When we do squats, we tend to be more effective in gaining overall strength since it is a full-body compound exercise. It works more muscles, with heavier weights, than more popular exercises such as – for example – the bench press. But if you’re performing squats for the first time, proper technique is very important so that you don’t injure your knees and back.
The squat is not an exercise to be taken lightly
Mark Rippetoe – powerlifter, coach and author – says that: “There is nothing harmful about either assuming a squatting position – whether sitting down in a chair or into an unsupported squat – or returning to a standing position afterwards.” However, even if you have a healthy back, when you perform squats ensure that your form is perfect and never slouch your back forward as this can cause back injury. Also be cautious with the weights you use. If you’re not sure, use a lighter rather than a heavier one.
The smith machine can be used as an alternative exercise to the barbell squats for developing the quadriceps and gluteus maximus. For first timers, the smith machine can be used to familiarise oneself with the squat movement, particularly with a personal trainer’s assistance.
3 Reasons why smith machine squats will help you perfect your technique
- Smith machine squats are safe because they allow you to squat without a spotter. If you do not have a personal trainer or training partner with you in the gym, you don’t have to skip squats – you can easily do them on your own.
- Smith machine squats are good for those starting out and don’t know how to squat properly. If you have been taught how to squat correctly the first time, you will be very safe on the smith machine since the bar will be guided during your movement and will allow you to use more weight than you would have used starting out with normal squats.
- Smith machine squats are only slightly different to squats with a real barbell. While the movements are the same, you use less core to stabilise than with normal squats.
Here is the correct exercise procedure for smith machine squats:
- Rest the bar on your lower trapezius and rear shoulders. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Grasp the bar with a wide, evenly spaced grip and unrack the weight by pushing up and twisting the hooks off their resting post.
- With your head up, lower back arched and abdominals tight, begin the movement by bending at your knees and squatting towards the ground.
- Continue to lower yourself, while inhaling, until your thighs are just below parallel to the floor.
- Drive the weight, while exhaling, up until you’re in a standing position. Don’t lock your knees.
- Repeat the movement until you’ve completed your desired number of reps. Re-rack the bar by twisting the hooks and putting it back on their post.
The smith machine squat can be a great addition to your daily workout routine – Dr Jim Stoppani recommends using both smith machine and barbell squats in your workout. The suspended barbell that moves on steel runners with safety pegs makes the smith machine a great choice for those who want to work on their technique and strength.
To learn more about similar exercises, sign up for Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Personal Training certification. Follow this link for more information.