Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredMachine
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypePush (Bilateral)
  • Experience LevelBeginner
  • Secondary Muscles
    Abs, Adductors, Calves, Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back
Target Muscle Group


Quads Muscle Anatomy Diagram

Smith Machine Squat Overview

The Smith machine squat is a variation of the squat and an exercise used to build the muscles of the legs. In particular, the Smith machine squat will place a lot of emphasis on the quads.

Utilizing a Smith machine will ensure the bar path remains in a fixed position, eliminating some of the need to stabilize during the exercise.

You can include the Smith machine squat in your leg workouts or full body workouts.

Smith Machine Squat 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.

Smith Machine Squat 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.
Posted on: Wed, 09/18/2013 - 18:57

I thought the smith machine was bad?

Posted on: Fri, 07/24/2020 - 16:54

Like with any exercise performance, proper form, along with foot and bar placement are critical when using the Smith machine for squats. Using 50% or less of your 1 Rep max the Smith is good for learning how to do full range of motion for sets of 10-12reps. Eventually you need to progress to barbell back squats once you reach 70% 1RM Range. I DO NOT RECOMMEND the Smith machine for squats if you in >70% 1RM or can squat >100% of your bodyweight. Disclaimer: other than being a consumer, I do not have any affiliation with muscle and strength.

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

I thought smith machines were bad?

Posted on: 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.

Posted on: 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?

Posted on: 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.

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

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.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: 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.

Posted on: 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.

Posted on: 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?

Posted on: 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

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

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

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 14:01

You can use barbell squats.