The barbell front squat works perfectly for your overall lower body strength but if you are looking to focus on the quads, the Smith machine front squat does a much better job working them.
This is because it requires less of your core which makes it easy to focus all the effort on the muscles on your legs, especially your quads.
Here are the steps you can follow to perform it properly:
- Place the Smith bar at collar-bone level. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and your upper arm at a 90⁰ angle with your torso.
- Take a deep breath in and lift the bar, with your elbows pointed forward. Make sure that as you lift, your core remains engaged and your shoulder blades pulled together.
- Instead of pushing your hips back, you should be sitting straight down in a front squat.
- To maintain the front squat position, you will need to drop your butt, keep your core tight and point your elbows forward as you did in the starting position.
- At the bottom of the movement, exhale and drive into the ground through your heels to get you back to where you started.
- 3-8 reps per set is ideal if your goal is strengthening, while 8-12 is recommended for hypertrophy.
WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE SMITH MACHINE FRONT SQUAT WORK?
As mentioned at the beginning the Smith machine front squat concerns itself more with working your quads than any other muscle on your body.
The quad muscle group is made up of four main muscles; the rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis and vastus intermedius, all which this movement targets effectively.
Pushing your feet forward during the squat activates your quads more than you would with a free weight squat.
Also, you can use a narrower stance to ensure your primary focus is your quads rather than your adductors.
The wider the stance you use, the more your hip adductors (including your glutes) will be recruited.
However, you can still activate your glutes properly even with a narrow stance if you use the full range of motion.
LOWER BACK MUSCLES
Squats are generally very effective when it comes to increasing lower back strength.
The Smith machine front squat doesn’t work your lower back any better than the conventional squat, but it still helps a bit.
Hip adductors are engaged most when you flex your hips during the lower portion of your lift.
This means the lower you go, the more you recruit your hip adductors.
Apart from the above muscle groups, there are other secondary ones that get activated as well during this movement
A few examples are the hamstrings, core and spinal erectors.
BENEFITS OF THE SMITH MACHINE FRONT SQUAT
INCREASED MUSCLE ISOLATION
While there are plenty of exercises for your quads and glutes, the Smith machine front squat does an outstanding job at isolating these two muscle groups because you do not have to worry about stabilization.
Another reason why it is highly effective is because of the feet placement in front of the machine which enables you to focus on your glutes and quads.
NO NEED FOR A SPOTTER
Every Smith machine has a catch system at the bottom of it, which sort of eliminates the need for a spotter when you are performing movements on it.
This catch system allows you to easily rerack the weight at any point of the exercise using the hooks available.
But of course you are free to seek the help of a spotter if you think you need to take extra precaution for one reason or another.
REDUCED RISK OF INJURY
Your risk of injury is greatly reduced during the Smith machine front squat since it enables you to focus on your form without having to worrying about stabilization.
Take note that this does not mean it has a zero percent injury risk; like with every other machine-based exercise you have to use the correct technique and form otherwise you could easily get injured.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE SMITH MACHINE FRONT SQUAT
SMITH MACHINE HACK SQUAT
The Smith machine hack squat is also quad-specific, but it is good for your glutes and hamstrings too.
Its main benefit, besides working your quads more than the conventional squat, is that it places significantly less pressure on your joints because the bar is not placed on your back.
Here’s how to do it correctly;
- Set the safety catches of the machine at calf level.
- Set the bar at the position of the safety catches.
- Stand in front of the bar with your back to it. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with their backs touching the bar.
- Lower yourself into a squat and grab the barbell. This is the starting position.
- Tighten your core, straighten your spine and get your knees in line with your toes.
- Holding the barbell, drive through your heels to get into a standing position.
- Pause for a moment at the top before slowly lowering the bar to the safety catches. This marks the end of your rep.
SMITH MACHINE CHAIR SQUAT
The Smith machine chair squat looks a bit like the hack squat, but with the bar on your back. In essence, it is supposed to make you feel like you are sitting down with no actual chair behind you.
Here’s how to do it correctly:
- Start by setting the safety catches to the level that is appropriate for you. You can do this by using a regular squat to level the bar where it lands safely.
- Position yourself under the bar, and then lift and rotate it to unhook it.
- Lower yourself into a squat until you get to the point where your shins are at a right angle from your upper thighs.
- From the bottom position, drive through your heels to get back to where you started.
SMITH MACHINE FRONT SQUAT MISTAKES TO AVOID
ROUNDING YOUR SPINE
Curving your spine is one of the fastest ways to get yourself hurt during the Smith machine front squat.
Maintain a straight back all through the movement for a safer workout.
MOVING TOO FAST
Whether it is your first time doing this exercise or you’re already familiar with it, moving slowly and with control works better for you than making jerking motions.
When it comes to quad exercises, the Smith machine front squat remains undefeated.
Not only does it allow you to focus on the quads with your feet pushed forward but it also lets you work out without having to worry much about stabilizing yourself.
It’s a worth a shot – try it out and you’ll see this for yourself.