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Lower Body Blaster for Bigger, Stronger Legs

Use Smith machine squat variations to bust your leg-growth plateaus.

Lower Body Blaster for Bigger, Stronger Legs
Quick Tip


Because you don’t have to balance the bar, the Smith machine also
makes for a great way to do one-legged squats.
 

Question:

I know you’ve developed Smith machine variations for tons of exercises. I’m looking to build bigger, stronger legs. Are there benefits to adding Smith machine squats to my regular squat routine? —J. Schmidt, San Francisco, CA
 

Answer:

It’s hard to beat the standard free-weight barbell squat for building leg size and strength, but it’s also true that variety is key for long-term growth. So yes, you should consider Smith machine squats.

Two research studies have shown how the Smith machine can help build bigger, stronger legs.

Researchers at Iowa’s Drake University reported that trained subjects were about 5% stronger on Smith machine squats than on free-weight squats, likely because the Smith machine balances the bar for you. Another study showed that when subjects had their feet directly under the bar during Smith machine squats, they used their quads more than their hamstrings and glutes. But once they moved their feet out in front of the bar, the effect was reversed, with the hams and glutes used more the farther forward the feet were placed. In the workout below, you’ll use a wide variety of foot positions to elicit the widest possible range of training benefits.

The Workout

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Barbell Squat 3 8-12 1-2 min.
Smith Machine Squat (feet under bar) 1 8-12 1 min.
Smith Machine Squat (feet 4" in front of bar) 1 8-12 1 min.
Smith Machine Squat (feet 8" in front of bar) 1 8-12 1 min.
Smith Machine Squat (feet 12" in front of bar) 1 8-12 1 min.
Smith Machine Squat (feet 16" in front of bar) 1 8-12 1 min.
Smith Machine Squat (feet 20" in front of bar) 1 8-12 1 min.
Romanian Deadlift 3 8-12 1-2 min.

 

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