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Exercises Movements, technique & proper execution

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Old 04-06-2004, 09:41 AM   #1
Eric Hawkins
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This question is brought up after doing yesterdays WOD (back squats).

I was curious if the things i had heard about the smith machine squat were true. My machine limits the movement to perfectly vertical. I have heard this is VERY bad for your back. I was able to do the exercise using the machine, though I kept the weight to a safe amount, both out of fear of injury and the fact i am weak :p The beauty of the thing is that i workout alone in my basement and the safety catches came in handy several times when i couldn't get out of the hole.

Is it safe to continue using it?
Is it cheating me out of proper technique?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 04-06-2004, 10:10 AM   #2
David Werner
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Eric

"Safe" in this discussion depends on the context. You are "safe" while in the machine as it's difficult to have the weight get out of control. You are not safe at all however, when doing everything else in your life. The machine allows you to work the major muscle groups of your legs without requiring the balance and stabilization input from all the supporting muscles, this sets you up for the situation where you try to apply your strength in the real world and get injured because, while you can lift the refrigerator - you can't actually control it. IMO the safest people in this discussion are the machine manufactures' lawyers. Just try to prove that the machine injured you.

Yes, the smith machine conpromises proper technique also, the groove you lift in is not your natural motion. Working out alone in the basement can be safely done with either bumper plates or a rubber mat or both. This allows you to just drop the weight when it gets away from you. Practise this a few times with light weight and it is very safe and un-dramatic. This is what we do at Crossfit North and droping the weight is easier than having spotters step in to help you, really. most of our lifters will not wait for spotters to step in, prefering to just drop the bar. We have a power rack but it rarely gets used for it's intended purpose, lifting on the platform and droping the bar works too well to make the rack worth the bother.

Dave Werner
Crossfit North
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Old 04-06-2004, 11:17 AM   #3
Brian Hand
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I agree 100% with Dave that the Smith machine is bad news for the squat (and in general). I personally would emphasize that the throwing-you-out-of-the-groove part is probably even more of a safety issue than the neglecting stabilization and balance issue. I only say this because the stabilization issue will get you when you go to move a refrigerator, but the bad groove will hurt you in and of itself. The point is the same: Smith machine bad.

I will have to respectfully suggest that dropping the bar is a stunt worthy of the MTV show *******. There are different ways to miss and I think if you miss forward dropping the bar is going to be ugly.

Kidding aside I will keep an open mind here. Dave, please tell a little more about this. How heavy a squat has this worked with?

As alternates for safe squatting:

-Sell the smith machine and buy a power rack.
-Substitute front squats, zerchers, or trap bar deadlifts
-Use a setup like J.V. Askem has on his site.
-If you have a handy beam, use "spotter straps" attached to the beam.
-Buy spotter racks (they are like reinforced sawhorses) or position blocks near the bottom position
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Old 04-06-2004, 03:27 PM   #4
Eric Hawkins
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I kinda figured that using a machine would cause problems with balance when applied to real life.

I may consider selling the smith machine then. Currently i use it for bench press, rows (low pulley) and squats. Mainly because its my only current source for a barbell. (I need to buy one of those too i know)

I will start looking for a power rack, barbell and rowing machine to replace it then. :-)

Thanks for the input.
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Old 04-06-2004, 05:59 PM   #5
David Werner
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Brian

It sounds like a disaster but is really a no drama move, to drop the barbell forward. Duck head and push vigorously, hop back slightly as bar clears head/neck. It's a good idea to practise once or twice with a light bar, just to get confidence about the move really.

It also works very well to drop a back squat backward, you escape from the bar by shrugging it off and hopping forward.

I'm quite serious, dropping the bar is safe and effective. Safer even than the power rack as there is no chance of mashing hand parts between bar and safety pin. Obviously you need to have equipment that won't break when dropped and enough room that nothing gets hit.

By the way, none of this is our idea, Olympic weightlifters have been doing this for as long as the lifts have existed. Clearly dropping a snatch forward is easier than dropping a back squat forward, although both work well.

For some good visuals of safe bar handling get an Iron Mind "Wish you Were Here" video of the Bulgarian national team, you will see front squats in the 200 Kilo range and Back squats of 240 Kilos being dropped. The drops are both to the front and the rear, and nobody gets hurt.

In our gym squats of up to 170 Ks have been dropped with no problem.

Perhaps the most important point is that training for a safe escape from a failed effort is very smart - not a "*******" drill. What could be more functional or "safe" than knowing how to get out from under a load.

Dave Werner
Crossfit North
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Old 04-06-2004, 06:12 PM   #6
Coach
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Great post, Dave! Now check this out:

http://forum.avantlabs.com/?act=ST&f=5&t=5038

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Old 04-07-2004, 06:16 AM   #7
Brian Hand
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Dave, I couldn't have been more skeptical, but you make a convincing case. I can see dumping a front squat safely, although I think you can definitely hurt your wrist if the dump goes awry. The back squat - well, I am going to have to try it and see.

I am going to try dumping a few on purpose. I can't wait to see the looks on the faces of the mullets. The may finally have me carted off.
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Old 04-07-2004, 08:28 AM   #8
Eric Hawkins
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I posted my smith machine for sale today. :-) I'll probably end up going with a power rack because i still need the ability to work with bench, which needs a place to put the bar, plus i can use the horizontal bars to lock my feet under for back xtns. And being by myself, i dont really think dumping is the safest way to go considering I may not be found for a couple days if something goes arye. (sp)

Thanks for the info guys.
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Old 04-07-2004, 08:48 AM   #9
David Werner
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LOL, "panicked mullets" oh my!

When dropping a front squat to the front don't use your wrist much. The move should mostly be a hop backward out from under the bar. Nick and I watched Shane Hammond miss a C&J attempt at the world championships in Vancouver last fall, when dropping the bar during the "front squat" part of the lift (with around 250 Kilos) he shot backward and off the platform. The jump was controled though, he landed on his feet and was none the worse. It was alarming to see a big man move that fast.

Coach - I didn't know whether to laugh or cry about the smith machine post. I settled for shaking my head in disgust and muttering some obsceneties

Dave werner
Crossfit North
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Old 04-07-2004, 12:51 PM   #10
Ryan Shanks
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I think dumping is fine, as long as you KNOW where the people are around you. Once in a while in a gym, or at home would be fine. If you dump a weight that's over your head, make sure you know what you're doing.

I agree with selling the smith machine, it won't get you anywhere near where you can by rock bottom squatting.
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