Hello ! First, let me thank you for your great website. If
you do not answer questions from readers, just tell me, I would
As far as I know
squatting in the smith machine puts more stress on your knees
than free (to parallel) squats do and has other problems as well.
I got this information from Stuart's book and various websites.
My problem is I just joined a new gym because the old one closed
and immediately (after doing my first set of free squats) got
into a discussion with one of the trainers (staff) there. He
says that you can put your feet well in front of the bar on the
smith and lean back into the machine and squat. That way your
back will be straight and upright through the movement and unless
the angle between your upper and lower leg is less than 90 deg.,
there would be no extra stress on the knees compared to free
squats. My thoughts on this were that putting the feet in front
of the bar creates a force on the knees from your feet pushing
forward on the floor. Also, if you put your feet under the bar,
squatting to 90 deg. is far from parallel, and would make it
something like a quarter squat. If you squat to parallel with
your feet under the bar it forces you to bend forward excessively
and your shins will move forward a lot as well. Now I'm not active
in sports science so I had no way to prove my claims. I even
did a few medline searches but only found stuff on regular squats.
What do you think of squatting in the smith machine? I feel
the fixed path is unnatural and can't believe it's good for the
knees and or back can you point me to some scientific studies
that prove this? Or am I mistaken and there is no difference?
Any help would be appreciated.
Thanks a lot,
Mirko Bruess Hamburg, Germany
I am the author and webmaster of an ExRx on the Net. Dr. Eric
Serrano, the leading benefactor of ExRx and I have always been
a supporter of your low volume recommendation.
I recently received a question regarding the smith squat with
reference to your site. I read "Experiments in the Gym:
The Squat" by Bill Piche.
He states "...the only thing I got was very sore knees.
Avoid hack squats." I found his rational difficult to accept;
recommending others to avoid an exercise due to HIS biomechanical
Before I post my response on the ExRx site, I would like to
give you a chance to express your arguments. I am open to criticism.
If you are too busy to respond, I understand. I just want to
give you this opportunity to defend your position before I post.
Perhaps both of us can achieve a greater understanding to alternative
Smith Squat (Rough draft enclosed)
James Griffing, ExRx.net
I'm responding, briefly, to your message re Smith machine
I read your rough draft. I dislike the Smith machine squat
for several reasons. I go into them in detail in my books. In
a nutshell, three of the reasons are..
1. The machine locks the body into the machine's groove, and
prevents the body from determining its groove.
2. If you stand with your feet pretty much underneath the
bar, the knee flexion will be exaggerated, and stress there exaggerated
3. If you put your feet forward, to reduce knee flexion, the
lower back is put in a weak position, with rounding of the lower
back likely. In addition, there is additional stress on the knees
as the feet want to slide forward but don't because of the friction
from the floor surface.
All in all, the Smith machine squat may give an illusion of
safety relative to the barbell squat, but in reality it's a bad
exercise. Sure there are degrees of "bad" depending
on the specific form used, and the individual, but it's still
a bad exercise. Rather than try to minimize the problems with
a bad exercise, why not just stick to exercises that have far
better potential? Of course, even the "safe" alternatives
can be ruinous if not done properly, but best to stick with movements
that have good potential.
Thank you for your amazing exrx web site. For the Smith squat
exercise, you correctly reported that:
"First, there is no clinical evidence or research
data whether published or not, of which I am aware (which of
course may simply mean I haven't come across it yet) that would
lead one to conclude (according to the accepted statistical methods
for the treatment of data to establish a correlation or causal
relationship) that squats performed on a Smith-machine apparatus
pose any inherent danger to either the knees or the spine when
performed correctly. If anyone can offer such evidence I would
greatly (and sincerely) appreciate him or her sharing it, or
letting me know where I can acquire it. Alternatively I would
also be interested in discussing any Biomechanical models that
he or she may have used to arrive at this conclusion. Anecdotal
accounts, opinion, and conjecture, regardless of the source or
the forum, do not constitute evidence."
I'm now glad to let you know that I (and my co-workers) have
recently published a paper on this subject:
This work was also inspired by the discussion reported on
your web site at the link http://www.exrx.net/Kinesiology/SmithSquat1.html
For this reason this link was cited in the paper.
Prof. Andrea Biscarini