Squats on a smith machine are given a much harder time than they deserve in the weightlifting community.

From a heavy lifters perspective; there is no comparison between a barbell back squat and a smith machine squat. 

From a muscle building and aesthetic perspective, smith machine squats certainly have their place.

If you don’t know; the reason smith machine squats get such a hard time is because they are assisted squats. 

Assisted exercises mean you are not taking the weight entirely yourself.

Well, so what?

Here’s what…

If you’ve got a strength point to prove; it’s unassisted lifts for the win, all day long and without exception. 

Squats on a smith machine simply do not load weight in the same way. 

If you’re working on developing your strength, isolating a muscle group for aesthetic purposes.  Or if you’re squeezing out those last reps at the end of your workout - let the smith machine help you!

In fact; you can make some serious progress this way.

What you need to know about a smith machine squat

A smith machine squat doesn’t negate any of the issues some people have with standard barbell back squats, so if you're having back or knee issues, don’t take this as an alternative exercise. 

All jokes and industry theories aside; you should take this type of squat just as seriously as any other.

A smith machine will force you to adopt a much more rigid movement, some may prefer this, while others may not like it at all. 

As with everything – try it and decide for yourself.

You may find that you are much more quad dominant on this type of squat, which is perfect if you’re looking for quad gains!

Squat variations on a smith machine

There are different variations you can adopt to keep the smith machine squat interesting.

You can play around with your foot position, anything from sumo stance to both feet together is worth exploring. 

Using a smith machine is a safer way for you to experiment if you don't have a spotter. 

Why assisted exercises can actually be better for muscle growth

Your muscles grow at their best when they are put through their paces. 

If you continue to work a muscle beyond your level of comfort, you’re in the ‘gain zone’ – yes, I just made that up, so what?  I have a point to prove.

The fact is, muscle growth happens when your muscles are torn through workout and repaired over a period of time. 

This is why many believe that training to failure is superior.  It is argued that those last 3-4 reps is where the muscle grows.  A smith machine squat is perfect for squeezing these out!

You don't need to train to failure every workout.  In fact, I would argue that to be a one way ticket to fatigue and/or injury.

You do need to appreciate that muscles are never, and will never, be built in comfort zones.

A smith machine squat towards the end of your workout will benefit you in two ways

  • You will get some help from the machine while squeezing out those last few reps - making those last minute gains.

  • You reduce your risk of injury in fatigue - because the machine has your back!

Are smith machine squats for you?

No two people are the same, this is why the most important lessons I try to drive home through Lipstick Lifters are independence and choice.

Consider your own personal goals and objectives before you do anything. 

The worst thing you can do is blindly follow another person.  If you’re doing that, chances are you’ll fail within the first 6 weeks. 

You are not them, you have no idea why they do what they do, and even when they tell you why, it may not be the whole picture. 

So seriously think about what you’re doing before you do it.

Give everything a go - at least once.  I would argue 5-7 times to be sure.  How you feel one day will differ from the next. 

As you build your physical strength you may find it easier to go back to exercises you once found difficult.