T Nation

smith machine

what is the supposed negative of doing squats in a rack instead of doing them with free weights? In my gym there is no place for free squats, but i do them in the smith machine and do free ones when i do my o-lifts(at a different place).

The magic seach engine has the answers.

If you’re doing free-standing squats when you Olympic, why are you even on the smith machine?

The only good uses for the smith: ballistic pressing, improvising standing calf raises if you don’t have a dedicated machine.

The smith machine doesn’t require you to really use your core muscles for the move. That is the negative that I see. On the other hand the smith machine could allow you to do a much greater amount of weight safely. I suggest doing both. Do free weight squats for a warm up sometimes and vice versa. Always try to go bigger on the machine though, since you can.

The problem with squatting with the smith machine in my eyes is it allows HORRIBLE form. Not just bad, but really really bad. Think about it, it’s perfectly possible to stand a foot and a half in front of the bar and squat with a smith machine (same for standing behind the bar). I’ve seen some rookies bending their bodies in ways I didn’t even think possible in that thing, and ways that are certainly not healthy.

If it’s possible to have form that badly, do you really think you’re squatting with good form? Are you sure? You know with free squats… you’ll fall over!

Plus, the fact that your stabilizing muscles are getting basically no work at all is a recipe for eventual injury. Injury of the “my back is screwed for the rest of my life” variety.

Just don’t do it. :wink:

Sorry Z, Dave’s right, you’re wrong. It is precisely the fallacy that the Smith machine allows for a “safe” squat that has led to it’s proliferation around fitness institutes and home gyms. Yes, the chance of accident from losing control of the weight is reduced some. However, the negatives FAR outweigh this.

Perform a regular (good form) squat outside of the smith machine, and follow in the mirror/feel the way your torso moves to accomodate the resistance. Now do the same in the Smith. You will undoubtedly feel the restriction of movement in the Smith in comparison to free. A good and safe thing, right? WRONG- it is precisely this bad form that leads to the injuries (as Dave mentions). The increased ability to handle more weight (due to the “stability” of the guiding rails) just perpetuates the damage when things go wrong.

IMO, give it a miss. As suggested above, do a search using the words “smith machine”. You’ll find similar advice to that offered here, and also possibly the FEW useful exercises that can be performed on the Smith.SRS

I didn’t say anything about proper form on the smith machine. I also did not suggest that your form on the smith machine could be transfered to a squat. Basically what is the differance between the smith machine and a leg press? Mostly none. You want to do the leg press or the smith machine, choose one… both will not use your core at all which is the negative I pointed out. Why would anyone automatically think that form on one machine or free weights would transfer back and forth? This is the basic assumption- that most newbies don’t know the differance. I guess I expect a bit more from even them…

Guy’s thank’s for the response. I more or less figured it had to do with form/stabalizing muscles. THing is i read a study had shown only more activation of the shin muscles with free squats, but they did not check form in the long run of course. Also i agree with the comparison between smith machine and the leg press machine, they might have a use, but the tansference to other movements is probably very low.
By the way have you guy’s done those ballistic bench presses Christian is promoting, i’m scared the hooks will fall back in to the lock postition during its “flight”.
DeMazzl (slang for mazzeltof in amsterdam)

I agree with Z on the smith machine. It may allow for poor form but you do not have to use poor form. A smith machine is a boon to people who lift alone and do not have access to a squat rack. However, you DO have to pay extra attention to form or you may injure your back or even your knees. Unfortunately, the smith machine has gotten a bad rap due, primarily, to beginners who have not learned the correct form and use the machine to help with balance and lift higher loads than they should be.

Everyone needs to open their minds…and eyes. There is almost no equipment that dosen’t serve a purpose. The smith is a very important. The smith works the “core” muscles, it just tends to not build the stabilizers like free exercises. Foot placement is the key. If you try to set up in a smith, like you would free squating, it can cause bad form.

Z…The leg press takes the hip flexors out of the movement and doesn’t give you a full-range-of-motion in the quad. The smith will activate hip flexors because it is a muti-joint movement. Something is wrong if you can use the same weight on a smith or free squat for that matter, as you can in a press. Your forgetting that you need to train your CNS too in order to handle the pain of BIG free squats

OK, sorry Z if I came off a bit harsh there. I was just concerned for your comment:

“Always try to go bigger on the machine though, since you can.”
Yes, but are you using good form to do it? I appreciate your point of view though.

I was not trying to point out that Smith machine squats are worthless wrt leg development, simply that I can think of a lot better and safer ways of getting the same training effect. IF the trainee knows how to modify his form on the Smith, fair enough. Unfortunately many don’t- and transferring the free-squat movement directly is a recipe for disaster.

I too hope that Kai is experienced enough to avoid this mistake. SRS :slight_smile:

TEK’s suggestion is the best so far. In the past there has been so much discussion about the pro’s and con’s of the Smith Machine that the most experienced people aren’t bothering to post their points of view.

Use the search engine, and get ready for a good hour’s worth of reading.