If you haven't realized it yet, there are a ton of squat variations. One of the many variations is the Smith Machine squat, and if you're just beginning to get into strength training, it can be a great tool to improve your squat technique.
The Smith Machine looks similar to a traditional squat rack with the main difference being that it assists with the movement. Instead of a 45-pound barbell, the Smith Machine bar is around 15 pounds, which means you can focus on form first, instead of how heavy you're lifting.
I don't recommend using the Smith Machine every time you squat, but if you want to become comfortable with squatting with a load on your back, it's a great place to start.
How to Do a Smith Machine Squat
- Adjust the bar of the Smith Machine so that it's at shoulder height. Ultimately, the height will be different for everyone, and you may need to raise or lower it.
- Start with a loaded bar; 10-pound plates on each side is a great starting point. Beginners should start with just the bar and gradually add weight as they become familiar with the movement.
- Position your hands about shoulder-width apart on the bar, and lightly grip the bar with an overhand grip.
- Step in front of the rack, and rest the bar on your trapezius muscles (the muscles closest to your neck/upper back).
- With your feet about hip-distance apart, unlock the bar by lifting it up and forward.
- Shift your weight back into your heels. Brace your abs as you begin to lower into a squat, keeping your head and spine in a neutral position. Your knees should be as close to 90 degrees as possible. Hold for one second.
- With your core still braced, drive through your heels to stand back up. Be sure to squeeze your glutes at the top of your squat. That's one rep.
- Complete three sets of 12 reps.