Free weight squats are better than smith machine squats


#1

This is something the strength training community has known for awhile, but free weight squats are vastly better for performance training than smith machine squats. Additionally, since the smith machine restricts your range of motion in one or more planes of movement (depending on the machine and exercise in question), it is inherently injurious as it leaves out the development of stabilizing muscles.

Here is a study recently published that backs this up:

[quote]“Electromyographic activity was significantly higher by 34, 26, and 49 in the gastrocnemius, biceps femoris, and vastus medialis, respectively, during the free weight squat compared to the Smith machine squat (p < 0.05). There were no significant differences between free weight and Smith machine squat for any of the other muscles; however, the EMG averaged over all muscles during the free weight squat was 43% higher when compared to the Smith machine squat (p < 0.05). The free weight squat may be more beneficial than the Smith machine squat for individuals who are looking to strengthen plantar flexors, knee flexors, and knee extensors.”

“The free weight squat may be superior to the Smith machine squat for training the major muscle groups of the legs and possibly would result in greater strength development and hypertrophy of these muscle groups with long-term training.” [/quote]

So get off those stupid machines and learn to train with free weights!


#2

[quote=“kyleb”]This is something the strength training community has known for awhile, but free weight squats are vastly better for performance training than smith machine squats. Additionally, since the smith machine restricts your range of motion in one or more planes of movement (depending on the machine and exercise in question), it is inherently injurious as it leaves out the development of stabilizing muscles.

Here is a study recently published that backs this up:

[quote]“Electromyographic activity was significantly higher by 34, 26, and 49 in the gastrocnemius, biceps femoris, and vastus medialis, respectively, during the free weight squat compared to the Smith machine squat (p < 0.05). There were no significant differences between free weight and Smith machine squat for any of the other muscles; however, the EMG averaged over all muscles during the free weight squat was 43% higher when compared to the Smith machine squat (p < 0.05). The free weight squat may be more beneficial than the Smith machine squat for individuals who are looking to strengthen plantar flexors, knee flexors, and knee extensors.”

“The free weight squat may be superior to the Smith machine squat for training the major muscle groups of the legs and possibly would result in greater strength development and hypertrophy of these muscle groups with long-term training.” [/quote]

So get off those stupid machines and learn to train with free weights![/quote]

Amen!

There used to be a picture in a gym i worked out at, with one guy, with muscular legs with one of thise little text bubble thingys listing (at great length) all the exercises he did for all the various muscle groups in his legs. The guy next to him, with the really giant freaky legs text bubble simple said “I squat.”

I always loved that. Of course i was the guy who wore the shirt that said “Dont talk to me. Its leg day.”

Kyle, whats your stance on depth of squat? I know most people who try to squat stop short of their thighs being parallel to the ground. (“Hey i can squat 500 pounds!!! No you cant you can unrack the weight, dip 8 inches and re-rack the weight lol) I always tried to got just below parallel. My weightlifting/nutrition guru’s butt practically touched the floor. I just wanst quite flexible enough to go that low, but while i trained with him, i did go as low as i could, maybe getting my butt a foot from the ground (Im 6’3”)

Of course that was all 3 back surgeries ago. I do miss it sometimes though.


#3

I just wanted to take the discussion a step further beyond just squats…We’ve determined that real squats are always better than smith machine squats. Previous posts were correct that it requires stabilization and core strength is increased with real squats.

The other important thing to note that muscles respond better when you move your body (and weight) through space as opposed to just moving the weight through space… So for any athlete…but especially pitchers, here is a list of exercises and there better counterparts.

Benchpress is ok… but pushups, weighted pushups, and clap push ups are better

Lat Pulldowns are ok…but pull ups, weighted pullups, and plyopullups are better

Bent over rows are ok… but suppan rows are WAY better (lay on your back beneath a bar and pull your body up to the bar keeping feet on the ground)

Leg Press is ok… but SQUATS!

You get the idea…all of the exercises that just move the weight are better than smith machines…but there more advanced brothers that require moving the whole body through space are better


#4

I agree with you, I heard that athletes put themselves at more risk for injury by not doing free weight squats.


#5

[quote=“southcarolina”]Kyle, whats your stance on depth of squat? I know most people who try to squat stop short of their thighs being parallel to the ground. (“Hey i can squat 500 pounds!!! No you cant you can unrack the weight, dip 8 inches and re-rack the weight lol) I always tried to got just below parallel. My weightlifting/nutrition guru’s butt practically touched the floor. I just wanst quite flexible enough to go that low, but while i trained with him, i did go as low as i could, maybe getting my butt a foot from the ground (Im 6’3”)

Of course that was all 3 back surgeries ago. I do miss it sometimes though.[/quote]

You’re absolutely right - you gotta get below parallel - and that means top of thigh below parallel, not the bottom! That said, your proper squat depth will be determined by your flexibility and the bar position on your back. In the high-bar Olympic squat, you can practically touch the ground with your butt. In the low-bar Starting Strength (Rippetoe) squat, you typically can’t go much farther than an inch or two past parallel. The low-bar position lets you squat heavier weight and involves the hips more, though.


#6

[quote=“Southpaw0505”]Benchpress is ok… but pushups, weighted pushups, and clap push ups are better

Lat Pulldowns are ok…but pull ups, weighted pullups, and plyopullups are better

Bent over rows are ok… but suppan rows are WAY better (lay on your back beneath a bar and pull your body up to the bar keeping feet on the ground)

Leg Press is ok… but SQUATS!

You get the idea…all of the exercises that just move the weight are better than smith machines…but there more advanced brothers that require moving the whole body through space are better[/quote]

I agree for the most part. Bench press is a wildly overrated exercise, but it’s still very useful. It should be combined with a standing overhead press of some sort to balance out the work the shoulder gets.

Lat pulldowns are silly and should be replaced entirely by chin/pull-up varieties. Can’t disagree there.

Bent over rows are OK, and so are inverted rows like you mentioned, but seated cable rows and Pendlay rows (strict bent over rows that use no hips) are best.

Leg press is fine for powerlifters or bodybuilders who need the specific work, but not for athletes.

But I cannot disagree with your general message: Move more of the body through space with heavier weight!


#7

Thats cool!
Im glad i have been doing free weights!


#8

it’s very difficult to sufficiently load inverted rows as compared to Bent-Over Rows. I loved them until I could bang out 15-20 of them without breaking a sweat. Now they’re not too useful anymore. Wearing a weight vest doesn’t help because then your chest hits the bar prematurely and you just lost ROM


#9

Does being 6’4" and having longer legs have any effect on the effort and muscle inclusion during the squat? It seems like i have a hard time going below parallel with my lunges and everythiong I dont know if its because my legs are so long but pushups are also a challenge as well, I have a wingspan (including my chest) of 6’6"


#10

Yes because you have to move the weight further which requires more effort that length sucks when you’re working out but it’s a plus when you’re looking at colleges.


#11

Can you explain?


#12

Can you explain?[/quote]

Here is one example I was given. When an athlete goes and runs a sprint the amount of pressure that is put on his back and hips during deceleration is so high that injury is very likely if those muscles aren’t strengthened (I don’t remember the exact numbers given). Squats are the best way to add strength to those muscles so by not doing them and neglecting to train your body to handle that much pressure you only increase your chances of injury. But when I talk about doing squats I mean doing them in a safe way with an amount of weight you handle, form is important with any lift especially squats.


#13

[quote=“kyleb”]This is something the strength training community has known for awhile, but free weight squats are vastly better for performance training than smith machine squats. Additionally, since the smith machine restricts your range of motion in one or more planes of movement (depending on the machine and exercise in question), it is inherently injurious as it leaves out the development of stabilizing muscles.

Here is a study recently published that backs this up:

[quote]“Electromyographic activity was significantly higher by 34, 26, and 49 in the gastrocnemius, biceps femoris, and vastus medialis, respectively, during the free weight squat compared to the Smith machine squat (p < 0.05). There were no significant differences between free weight and Smith machine squat for any of the other muscles; however, the EMG averaged over all muscles during the free weight squat was 43% higher when compared to the Smith machine squat (p < 0.05). The free weight squat may be more beneficial than the Smith machine squat for individuals who are looking to strengthen plantar flexors, knee flexors, and knee extensors.”

“The free weight squat may be superior to the Smith machine squat for training the major muscle groups of the legs and possibly would result in greater strength development and hypertrophy of these muscle groups with long-term training.” [/quote]

So get off those stupid machines and learn to train with free weights![/quote]

This is exactly what UM Strength and Conditioning Coach said, everything in baseball is required to do free weights, in baseball theres not robotic movements were you are just standing still and just move something. He stressed that in order to play baseball you need to train on your feet. Which is free weight training, they do a lot of olympic lifts, the only thing they use for machines are some forearm machine, and the shoulder arm thing, and some stationary bikes, for injured players.


#14

i <3 squats


#15

Earlier when Kyle told me to stop doing ham curls I was like whaaattt?!?!?!
After reading some more Gene Coleman I concur with the sport specific training. If since incorporated my deadlifts on my leg days because it feels better for my back, definitely. I have also eliminated most lifts thatdont involve being planted firmly on the ground


#16

[quote=“Hoysauce”]Earlier when Kyle told me to stop doing ham curls I was like whaaattt?!?!?!
After reading some more Gene Coleman I concur with the sport specific training. If since incorporated my deadlifts on my leg days because it feels better for my back, definitely. I have also eliminated most lifts thatdont involve being planted firmly on the ground[/quote]

You can substitute Glute-Ham Raises for leg curls. It is essentially a bodyweight leg curl followed up immediately by a back extension. They are very useful and difficult. Because they are very useful and difficult, it’s hard to find the GHR machine in a gym. :slight_smile:

But you can do them using a lat pulldown machine to some degree. Google and search YouTube for examples of a “Ghetto Glute-Ham Raise.”

I highly recommend them for baseball players and athletes of all varieties. While back squats tax your hamstrings quite a bit, GHRs are a different stimulus and should be added in with squats (perhaps as a warmup or on alternating days) in higher volume - like 10-15 reps. Most people won’t be able to do a single GHR to full back extension on their first attempt; that’s okay. Keep at it and they improve quickly!


#17

So I solved my squat dilemma…hopefully

Swiss ball squats.

Here is what my workout looked like today.

Deadlift.
1x10 warmup at 135
2x6 225/245
2x5 260/265

Swiss ball squats
1x10 bodyweight
4x6 with DB in each hand (25s/35s/35s/40s (ouch))

Walking lunges. I hold a 25 pounds weight and rotate my trunk before pushing off in each direction.
Then I did some calf work

My glutes hurt.


#18

Nice article, Kyle. We pitch from out feet, so it makes sense that we should train from our feet. The other benefit of free weights is that it forces us to balance and stabilize the weight we’re working with, thus improving our ability to perform our athletic movements on the field more controlled.


#19

[quote=“kyleb”][quote=“Hoysauce”]Earlier when Kyle told me to stop doing ham curls I was like whaaattt?!?!?!
After reading some more Gene Coleman I concur with the sport specific training. If since incorporated my deadlifts on my leg days because it feels better for my back, definitely. I have also eliminated most lifts thatdont involve being planted firmly on the ground[/quote]

You can substitute Glute-Ham Raises for leg curls. It is essentially a bodyweight leg curl followed up immediately by a back extension. They are very useful and difficult. Because they are very useful and difficult, it’s hard to find the GHR machine in a gym. :slight_smile:

But you can do them using a lat pulldown machine to some degree. Google and search YouTube for examples of a “Ghetto Glute-Ham Raise.”

I highly recommend them for baseball players and athletes of all varieties. While back squats tax your hamstrings quite a bit, GHRs are a different stimulus and should be added in with squats (perhaps as a warmup or on alternating days) in higher volume - like 10-15 reps. Most people won’t be able to do a single GHR to full back extension on their first attempt; that’s okay. Keep at it and they improve quickly![/quote]

You could also try using a swiss ball and doing leg curls with them. It’s a leg curl but you have to have stability in order to do it so it’s not so much of an isolation exercise. They also work your butt really good. I also feel it in my back when I do them. They’re probably not as good as what Kyle is mentioning but it’s a step up from a regular leg curl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouZMoHDZMhY


#20

[quote=“Hoysauce”]So I solved my squat dilemma…hopefully

Swiss ball squats.[/quote]

No, you didn’t. Unstable surface training has very little carryover to athletic competition and little use in general unless it is for rehab purposes.

What is the problem with just doing squats?