Sculpt strong legs with Smith machine leg exercises

Have you ever wondered what to do on leg day if you only have a Smith machine? Usually, barbell squats, deadlifts and lunges are the go-to leg exercises. But the Smith machine can be a helpful alternative.

The Smith machine is different because it’s not exactly like lifting free weights. However, it can still help you build strong leg muscles and develop your legs. It provides stability and support, which is great if you’re new to working out or need help with balance.

reverse lunges using smith machine

With the Smith machine, you can do exercises like squats, deadlifts and lunges. These movements can help you gain muscle mass and improve the strength of your legs. So, don’t worry if you don’t have traditional weights.

Benefits of Smith machine leg exercises

The Smith machine is perfect for strength training on leg day.  Some of the most common reasons why you should use the Smith machine during your leg workout:

  1. Stability: The Smith machine helps you stay balanced while exercising your legs. It has a fixed bar that moves in a straight line, which can make it easier for you to keep your balance and avoid wobbling whie maintaining proper form.
  2. Safety: The Smith machine has built-in safety features, so you don’t need a spotter. The barbell is guided by rails, which reduces the risk of dropping the weight and injuring yourself.
  3. Controlled movement: The Smith machine allows for a wide range of leg exercises, including squats, lunges, and more. It offers a controlled and structured environment to target specific leg muscles, promoting muscle growth, strength development and overall leg definition.
  4. Muscle targeting: The Smith machine allows you to target specific leg muscles. By adjusting your body position and foot placement, you can focus on different areas, such as your quadriceps (front of your thighs), hamstrings (back of your thighs) and glutes (your butt).
  5. Muscle development: Regularly using the Smith machine for leg exercises can help you build strength and develop your leg muscles. It provides resistance that challenges your muscles and promotes muscle growth over time.

Smith machine leg exercises

Below are seven (7) leg and/or glute exercises that can be done on a Smith machine to build leg strength and muscle mass.

Smith machine squat

Targets: Quadriceps and glutes

squats for smith machine leg exercises
squat for smith machine leg exercises
  1. Stand with the barbell behind you at shoulder height and slightly below your neck, grasping it just outside your shoulders. Twist the bar to unrack it.
  2. Grasp the barbell with palms facing forward and hands wider than shoulder width apart.
  3. With your chest high, head forward and back slightly arched, bend your knees and hips.
  4. When your thighs are parallel with the floor, push through your feet to reverse the movement and return to the starting position.

Variations: Front squats, Hack squat, side squat, Sumo squat

Smith machine reverse lunges

Targets: Quadriceps

reverse lunges using smith machine
reverse lunges using smith machine
  • Set the bar to shoulder height and stand directly underneath it so that the barbell is resting across your upper traps
  • Keeping your back straight, take a step backward, bending your knees and getting them as close to the floor as possible.
  • Return to a standing position by extending your hip and knee of the front leg and return the rear leg next to supporting leg
  • Repeat the movement with the opposite leg.

Variations: Split squat, Bulgarian split squat, Curtsy lunge

Smith machine hip thrust

Targets: Gluteus maximus, hamstrings and quads

smith machine hip thrusts
smith machine hip thrusts exercise
  • Sit on the bench with your feet flat and shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward.
  • Slide your legs under the Smith machine bar and sit on the floor with your back against the side of a bench. The barbell should be over your hips.
  • Grasp the bar at each side. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, approximately shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your torso rigid, exhale as you raise the bar by extending your hips until they are fully extended.
  • Inhale as you lower the barbell by flexing your hips. Do not allow the barbell to touch the floor.

Inverted leg press

Targets: Quadriceps

smith machine leg exercises doing inverted leg press
smith machine leg exercises doing leg press
  • Lie on your back and place your midfoot on the barbell, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your arms flat on the floor. As you unrack the bar by extending your knees and hips, actively brace your core and push your back into the ground.
  • Lower the bar by bending your knees and hips until your thighs touch your rib cage. Push the bar back up and exhale. Do not fully lock out your knees.

Tip: Be careful. It can be difficult to perform this exercise without the footplate attachment.

Smith machine Romanian deadlift

Targets: Hamstrings, glutes and lower back

smith machine deadlifts
smith machine deadlifts
  • Set the Smith bar to thigh level and stand facing the barbell with your feet around shoulder width apart.
  • Grab it with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Keeping your back straight, head up and hips low, lift the barbell into a standing position.
  • Flex your knees a little, push your hips backward, and slowly lower the barbell down the front of your legs.
  • Lower the bar down as far as your hamstrings will let you comfortably. Engage your hamstrings and begin to raise the bar straight back up.

Smith machine Sumo squat

Targets: Outer quads, glutes, and hamstrings

  • Set the Smith machine to a setting just below the height of your shoulders. Load with your desired weight.
  • Step underneath the bar, bend slightly and let the weight rest on the back of your shoulders. Straighten your legs to lift the weight from its cradle, and turn the handle to disengage the safety.
  • Spread your legs as wide as you comfortably can, pointing your toes outward slightly to allow for a fuller range of motion in your hips.
  • Inhale as you descend under control toward the floor.
  • Lower until your thighs are roughly parallel to the ground. Typically, you’ll feel some resistance in your hips, which is normal as you’re just starting to train in this range of motion. Stop if you feel any pain/discomfort.
  • Exhale as you push back up, using your hips, glutes, hamstrings, and quads to raise your body back to standing.
  • Stop before fully extending your legs and locking out your knees.

Smith machine sissy squat

Targets: Quads

smith machine leg exercises
smith machine leg exercises
  • Set the Smith bar close to the bottom of the machine. How low depends on your height, but the second latch is usually a good starting point.
  • Stand facing away from the machine with the backs of your lower legs resting against the bar.
  • Squat down while keeping your torso as straight as possible. Go as low as you can, then push yourself back up through your feet while maintaining the same upright posture.

The Smith machine offers unique advantages for leg workouts, including enhanced safety and stability. By understanding the mechanics and techniques involved in Smith machine leg exercises, you can target specific muscles, improve lower body strength and achieve well-defined legs.

Smith machine leg workout

Back Squat: 4 x 8-10 reps

Romanian deadlift: 4 x 10-12 reps

Reverse lunge: 4 x 10-12 reps

Inverted leg press: 4 x 12-15 reps

Sissy squats: 4 x8-10

If you want more lower-body workouts, you should try these:

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