged deadlifts.

You can find those and other ideas here.