Top 5 Smith Machine Squat Alternatives (With Photos!) - Inspire Us (2023)

The 5 Best Smith Machine Squat Alternatives (With Photos!)

Top 5 Smith Machine Squat Alternatives (With Photos!) - Inspire Us (1)

published by:debbie luna

Top 5 Smith Machine Squat Alternatives (With Photos!) - Inspire Us (2)

reviewed by:Daniel Dominick TE, PTRP

Last update:

November 30, 2022

It's a well-known fact in fitness circles that smith machine squats are a pretty bad idea. The risk of injury is quite high and many squatters will find it extremely uncomfortable compared to other squat variations.

Fortunately, there are dozens of possible alternative exercises that can easily surpass the forge machine squat in safety and effectiveness.

More often than not, lifters will want to replace the Smith machine squat with the closest free weight alternative; the barbell squat.

If that proves impossible, there are other alternatives, such as the machine leg press or dumbbell lunge, just two of many alternatives that may have some advantages over the Smith machine squat.

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Why should you alternate the smith machine squat?

The main reason why the squat forging machine should be replaced is simple; it is an unsafe and harmful practice.

This is due to the fact that the forging machine rod is locked in only one line of motion, which also locks the practitioner in that line when lengthening.

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When a person performs a squat movement, their body moves through different planes as they push their pelvis back and push their chest out to keep their spine vitally neutral, among various other peaks.

These tips should not be followed when squatting on Smith machines, which greatly increases the risk of injury and deprives the practitioner of much of the training stimulus that would be induced with non-Smith machine alternatives.

How To Choose The Right Smith Machine Squat Alternative

While there are a large number of possible alternatives to the Smith machine squat, choosing the right one should be made by tailoring these alternatives to the student's specific use case and choosing the alternative that best suits their training program. .

Muscles Exercised by the Smith Machine Squat

The Smith machine squat works the muscles of the quadriceps femoris, hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors—all muscle groups that any suitable alternative exercise should also target.

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Additionally, practitioners substituting another exercise can choose one that also engages the core muscles.


To maintain the intended recovery goals of the lifter's training program, it can be very effective to choose a substitute exercise of a similar or slightly higher intensity.

Compound exercises with near-maximum loads or a relatively intense volume of reps per set are ideal, although lifters who find Smith squats too demanding may want to opt for slightly less intense exercises with lower resistance levels or fewer sets. .

Compatibility with exercise equipment.

Individual differences between lifters should also be taken into account when choosing a squat alternative.

Factors such as personal preference, different body proportions, injury history, and the type of equipment the student has available are relatively minor factors to consider when deciding which exercise to perform.

Certain exercises, such as B. Barbell squats or dumbbell lunges require other equipment that may not be available to the lifter or that aggravates injuries the lifter has sustained in the past.

Alternatives to squats on the Smith Machine

1. Favorite: barbell squats

othe quintessential lower body exercise, the barbell squat is arguably the most effective alternative to the forging machine squat.

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This is due to the freer movement offered by using a barbell, as well as the fact that the barbell squat far surpasses the forged machine squat in terms of muscle recruitment effectiveness.

The barbell squat is considered essential in almost any bodybuilding or strength training program and is the most viable substitute for the forge machine squat, that is, barring injury or lack of equipment on the part of the lifter.

This alternative is for:

The barbell squat is the best alternative for serious lifters looking to build lower-body strength and power, as well as individuals looking to maintain the general muscle recruitment and movement pattern of the forge machine squat, Except for the usual drawbacks.

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I like:

To begin a repetition of the barbell squat, the lifter carries a moderate to heavy weight on a bar.

The practitioner then goes under the bar and places it against the nape of the neck or over the shoulders, opens the bar and enters the clearance of the brace.

With feet hip-width apart, the practitioner pushes the chest out, flexing the core and simultaneously flexing the hips and knees, lowering until the hip crease is parallel to the knee joint.

The student then pushes through the heels and pushes the pelvis forward, rises back up to the original standing position, and finishes the repetition of the barbell squat.

2. The leg press

Another classic exercise among bodybuilders is the leg press.Low Impact Compound Leg Exercisewhich works as an excellent alternative to the squat forging machine due to theSimilarities in Muscle Recruitment, although the leg press is considered much safer than the last exercise.

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While the leg press has the same drawbacks as other machine-based exercises, it is very effective at injecting serious resistance and volume into the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal groups of your lower body, all while maintaining to the lifter held securely by multiple mechanisms an angle of reverse resistance.

This creates a squat alternative to the Forge Machine that has enough similarities to allow for a hassle-free 1:1 programming and volume replacement, while sidestepping many of the issues of the previous exercise.

This alternative is for:

The leg press is a suitable alternative for exercisers who want to retain the machine-based nature of the squat in the Smith machine while allowing for a freer range of motion and range of motion.

In addition, the leg press can also be used as a substitute for the Smith machine squat if the latter exercise is programmed as an additional or secondary compound exercise within the workout, a feature that is perfectly suited to the leg press.

I like:

To perform a leg press repetition, the practitioner loads a moderate weight on the machine and sits down, pressing their feet against the plate in front of them.

The practitioner disables the safety mechanisms with their hands, slowly bends the knees, and pulls the toes out to obtain a more advantageous leg angle.

Bending the weight at the knees until it reaches its full range of motion, the lifter digs the heels into the plate and pushes the weight back to its original height at the start of the rep. Avoid fully extending your knees as this can cause injury.

When this point is reached, the repetition is complete.

3. Barbell Front Squats

A variation of the barbell squat that places the weight in front of the lifter's torso instead of on top of him is the barbell front squat.more quadricentricthan most squat alternatives on the Smith machine, and therefore matches it in terms of intensity of muscle recruitment.

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Also, due to the awkward angle of resistance, the weight used in the barbell front squat is quite similar to that of the forge machine squat, resulting in the same pressure being applied to the lower body, albeit differently. a less harmful way.

This alternative is for:

The barbell front squat is an excellent alternative to the Smith machine squat for lifters who want to focus more on the quadriceps femoris or for those who want to limit the resistance required to perform the exercise.

I like:

To perform one repetition of the barbell front squat, the practitioner loads a light to moderate amount of weight on a mounted bar and opens it across the chest, bending the elbows and wrists to secure it against the clavicle area.

4. Dumbbell lunges

Dumbbell lunges are a low-impact, compound leg exercise that primarily works one side of the body at a time. They're a great alternative to the Smith machine squat for lifters looking for a more dynamic, hip flexor-focused exercise.

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While dumbbell lunges aren't as effective for building lower-body strength as other exercises in this article, they are exceptional in terms of functionality and stimulus specificity, so much so that they're often incorporated into athletic training programs. of all disciplines.

This alternative is for:

As an alternative to the Smith Machine Squat, dumbbell lunges are a good option when the athlete wants to improve athletic performance or strengthen the hip flexor and quadriceps femoris muscles.

Additionally, dumbbell lunges are among the safest lower-body compound exercises available due to their low impact, far surpassing forge machine squats in terms of low risk of injury.

I like:

To perform a dumbbell lunge repetition, the practitioner should hold a pair of dumbbells in each hand and stand with their feet naturally wide apart.

Taking one big step forward while planting the other back, the practitioner lowers the knees and hips simultaneously, stopping when the knee is parallel to the ground behind the body along a horizontal plane.

With the front leg first, the practitioner returns to the starting standing position and repeats the action with both legs reversed.

This completes one repetition of the traditional dumbbell lunge.

5. The Hack Squat Machine

Another compound leg machine exercise, the hack squat machine, beats the Smith squat machine in virtually every aspect of resistance training—it's outstandingMuscle recruitment, safety, ease of use, and overall a leg training move.

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The hack squat machine is mainly used by bodybuilders and powerlifters.the goal of significantly training the quadriceps femoris, while also recruiting the glutes and hamstrings as secondary motor muscles.

In terms of resilience and volume, the squat machine position allows for greater resistance than the Smith machine and a higher volume of reps because the hip flexors aren't positioned as awkwardly.

This alternative is for:

If the other exercises listed in this article are inappropriate or dangerous for the practitioner, the Hack Squat may be the most suitable alternative to switching from the Smith Machine Squat.

This is due to the high margin of safety associated with the exercise, as well as the fact that the machine squat engages exactly the same muscles in the same way as the Smith machine squat, thus reducing the number of changes required to the program. .

I like:

To perform one repetition of the hack squat, the practitioner stands inside the machine with the shoulders against the pads and the chest out. Feet should be slightly wider than hip-width apart at the top of the board and hands should be gripping any available support handles.

Then make sure your core is supported and your spine is at a neutral angle so the weight rests fully on your body as you bend your knees, ensuring most of the force is transmitted through your body to the disc. .

When the practitioner has reached the bottom of their range of motion, they push off the platform with their feet, straightening their knees and making sure they are pointing out. This part of the repetition ends when the practitioner returns to their original starting position.

And that completed one rep of the squat machine.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it worth doing squats on the Smith Machine?

Unless they are used as a secondary low resistance compound movement, it is much better to avoid forging mechanical squats due to the inherent dangers associated with their rigid movement pattern.

Smith machine squats are generally considered quite inefficient and detrimental, both in terms of injury risk and relative muscle activation, that is, with the exception of the quadriceps femoris.

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When the Smith machine squat is scheduled to be used as a complementary quad-focused exercise instead of the main compound exercise, its use may be more than justified and worth the risk.

Of course, before you do this, make sure you have enough flexibility and strength to perform the exercise safely.

Why do bodybuilders squat on the Smith machine?

Certain elite bodybuilders choose Smith machine squats because they allow for greater quadriceps focus and volume compared to free weight exercises.

This can help build big, muscular quads, but it's less conducive to building strength and stability, as is the fact that using the forge machine squat for this purpose usually requires a higher level of experience to master. . .

Is the smith machine squat better than the leg press?

Outside of certain situations where Smith Machine squats are called for, the leg press is generally considered better in every way.

In terms of safety, relative range of motion, posterior chain activation, and built-in safety mechanisms, the leg press outperforms its forge machine counterpart, especially for newer strength athletes who haven't fully maximized strength yet. lower body mobility or do not know the proper exercise. mechanics. .

final thoughts

And there it is; some of the most efficient smith machine alternate squat exercises available.

If you haven't found the right replacement exercise for your needs yet, there probably is one: The exercises listed here are geared toward general physical development and safety rather than specific needs like athletic explosiveness or isolated muscle recruitment. .

If so, we encourage you to investigate further, as the Smith machine squat is a poor exercise for compound legs.


1. Schwanbeck S, Chilibeck PD, Binsted G. A comparison of the free weight squat with the Smith machine squat using electromyography. Thickness Guide Edition J 2009 December; 23(9):2588-91. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b1b181. PMID: 19855308.

2. Saeterbakken AH, Olsen A, Behm DG, Bardstu HB, Andersen V. The short- and long-term effects of resistance training with different stability requirements. Plus one. 2019 Apr 1;14(4):e0214302. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0214302. PMID: 30934001; PMC ID: PMC6443166.

3. Initial Basic Barbell Strength Training Jan 2007 M RippetoeL Kilgore - Rippetoe M. and Kilgore, L. (2007). Start with basic barbell strength training. Wichita Falls, USA: The Aasgaard Company, 2nd Edition, Page 2

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Top 5 Smith Machine Squat Alternatives (With Photos!) - Inspire Us (10)

debbie luna

Debbie (Deb) began weightlifting and Olympic lifting in high school as part of her track team; She continues to train to stay in shape. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, weightlifting, biomechanics, and more.

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What exercise is equivalent to a squat? ›

Lunges are another versatile and effective squat alternative for your lower body workouts. The great thing about lunges is they aren't a technical movement, and they are an excellent way to get your heart rate up while targeting the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hips, and calves.

How to hack squat without a machine? ›

To perform a barbell hack squat, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, heels elevated on a pair of plates, with the loaded barbell behind you on the ground. Squat down to grip the bar with your hands at about shoulder-width apart, then drive back up. From there, you're ready for reps.

How effective is the hack squat? ›

Hack squats can help isolate your lower body, allowing you to build strength there faster, according to Kishon Pierce, CPT, a trainer at Blink Fitness. “As opposed to barbell squats, the hack squat works the entire lower body including glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves," Pierce says.

What is a Turkish squat? ›

To begin this turkey squat, place your feet in your widest stance, angling your feet and knees outward. Roll your shoulders back and down, grasp your hand weight or kettle bell with both hands. Holding your chest tall, engage your core and hold the weight at your midsection, you are ready to move. SUBSCRIBER EXCLUSIVE.

Is it OK to squat on a Smith machine? ›

Since, the bar in the Smith Machine is guided during movement, performing a squat in the Smith Machine is good for those starting out the exercises. It will allow you to add more weight along the way as opposed to doing the normal squats.

Are Smith machine squats the same as regular squats? ›

While the barbell squat activates more muscle fibers and relies on surrounding muscles for support, the Smith machine squat is better for targeting specific muscles, particularly hamstrings and glutes. You don't need to include both in every leg day session, but each should have a place in your training program.

Are Smith machine squats just as effective? ›

Though it is somewhat less recommended by athletic coaches towards higher level athletes, the smith machine squat is nonetheless quite effective at the particular characteristics that set it apart from other lower body compound exercises, making it a solid exercise for the majority of training programs.

Are Smith machine squats harder than regular squats? ›

Researchers from Drake University reported that when 32 trained lifters tested their one-rep max for the Smith machine squat, they were about five percent stronger than on the free-weight squat.


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