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Smith Machine Worked Great!!


Hello all,

I have read T-mag from the very beginning and lurked the forums daily as well. Finally decided to add something to the great site that has become the foundation of my training knowledge.

Anyway I have often used lunges in my routines as a squat replacement for short periods with great results. Whenever my low back is injured or overtrained it becomes the core of my leg routine.

Well my wife has always had a terrible time with barbell lunges and when she recently injured her low back I set her up doing smith machine lunges because she couldn't balance well enough to allow enough load on barbell lunges. Within a few weeks of smith machine lunges she tried doing barbell lunges and found she had overcome her balance issues.

Her last workout she used 135 for 6 sets of 8 with the barbell when before 65 was a struggle even when her squat strength was in the 145 for ten range.

Several times in the past she had tried dillegently to improve her barbell lunges with light barbells and dumbells with no real improvement and alot of frustration but after a few weeks of using the smith machine she was able to improve tremendously.

Anyway for any of you that might might like to include heavy barbell lunges but have had trouble with them in the past or any beginners just starting the lift and having trouble, using the smith machine for a brief period might unlock one of the best leg exercises out there.



Great to hear about your wife's progress!
Well done in finding a way to meet her needs, it's good to know that no piece of equipment is completely useless.

I don't have access to a smith machine but the idea popped into my head.. would they be useful for overhead squats/lunges?


No! The idea and benefit of OH Squats is the holding/balancing of the weight overhead. Also its a fixed bar path, thats going to compromise your OH Squat form.


Hey tim,

Cheers for the reply - but isn't that the standard argument against smith machines for any exercise? I agree with the argument, but micahvinot has found it useful for a limited 'introductory' phase.

Good point on the squat though, thinking about the bar path again, I have to agree.

What about overhead lunges? Isn't the bar path more linear? Don't lunges give more opportunity for body positioning 'around' the bar...?



I don't have experience with overhead squats or overhead lunges but if you are serious about trying them and it seems that you are not progressing well by doing them with a free weight barbell the smith machine may well help you with them in the beginning phases like it seemed to help with lunges. That is if you can get a hold of one.

If anyone does decide to try or has already tried using a smith machine to help out with lunges or another lift in a begining phase and they experience similar results I would like to hear about it. I don't recall ever hearing or reading it before and it worked surprisingly well for my wife and could be a valuable use for a device that alot of people consider useless.


It is kinda the standard argument, but thats for good reason. I'm not really for or against the Smith and the benefits that micahvinot's missus had was likely strengthening the quads and learning the movement (small improve in strength + propreoception in the muscles = do the real exercise). But as far as this "intro phase" passing over to other exercises you have to look at the mechanics.

So when you get the bar over head, as you've concluded yourself, you are not learning the movement in a fixed bar motion like the Smith. Plus most of the OH Squat 'strengthening' really comes from technique and practice as much as it does from strength in the muscles.

I didn't post about lunges because I have no real experience in doing OH Lunges. I've only really ever done lunges recently as rehab work (single leg movments to get that lagging leg up). I have done Smith lunges in the distant past, and they seemed fine, but hard to say, especially with OH ones.


Good points there tim, cheers.

I recommend overhead walking lunges btw, good fun and great for split snatch carryover.

Like micahvinot it'd be interesting to hear about any others who have similar experiences.


I think the Smith machine gets a unwarranted bad rap. I tried regular squats. My heels tend to come up the lower I get because my Achilles doesn't stretch that far. This causes me to start to lean forward turning my squat in to a big fat good morning at the bottom that hurts my back.

With the Smith machine, I can put my feet slightly forward, so they stay flat the whole time. I can put all the weight on my legs instead of transferring it to my back near the bottom, keeping my back straight throughout the rep. Yes, there is a trade off in not getting the benefit of "handling" the loose bar as you do in a regular squat.

But with training legs, you use large weights and having it shift the wrong way, then trying to correct could wreak havoc if done wrong. Where as the Smith just goes up and down, so no threat of falling over.

After squats in the smith, my legs are sore, but not my lower back. I know, I don't look as cool as the guys who use the squat rack, but I just turned 47 today, have no back problems, and don't want any or anything to curtail training. I yes, I do ass-to-grass on the machine.

Its a great machine to work legs if you can get over the "your not macho" if you don't free squat.


While I agree with what you say, I'm not sure that its the best approach. One of the S&C coaches may have a better idea than me, but;

If you're limited in some capacity and cannot perform a movement, shouldn't the goal be to improve so that you can. THe original poster used the Smith as progression towards doing real lunges.

What you are talking about is substitution. Is that a good thing in the long run, considering its not addressing the problem of tight achilles?


The Smith Machine gets a bad rap mainly because you don't have to use the stabilising muscles in the lift.

For example, in the Smith Machine squat, you don't engage the hammies as much as with a free squat. If you don't address this with additional hammie training, your weak hammies will 1. make you look stupid and 2. weak hammies are a major cause of knee problems.

The free squat is a superior movement, but that said, I think people are overly harsh on the smith machine. It's not the best, but I think it's better than the leg press and leg extensions for most people.


smith machines get a bad rap from knowledgable trainees because they are sub-optimal, yet used for all kinds of movements by many gym goers and even some so called personal trainers.

The only situations I've found a smith machine to be useful are: with someone with 0 nueromuscular control as a teaching mechanism, calf raises, or for a rare change of pace like balistic benches... makes a good coat rack too... oh and reverse pushups


I'll tell you what, as far as the comment about not working the hammies, I did a good, heavy squat session on the Smith two days ago and I am sore as hell. I did them with a wide stance and ass-to-grass on a 5 X 5 rep scheme. Right now, I can barely sit on the toilet, my glutes and hammies are very sore. And its not like I just started doing them this week. If had anything negative about the smith, is I don't feel as much soreness in the quads so feel the Smith targets the glute and hams more than the quads, when squatting in a sumo style.

I have to go to the hack squat to get sore quads. Although, one day I did some smith squats with legs very close together and felt a little more soreness in the quads.


Hey dude, what's a reverse pushup?


It's like a pullup, but you're more in a plank position. Basically you lie on the floor on your back, and grab the bar (which you set at the appropriate height) and pull yourself up. Your feet stay on the floor. It's a good intro to doing regular pullups.


A reverse pushup is a row, in a 'pushup position' except you're facing away from the floor, and weight is on your heels.