5 Best Smith Machine Exercises
Heading to the gym and the plan is to smash the legs. Want to do a big-time deadlift workout and starting to feel pretty strong. But while warming up, a tweak in the lower back starts nagging the mind and concern creeps in. Some back pain manifests and the question arises: What can be done to salvage this workout? What can be done to walk out of the gym and feel good about training the legs, stimulating growth, and get a serious workout in? That is where the Smith Machine comes into play.
A lot of athletes, and people in general, want to avoid the Smith Machine. They don’t want to go anywhere near it. That’s okay, but once in a while using the Smith Machine is worth getting on and having some fun.
Of course, if an athlete is having back pain, the Smith Machine can do a ton to taking pressure off the lower back and leading to some worthwhile growth. Knowing that the Smith Machine is on a track, we can isolate specific movements. We can manipulate the positioning of the body under the barbell to target and isolate specific muscle groups.
Doing a traditional back squat with a free-weight barbell, we are going to stimulate every muscle in the body to a very high threshold. On a Smith Machine, it is almost impossible to do a traditional back squat because it is on a track. However, a key concept to understand is that moving the body into certain positions can target the quads, hamstrings, or glutes depending on the position selected.
Let’s see how to get a big lower body pump on the Smith Machine.
5 & 4. Curtsy Lunges & Sissy Squats
With curtsy lunges, we are trying to smash the glute-mead. We want to feel good mobility through the hips. Get position under the barbell and keep the front foot in place, crossing the back leg behind the foot while squatting into the lunge. We will immediately feel the glute medius get lit up on the Smith Machine.
The curtsy squat is really hard to do with a traditional barbell. We typically perform this movement with a dumbbell in the goblet position. But curtsy lunges with a barbell are hard and tough to get a reasonable load on the bar. However, when doing the curtsy lunge on the Smith Machine the bar can be weighted more because everything will be more stationary and controlled by the track. Hit this position for five sets of seven on each leg and super-set it with sissy squats.
One of the great things about the Smith Machine is being able to move the feet forward and do a traditional sissy squat where the knees track forward past the toes and the hips stay forward, the quads get really lengthened and then light up.
Pairing these two movements together is great. The curtsy lunge is more posterior chain and unilateral. The sissy squat will be a bilateral movement that will put a focus on loading the quads. Smash five sets of twenty reps with the sissy squat with a light load. Don’t be scared to place plates under the heels to target the quads even further.
3 & 2. Split Squat & Squat To A Bench
When we talk about the traditional split squat, we are talking about a movement similar to doing a single leg squat where the rear leg is elevated but now we are going to keep the rear leg on the floor.
We want the direct center of gravity to be right under the barbell. Split the barbell evenly with the feet. This is a position that can strengthen the split in a jerk and the position will also help strengthen the groin and the hamstrings for athletes. The split squat on the Smith Machine will help the body feel that motor pattern very well.
We like to pair the split squat with a squat to a bench. The reason why is because squatting to the bench is a much shorter range of motion. It is the top-end range of motion in a squat so a lot more load will be put on the quads at the finish.
The split squat is a unilateral movement and will be targeting the posterior chain, opening up the hips and groin. Hammer out four sets of five on each leg with a solid weight. Then slide the bench right in and perform five sets of twenty to twenty-five reps to hit the top-end range to hammer the squat.
Finish the split squat with a set of twelve reps on each leg. Go ahead and increase the range of motion by elevating the feet by standing on plates. Get the back knee nice and deep to the ground. The last set of squat to the bench go ahead and do a set to failure. Get the heart blasting and feel like death.
1. Front Squat
Take a traditional bodybuilder hold and find out how stupid the quad pump becomes!
We have noticed some people struggle quite a bit with front squatting because they lean forward, load the lower back, and take a lot of weight off the quads. They transfer a lot of the load to their hamstrings, especially longer-limbed athletes. The Smith Machine does not allow the body to lean forward because of the way the track moves. It prevents athletes from leaning forward.
Longer-limbed athletes can’t use as much weight as they typically can when they lean forward, but because they are on the track the quads will grow!
Spend four sets of seven reps. The volume on the Smith Machine can increase drastically because we don’t have to worry about the upper back fatiguing. The focus is on squatting and executing the front squat positions. Get deep and let the quads get blown up.
Start the workout on the Smith Machine with the front squat. Hit the positions, get some good stimulation, and hit a drop set. Then get into the curtsy squat and sissy squat. The sissy squat following the front squat will light the quads up. The VMO will really start to grow and the quads will fill out those jeans.
At the very least, go to the gym and hit up one of these exercises in the Smith Machine. We guaranteed that it will make the body feel grand, increase muscle mass, and present a new tool to be used to get yoked out.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.