T Nation

Smith Machine vs. Leg Press

The gym i go to only has a smith machine and a leg press, no regular squat rack. would it be better to do squats in the smith machine or to use the leg press for a good leg work out?

Both suck.Do deadlifts with the bar behind your legs.Do front squats with dumbbells.Do good mornings…good luck!

Use em’ when you have to, but only for short periods. Do step-ups or lunges. Try holding dumbells or doing soem of the complexes that are listed in here.

[quote]gladiatorsteer wrote:
The gym i go to only has a smith machine and a leg press, no regular squat rack. would it be better to do squats in the smith machine or to use the leg press for a good leg work out?[/quote]

That’s a shame that your gym is not equipped properly.

If they have dumbbells I would grab a pair of the heaviest that they have and do 10 sets of 10.

let me guess, there is no room for a squat rack/cage because of the enormous amount of benches and other upper body machines…hahaha

…or maybe all the treadmills and pink dumbbells!

Honestly I would find yourself a new gym. A gym without a power rack is a gym that does not attract anyone that knows what they’re doing. If you surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing you will get stronger more quickly. Find a better environment to grow.

[quote]gladiatorsteer wrote:
The gym i go to only has a smith machine and a leg press, no regular squat rack. would it be better to do squats in the smith machine or to use the leg press for a good leg work out?[/quote]

I agree that it would be in your best interest to drive that extra couple miles or pay a few bucks more per month and find a “real” gym. The free squat is still king of muscular development.

HOWEVER, I believe you all are grossly underrating that Smith rack! When squatting on the Smith you have several foot positions that can be manipulated, whereby giving the trainee MORE lifting angles/positions than the back squat. I would not want to rely on the Smich rack for an entire training year, but you can certainly get a great workout on the Smith when squatting.

There were also some great suggestions posted earlier as alternatives. I like DB lunges - very few trainees can handle 60+ dumbbells for reps and almost every gym has at least the 60’s. Step-ups and straight-leg DB dead lifts are great as well. But, we are body builders first, NOT necessarily athletes.

Those of you that are athletes will of course need the most free form lifts. The Smith rack is not the best choice for you. However, what’s the point of body building? To stress the muscle from various angles and loads. Have you guys ever tried loading the Smith rack up with your 5RM from a normal back squat? It’s not that easy and you can get a great workout, with emphasis on quad development.

In fact, I’m going to push the envelope and say that because the vertical plane of motion is fixed, the feet can be moved in any direction (not possible in the squat), I would say the Smich squat could hit certain muscles with MORE stimulation that the back squat! Specifically, placing the feet slightly ahead of the Smith bar and using a wide stance, a trainee can get a true full ROM without as much stress on the lower back as is common with the traditional squat.

TopSirloin

You’re sayin’ you like the Smith rack? Them’s fightin’ words 'round here…

Good post TS, I’m currently doing lunges on the Smith rack, and because I don’t have to worry about keeping the bar steady, I can almost completely take the back leg out of the equation. I try to keep my back foot off the ground, so that I’m not using that leg at all. It like, totally roasts my glutes, dude. Seriously, it hurts real bad…in a good way.

I stopped using the smith machine and leg press 3 years ago. I do all leg work using a free bar and dumbells. I know its difficult to squat heavy without a powerack but like others recomended you can do hack squats utilizing a snatch grip to get deep motion as well as powercleans with front squats combos, or dumbell step ups and lunges. Remember that the key is muscle tension production and volume so even if you use lighter intensity weight you should lift as fast as possible to produce as much power as you can. laters pk

Dude fined a new gym!
If you want big and strong legs there?s only one word you need to know ?squat?.

smallnomore-

I totally forgot about doing lunges on the Smith as they are an EXTREMELY good glute/ham developer due to the isolateral tension that can be applied. Since the T-Nation gurus would bet a year’s worth of Grow! on the fact that about 90% of body builders/athletes could use stronger/bigger glutes and hams, you guys should be ecstatic to learn the Smith rack can indeed be an effective part of your training program.

BOSS-

Of course the squat is one of the best lifts of all time. But, not everyone can squat due to a wide variety of reasons (physiological to geographical). Once I hit an easy 530, 2" below parallel, I stopped squatting heavy because of the spinal risks. That’s not a broad statement about squatting safety, just my personal experience. I then went on to have my most successful years of throwing (2X national qualifier) while NOT squatting! Mainly because my legs were not constantly tore-up. But just as important, I built a great base from the movement that allowed me to move on to lighter, more dynamic lifts. I still maintained 30 inch thighs and could parallel squat 400+ anytime I wanted to.

As for the “dreaded” leg press… try not to be so closed minded. While my hammies suffered which led to knee injuries, in HS I built a tremendous amount of power with the movement. I should have been coached to do more posterior chain moves, but what do HS coaches know?! Anyway, I believe because I could safely over-load my legs (1200+ pounds), it allowed me to push my limit strength through the roof! Thereby allowing me to keep up with our running backs for the first half of a 40, at 290 pounds! If anyone does have to use the leg press, place the feet as high as possible on the platform, concentrate on pushing through the heels. You will feel the most amazing hamstring tension which, again, in many case may supercede the squat in this area.

As with any movement, the squat is not the end all-be all to body building nor athletics. The most important part is tension - lift heavy and you will grow!

TopSirloin

[quote]TopSirloin wrote:
smallnomore-

I totally forgot about doing lunges on the Smith as they are an EXTREMELY good glute/ham developer due to the isolateral tension that can be applied. Since the T-Nation gurus would bet a year’s worth of Grow! on the fact that about 90% of body builders/athletes could use stronger/bigger glutes and hams, you guys should be ecstatic to learn the Smith rack can indeed be an effective part of your training program.

BOSS-

Of course the squat is one of the best lifts of all time. But, not everyone can squat due to a wide variety of reasons (physiological to geographical). Once I hit an easy 530, 2" below parallel, I stopped squatting heavy because of the spinal risks. That’s not a broad statement about squatting safety, just my personal experience. I then went on to have my most successful years of throwing (2X national qualifier) while NOT squatting! Mainly because my legs were not constantly tore-up. But just as important, I built a great base from the movement that allowed me to move on to lighter, more dynamic lifts. I still maintained 30 inch thighs and could parallel squat 400+ anytime I wanted to.

As for the “dreaded” leg press… try not to be so closed minded. While my hammies suffered which led to knee injuries, in HS I built a tremendous amount of power with the movement. I should have been coached to do more posterior chain moves, but what do HS coaches know?! Anyway, I believe because I could safely over-load my legs (1200+ pounds), it allowed me to push my limit strength through the roof! Thereby allowing me to keep up with our running backs for the first half of a 40, at 290 pounds! If anyone does have to use the leg press, place the feet as high as possible on the platform, concentrate on pushing through the heels. You will feel the most amazing hamstring tension which, again, in many case may supercede the squat in this area.

As with any movement, the squat is not the end all-be all to body building nor athletics. The most important part is tension - lift heavy and you will grow!

TopSirloin[/quote]

I agree it?s not the movement that?s important but the way you use the movement.

One of the reason I don?t like the leg press is because it?s neither sport specific nor life specific. When do you ever leg press on the field, or mat or even life in general?

Now I have an extremely open mind, just read my previous post to see what I mean and for more reasons for my dislike of the leg press.

By the way my favorite leg exercise is the deadlift; I use it with all my athletes.

I want to see someone doing traditional (vertical) leg presses with a smith machine.

The kind of legg press where you’re on your back and press straight up in the air.

That would be the greatest gym siting ever.

BOSS-

That open minded comment was a general thought for the thread when it comes to BODY BUILDING, not athletics.

As far as athletics versus body building, again, you have to make a very clear distinction. The leg press can and will give a trainee a tremendous amount of hypertrophy if loaded for bear. However, when it comes to athletes you are correct, the leg press/Smith rack is not as conditioning specific as one would like.

Notice I said conditioning specific, not sport specific. The only thing sport specific about training is actually practicing/performing your sport! Lifting is NOT intended to mimic the physiologic aspects of sport. Sport is much too dynamic. The Olympic lifts maybe because of the total body sequence of recruitment. But generally, lifting is designed to condition, prehab, and at times, over-load the body for mostly CNS and some hypertrophy intentions. In other words, an 800 pound dead lift doesn’t mean I’ll be an All-American linebacker. It means I’m strong as heck in the dead lift. Consistent with your argument, “when does an athlete leg press?” Well, when does an athlete squat with both legs at the same time/depth? Or, completely vertically or horizontally pull/push anything? Maybe the Highland Games, but not in FB, wrestling, T&F, etc.

When it comes to athletics, ABSOLUTELY stick to barbells. Isolateral is helpful, but not isolation. When if comes to body building on the other hand, which comprises 90+% of T-Nation, hence my points, barbell work is only a starting place. The key is to perform a wide variety of movements with different loading and tempo parameters that yield hypertrophy. You have to think specifically. In athletics we are training a sequence of movements, hoping the body get’s more efficient (stronger/faster) at recruiting the motor units to perform that specific sequence. In body building we do not want the body to get comfortable with a particular sequence because we want to keep it guessing, therefore growing.

The bottom line is: the leg press, Smith rack, and even some of those weird Cybex machines do have a place in body building, but not necessarily for athletic conditioning. Two different animals all together.

TopSirloin

You might also want to also consider doing single leg exercises. I find I can only do 1/4 to 1/3 the amount I can do with both legs.

Excellent suggestion for athletes! Isolateral movements are very helpful in conditioning specific movements (single leg squat, one arm dumbbell snatch, etc), as most sports are performed in that fashion.

However, for body building they are typically too unstable to produce enough tension to elicit hypertrophy. This doesn’t mean a body building trainee should totally steer clear of them. But, bilateral lifting allows the trainee to use maximal force/speed of excution to maximize type IIb recruitment, which have the greatest potential for growth.

Another prime example of a movement being ideal for athletics but not necessarily for body building.

TopSirloin

If there is no power rack, then you are not lifting in a gym.

Who said you needed a a power rack or a gym to be a successful body builder?! Give me an adjustable dumbbell set and a bench and I’ll give you hypertrophy. Even simpler yet, chins, one-armed push-ups, crunches, and sprints would put mass on most trainees.

TS

My YMCA suffers from this.

If you can, just clean the weight. Try not to drop it on yourself when you end the set.

DI