Three Excellent Smith Machine Exercises for the Lower Body

A Smith Machine is a heavy piece of fitness equipment that has a fixed bar, multiple racking sites and allows for plate-loading; however, because it is a fixed bar, it does not compare to the intensity of training with a free barbell due to the fixed components.  It does, however, work well for many clients who require more stabilization than a free barbell would provide.  Therefore, we utilize the Smith Machine with many clients training them to properly perform squats and lunges, among other exercises, such as bench press and inverted rows.

In general, the barbell on a Smith Machine weighs approximately 25lbs.  Therefore, if you have mastered the squats/lunges with the bar only, gradually add plates to the bar as needed for progressive overload. Perform 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions of each exercise, on two-three non-consecutive days/week. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Squats –stand under the Smith barbell so that the barbell will rest behind your neck and on your shoulders (if you need the pad, place it on the bar first) then un-rack the bar by lifting up, and rotating the barbell backward. Legs should be approximately shoulder distance apart, shoulders/hips/knees/toes all facing forward. Engaging the quadriceps (front of thighs), lower the body into a squat, no lower than 90-degrees of flexion at the knee joint, keeping the weight in the heels to mid-foot and keep the knees tracking over the shoes laces, never the toes. Then, drive back up into full extension at the knee joint. *Trains the quadriceps/hamstrings/glutes and nose to toes core.


Stationary Lunges – place the bar pad on the bar and slip underneath the bar so that you are able to rest the bar comfortably on the top of the shoulders as you unrack the bar.  Stagger the legs front to back so you are able to keep the back heel elevated throughout the exercise and the front knee tracking over the front heel.  The legs are approximately shoulder distance apart (like you are standing on two different railroad tracks), lower the body down until the front and back leg are flexed approximately 90 degrees at the knee joint.  Then, drive through the front heel returning to a fully erect standing position with both knees fully extended.  *Trains the quadriceps/hamstrings/glutes and nose to toes core.


Front Barbell Squat –add any weight plates that you would like but remember, that you will be able to handle less load due to the placement of the bar in the front of the body rather than with a back squat.  Place the bar against the chest with the arms crossed over the chest, elbows elevated to chest height, to secure the bar at the chest.  Feet should be approximately shoulder distance apart, engaging the quadriceps/hamstrings/glutes (anterior/posterior thighs and buttocks), lower the body into a squat, aiming the tailbone toward the wall behind you, keeping your body weight in the heels and then drive through the heels back into an erect position.  Remember, you have nothing behind you, so lower the body down no lower than 90 degrees at the knee joint. Keep the torso erect throughout.  *Trains the quadriceps/hamstrings/glutes and nose to toes core.


Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Mountain Life Fitness, LLC located in Granby, Colorado.  She may be reached at her website at, her email at and her Facebook page at Mountain Life Fitness.

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