Smith Machine Squat Video Guide

Exercise Profile

  • Strength
  • Machine
  • Compound
  • Push (Bilateral)
  • Beginner
  • Abs, Adductors, Calves, Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back
Quads Exercises Diagram Target Muscle Group

Exercise Instructions

  1. Position the bar just below shoulder level and adjust the safety stops right above knee height.
  2. Place your pinkies on the smooth ring of the barbell.
  3. Get under the bar and position at the base of your traps looking straight ahead.
  4. Unrack the bar by rotating your wrists to remove the safety hooks.
  5. Take a deep breath and keep your elbows in line with your torso.
  6. Descend by simultaneously pushing the hips back and bending the knees.
  7. Once your thighs reach parallel with the floor, reverse the movement by driving your feet into the floor and flexing your quads.
  8. Finish the lift by exhaling as you fully extend the hips and knees.

Exercise Tips

  1. Low bar will not work well with smith machine squats due to the completely vertical bar path.
  2. Toe angle is highly individual - experiment to see what feels best for you.
  3. Experiment with a “false” (i.e. thumbless) grip as this helps to eliminate elbow and wrist issues in some folks.
  4. Drive through the whole foot - you want 3 points of contact: big toe, little toe, and heel.
  5. Imagine you’re trying to drop your back pockets straight towards your heels. Down, not back.
  6. Some forward translation of the knees over the toes is alright provided that the knees don’t deviate excessively inward or outward. Those with longer femurs will have to allow their knees to come farther forward if they want to remain upright.
  7. Drive your traps into the bar and try to squeeze your elbows in towards your body as you reverse the movement out of the hole.
  8. Neck position is highly individual as well - some prefer a neutral neck position (i.e. keeping the chin tucked throughout the lift) while others do well with looking straight ahead. Experiment with each and see which one works best for your anatomy.
  9. Don’t push the knees out excessively but ensure they track roughly over or slightly outside the 2nd toe.

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12 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Wed, 09/18/2013 - 18:57

I thought the smith machine was bad?

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Posted Mon, 09/16/2013 - 21:25

I thought smith machines were bad?

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Posted Thu, 06/27/2013 - 13:41

My gym dont have squat rack. I am saving money to buy by my self but until then i am doing smith machine squat. I have heard that smith machine squat are ugly and bad, it can hurt your back. Please advise me is smith machine squat are ok if done with proper form. I think my form is good with smith machine, I never felt any back pain. I am doing it for about a month.

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Posted Wed, 04/03/2013 - 00:19

I am maybe misunderstanding how to reach the routines for weeks 7-12 or maybe I'm not. But for several of the exercises in both Routine's 1 and 2 for weeks 7-12 it's indicating doing 21 or 22 sets. Is this a typo or am I'm not understanding how to read the schedule?

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Posted Tue, 05/28/2013 - 03:26

There are 2 exercises in those lines so you do 2 sets of the first exercise and 1 of the second.

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Posted Sun, 02/10/2013 - 20:39
Grant Monahan

I broke my neck a few years back and I don't like the idea of putting any weight on my neck. Is there any other sub. to the smith or reg. squats.

Joey's picture
Posted Tue, 02/12/2013 - 11:12

You wouldn't want to place the bar on your neck to begin with. Place the bar on your traps -- you can even do "low bar" squats and position the bar lower on your back. Front squats are also a great option.

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Posted Tue, 01/15/2013 - 18:15

My trainer told me that to reason people lean forward when they do squats is because their hip flexors and calves are tight. My form on regular squats is awful. Doing smith squats helps keep me upright and push through my heels. It improves my form in other ways and works the same muscles as when I do regular squats, but lets me have more control.

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Posted Tue, 09/04/2012 - 16:51

Due to some minor back issues, was wondering if I could do dumbell squats instead and get the same results?

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Posted Tue, 10/02/2012 - 08:15

Wendy tbh I have never heard of anyone doing dumbell squats at the gym- your best bet is to use the smith machine and use light weights- I managed to get sciatica 4 years ago and I use the smith machine to do my squats and it is a painless experience- as long as you learn the correct technique and ensure you tense your glutes and core it should ideally keep your back stable and hence relenquish any pain in your back when doing the exercise

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Posted Mon, 09/03/2012 - 20:58

Is there a substitute since I do not have a smith machine?

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 09/04/2012 - 14:01

You can use barbell squats.