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Old 02-17-2009, 11:33 AM   #1
Sheldon Danley
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Smith Machine Squats

Before everyone tears into me about doing squats on a smith machine, know that it is not me who is doing them!

I've been trying to convert my old college roommates to kool-aid drinking CrossFit fanatics and I finally got through to a buddy and got him to start squatting more often so he doesn't look like a keg on sticks but he told me he is doing them on a smith machine. I immediately told him this was a terrible idea because it's hard on the joints and puts the body in awkward positions and at unnatural angles. His response was that a trainer at the Globo Gym where he works out told him that squats on a smith machine are better for someone with a bad lower back (which he certainly has). This comment made me cringe. Everything about it seems wrong to me but I need some evidence and support to back up my argument. Any and all opinions are welcome.
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Old 02-17-2009, 12:04 PM   #2
Steven Webster
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Re: Smith Machine Squats

I used to do smith squats about 15 years ago before I knew anything about squats. The first thing I'd like to say is that I don't actually think they're that bad, and they are fairly safe if you don't have anyone to coach you.

You mentioned you friend actually has a bad back. Well, he could do both smith machines and some light squat drills to strengthen his lower back. I think you need to be sure whether he is making excuses for his behaviour, training around his injury or both. You want him to tackle the injury, correct?

Lastly, some unwarranted social commentary. Remember that image is everything in todays world. The avatar and it's preservation is paramount. In plain english, if this guy at Globo gym looks the part your friend is going to listen to him and not you. your friend already has made up his mind where to get the right information.

I'm sorry to say but that is the burden of proof for you. Yes, it is a burden so long as it is your problem, but if you really wish to be a crusader, good luck, and prepare to have your face in your palm a lot.
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Old 02-17-2009, 12:05 PM   #3
Paul Victor French
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Re: Smith Machine Squats

If your friend has a bad lower back, back squats may not be the best option for him, especially when ya go all the way down. I personally would recommend front squats first, but if you really think he needs to do back squats, watch him and make sure his form is alright. I do not believe that everyone can go the same depth safely on back squats, variables such as flexibility and body type would affect it. Watch him, and make sure he is not doing tail under squats....which is where the lower back rounds at the bottom. He should only go as low as his back allows, otherwise he would most likely hurt himself.

While I have never done smith machine squats, if you do them like you are leaning against the bar...similar to the motion of a Swiss ball wall squat, there is very little risk of hurting yourself...imo.
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Old 02-17-2009, 12:23 PM   #4
Jamie J. Skibicki
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Re: Smith Machine Squats

His back is bad in what way?

Front squats put a greater emphasis on the lower back since there is more torque on the lower back than in the back squat.
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Old 02-17-2009, 12:34 PM   #5
Robert Callahan
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Re: Smith Machine Squats

With a bad back the smith machine is going to be worse for him than just learning correct form with light weight. The smith machine will allow him to use poor mechanics and develop a false sense of strength leading to him injuring himself doing something else thinking that he is strong enough to handle it. Back squats put some strain on the low back, but that forces those muscles to get stronger and typically leads to an improvement in the situation. Really though if he has a bad back you need to get him Deadlifting. Start light, get good mechanics and then slowly ramp up the weight. That will be the best thing he can do for his back.

And please tell him not to do DL on the smith machine either

-Robert
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Old 02-17-2009, 12:46 PM   #6
Sheldon Danley
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Re: Smith Machine Squats

I just want quickly clarify that I did not in any way recommend back squats as a way to remedy the lower back issue. I simply suggested that he do more lower body compound exercises because he's spent his life doing the typical beach muscles bodybuilding routine and now he can bench close to twice his bodyweight but can't squat or deadlift for lovin' or money.

With that being said I do not know the full extent of his lower back issues. I'm personally skeptical and think that it is used as an excuse for a general weakness in that area. He describes it as a pinched nerve or pull of some sort that happens during physical activity like basketball or some touch football and puts him out of commission for days or even weeks. I'm obviously not a doctor but I believe the right exercise done correctly can cure almost any bodily ailments. He also says that it's hereditary because his Dad and Grandfather both have issues, but I'd like to see the science behind hereditary back issues.

I appreciate the comments. I'll dig up some articles on correct squat and deadlift form and try to get him to start light.
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Old 02-17-2009, 02:50 PM   #7
Jamie J. Skibicki
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Re: Smith Machine Squats

Do a search for this over at Rips ************ forum. There are more than a few people that said squatting and deadlifting correctly has made their back feel much better.

I used to have pretty bad back problem when I played rugby (my range of motion without pain was about 15- 20 degrees from vertical). I do not have these back problems anymore as my nearly atg squat and deadlift have continued to raise.
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Old 02-18-2009, 11:27 PM   #8
Edwin McKean
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Re: Smith Machine Squats

How are Smith Machine squats bad for your back? They should actually help keep your form correct. The only real negative is that they dont work the stabalizer muscles. When I injured my hip I used the smith machine to get back into it, its a good way to build up strength and then you can move over to the power rack.

PS Arnald Schwarzenneger was an advocate of the Smith machine for squats (or so I hear)
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Old 02-19-2009, 11:19 AM   #9
Alex Europa
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Re: Smith Machine Squats

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edwin McKean View Post
PS Arnald Schwarzenneger was an advocate of the Smith machine for squats (or so I hear)
First, this means pretty much zero around here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edwin McKean View Post
How are Smith Machine squats bad for your back? They should actually help keep your form correct. The only real negative is that they dont work the stabalizer muscles. When I injured my hip I used the smith machine to get back into it, its a good way to build up strength and then you can move over to the power rack.
Second, they DON'T help your keep correct form because your body is forced to move around the bar and not the other way around. Even in a 100% perfect back squat, there will be some fore/aft movement of the barbell; the Smith machine puts undo pressure on the body (read: spine) as it is forced to follow the bar's path.

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Old 02-19-2009, 11:50 AM   #10
Sam Ser
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Re: Smith Machine Squats

wait... your friend can bench press twice his weight... WITH A BAD BACK?!

wow.

anyway, what's wrong with tabata air squats?

mechanics... then competence... then intensity.

a machine doesn't obviate the need for that progression.
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