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Best Leg Exercises In The Smith Machine This 2021

Throughout the years, the Smith machine has been increasing in popularity because of its versatility. With its amazing safety features, it is understandable that many people are fond of using the machine. There are definitely a number of different exercises that can be performed in the smith machine but targeting the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves is surely one of the strengths of the weight machine. Performing different leg exercises in the smith machine is so much better than doing free weights because you can focus your effort on isolating and developing your targeted leg muscles, while having no need to waste precious energy stabilising the bar because the smith machine does it for you.

(Source: Elements.envato.com)

Below are the four (4) best leg and/or glute exercises that can be performed on a Smith machine in order to develop leg strength, increase muscle growth, and enhance unilateral and overall fitness. It is vital to remember that while free weights are frequently considered as foremost movements to acquire muscle and strength, utilizing Smith machines can actually produce high amounts of muscle growth and strength. It must also be noted that if you are to perform these exercises on the Smith machine, it is important to make sure that the safety racks are in place and that you properly understand the movement mechanics of each exercise. By doing so, you can ensure that you will optimize strength, movement, and increase overall performance.

1. Smith Machine Front Squat

Just like doing a free weight front squat, the Smith machine front squat can be performed in order to enhance quadriceps strength and hypertrophy.

  • Targeted muscles:

    The Smith machine front squat mainly targets the quadriceps and anterior core. It is vital to remember that the back strength required in the free weight front squat may be somewhat less needed compared when performing the Smith machine front squat, due to the bar being on tracks. This means that there is a decreased requirement for core stability and upper body muscle coordination. With that, the main muscles being targeted in smith machine front squats includes quadriceps, glutes, core, and back muscles

  • How to perform

    Position the bar just underneath shoulder height. After that, hold your arms straight out, step underneath the bar, and allow it to sit on top of your shoulders up against your neck. Once the bar is in position, place one hand overtop each shoulder to stabilize the bar. Next, take a breath and unrack the bar by rotating your wrists back to move the safeties. Sit directly between your legs by simultaneously bending your knees and pushing your hips back. Once your thighs reach parallel with the floor, reverse the movement by driving your feet into the floor and flexing your quads. Finish the lift by exhaling as you fully extend the hips and knees.

  • Sets, Reps, and Intensity

    Just like when doing free weights, it is not suggested that you use heavy loads relative to your best front squat. Instead, use the guided squat variation in order to increase muscle growth and coordination as time goes by. With that, we highly suggest that you begin by doing 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions for general strength and muscle growth training. From there, you can increase it according to your preference.

2. Smith Machine Back Squat

The Smith machine back squat is one of the most famous exercises performed in the weight machine. It can be performed in order to increase quadriceps growth. We highly suggest that you work with the Smith machine squat utilizing moderate to heavy loads and smooth, full range of motion repetitions.

  • Targeted muscles:

    Like most squats, the Smith machine back squat targets the quadriceps and glutes muscles. However, if you maintain and stabilize your upright torso more when performing the squat, the quadriceps will be targeted most.

  • How to perform:

    Adjust the bar of the Smith Machine so that it is at shoulder height. Next, start with a loaded bar; 10-pound plates on each side is a great starting point. Position your hands about shoulder-width apart on the bar, and lightly grip the bar with an overhand grip. Step in front of the rack, and rest the bar on your trapezius muscles or the muscles closest to your neck/upper back. With your feet about hip-distance apart, unlock the bar by lifting it up and forward. Shift your weight back into your heels. Brace your abs as you begin to lower into a squat, keeping your head and spine in a neutral position. Your knees should be as close to 90 degrees as possible. Hold for one second.
    With your core still braced, drive through your heels to stand back up. Be sure to squeeze your glutes at the top of your squat. That is considered as one repetition. Start again.

  • Sets, Reps, and Intensity

    Unlike when doing a free weight back squat, the Smith machine squat should not be performed with very heavy loads relative to overall strength. With that, we recommended performing the exercise for 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions, utilizing slow and controlled repetitions.

3. Smith Machine Romanian Deadlift

The Smith Machine Romanian deadlift is an intense hamstring and glute exercise that can be performed in order to develop hamstring and glute strength, muscle growth, and overall performance. As the bar is set on tracks, the Smith machine can aid in minimizing hip shifting when performing the exercise. Also, the smith machine can offer a guided variation of the barbell Romanian deadlift.​ ​

  • Targeted muscles:

    The Smith machine Romanian deadlift isolates and targets the hamstrings and glutes. In addition to that, the exercise can also develop the lower back, lats, and spinal erectors which help in maintaining a neutral spine or isometric back strength.

  • How to perform:

    Position the Smith bar to just above knee level. After doing so, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and flare your feet out around 15 degrees. Lift your chest up and brace your abs to create full-body tension. Then, grab the bar with an overhand grip so that your hands are just outside your thighs. After that, pack your lats through externally rotating your shoulders (essentially the opposite of a shrug). Bend your knee slightly and push your hip straight back while maintaining a neutral spine and keeping your chest up. Go as deep as you comfortably can. Just below knee-level is a typical RDL depth, and there’s no need to touch the plates to the floor. Reverse the rep by simultaneously driving your hips forwards and your chest up. Repeat for 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 15 reps.
    In order to achieve the optimum results, we highly suggest that you place your feet in a position that permits the bar to be as close to your body as possible, as it descends. Furthermore, it is important to remember not to hyperextend the lower back as you complete every repetition.

  • Sets, Reps, and Intensity

    In order to increase muscle growth and strength, and development of the hamstrings and glutes, you can perform 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 15 repetitions with moderate to heavy loads. It is vital to make sure to load the hamstrings and minimize lumbar flexion in each repetition.

4. Smith Machine Split Squats

The Smith Machine split squat is a great unilateral exercise performed in order to improve muscle growth, correct movement asymmetries, and fix muscle imbalances. In addition to that, unilateral training can be utilized to develop strength in athletes. The Smith machine aids in minimizing the stability required when performing unilateral exercises. This allows you to focus on moving heavier loads or training to fatigue without having to be restricted by balance. ​

  • Targeted muscles:

    The smith machine split squat can target a variety of muscle groups which are dependent on your stance. A wider stance will give more hip flexion and hence focuses on the glutes and hamstrings slightly more than the quadriceps. A narrower stance will increase greater quadriceps development due to higher degrees of knee flexion.

  • How to perform:

    First, place a weight bench just behind the Smith machine, so that when you are in the split squat position, the bar is directly above your upper traps. Next, elevate your strongest leg onto the bench by placing either your midfoot or toes onto the padding. Try both and see which is the most comfortable. Take a large step away from the bench, about 2 feet long, with your other foot and plant it firmly on the ground. Use a shorter step to emphasise your quads or a longer one to emphasise your glutes. Ensure that your spine is in neutral and that your eyes are looking straight ahead. With most of the pressure on your front leg, descend by breaking at the hips and bending at the waist slightly as you lower yourself towards the ground. Squat down until the knee of your back leg touches the floor or until your lower back starts to round. That is considered as one rep.
    In order to achieve the optimum results, we highly suggest that you place your feet in a position that permits the bar to be as close to your body as possible, as it descends. Furthermore, it is important to remember not to hyperextend the lower back as you complete every repetition.

  • Sets, Reps, and Intensity

    Utilizing the Smith machine can aid in improving balance and promoting your ability to stabilize heavier loads while training unilaterally. For unilateral strength, we suggest that you perform 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 8 repetitions. If the goal is muscle growth and/or endurance, you can perform higher options that range from 10 to 20 repetitions utilizing moderate to lighter loads.

1. Smith Machine Co. 2020. Smith machine front squat: 4 tips for Bigger quads. Retrieved from: https://smithmachine.co.uk/exercises/legs/front-squat/. Retrieved on 28 July 2021.
2. Smith Machine Co. 2020. Smith machine Romanian deadlift your way to world-class hamstrings. Retrieved from: https://smithmachine.co.uk/exercises/legs/romanian-deadlift/. Retrieved on 28 July 2021.
3. MSmith Machine Co. 2020. Smith machine split squat: Learn how this Bulgarian leg exercise enables me to build my quads pain-free. Retrieved from: https://smithmachine.co.uk/exercises/legs/split-squat/. Retrieved on 28 July 2021.
4. Smith Machine Co. 2020. Smith machine squat: Can it Really grow your legs as much as the barbell version?. Retrieved from: https://smithmachine.co.uk/exercises/legs/squat/. Retrieved on 28 July 2021.

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