​​How To Do The Smith Machine Squat

Smith squat
(Image credit: Getty Images / Basak Gurbuz Derman)

The Smith machine is a piece of equipment that those new to the gym often avoid. Not only does it look pretty imposing, it’s also popular with regulars so you have to queue for it and then do your sets while others wait, which can feel intimidating.

However, while everyone can benefit from using the Smith machine, it’s perhaps most useful for beginners unsure about doing barbell back squats. The Smith machine has a fixed path for the bar and you can re-rack it at any point, making it less nerve-racking to load a heavy weight on your back. 

It's a safer option all round, and even if you’re used to doing barbell back squats there can be a benefit to switching to the Smith machine later on in a workout when you’re tired because it helps to maintain good technique.

When using a Smith machine, as with all weights machines, the fixed path of the bar does mean that you won’t enlist as many stabiliser muscles as you do with the barbell back squat, and the benefits to your core strength will be reduced as a result. However, you will still be working your quads, glutes and hamstrings in the same way.

How To Do The Smith Machine Squat

Crouch under the racked bar and rest it on the back of your shoulders, holding it with your palms facing forwards. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart with your toes turned slightly out, and positioned slightly in front of the bar. 

The path of the bar in some Smith machines is slightly angled. If that is the case, stand so you’re facing away from the slope, so the bar comes forwards as you lower.

Engage your core muscles and lift the bar out of the rack. Lower into a squat, bending at the hips and knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Push through your heels to come back up to standing. Keep your chest up and look forwards throughout the lift to keep your spine in a neutral position.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.