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View Full Version : Free Bar Squatting vs Smith Squatting



Leah
05-01-2006, 10:42 PM
Thought I'd post something on squatting ... since I hate the Smith machine, yet know how popular it is.

1. Machines are never superior to free weights.

2. The Smith machine locks you into a fixed plane of motion, which develops what is called 'pattern overload syndrome'. This was coined by Paul Chek and is explained as

People get a pattern overload from using the Smith machine. The more fixed the object, the more likely you are to develop a pattern overload. This is due to the fact that training in a fixed pathway repetitively loads the same muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints in the same pattern, encouraging micro-trauma that eventually leads to injury. If Johnny Lunchpail always uses a Smith machine for his bench presses, he ends up working the same fibers of the prime movers in the bench press all of the time: triceps brachii, pectoralis major, long-head of the biceps, anterior deltoids, and serratus anterior. But he can't change the pathway, the bar will always be in the same position. This commonly leads to chronic injury over time. The weight is stabilized for you. However, the joints operate in multiple planes. Use of the Smith machine, greatly decreases stabilizer activity. That creates a problem when the trainee returns to free-weight training. When that happens, the trainee is exposed to the three-dimensional environment called real life.

This clearly applies to any exercise. Because of the mechanics of the knee joint, the body will alter the natural bar pathway during a free-weight squat to accommodate efficient movement at the knee. A fixed bar pathway doesn't allow alteration of this pathway for efficient movement of the joint, thereby predisposing the knee to harmful overload via lack of accommodation.

3. If your feet are out in front of you, you tend to push 'back' against the bar. Doing so forces the hamstrings to function as extensors which decreases their protective effects on the knee - the result is increased sheering force on the knee. Again, over time, chronic injury.

4. Some might bring up the issue of 'knees going over the toes' with free bar/full squats. It's a simple biomechanical misunderstanding.

See the following:

If one were to assess knee injuries in athletic (read as: sport) environments, it becomes apparent that a high percentage of patellar trauma cases are sustained while the knee is beyond the all-sacred toe-line. In a misguided attempt to avoid knee injuries, the exercise community has therefore made this knee position taboo. In reality, the opposite reaction would have been preferential. Since this knee position is unavoidable in sports, or even in everyday life (try walking up or down stairs or a hill without your knee crossing your toe line) the proper way to prevent injuries is to strengthen the musculature around the joint by allowing the knee to travel into the “unsafe” zone in a controlled environment.

All joints contain feedback mechanisms inside the connective tissue and joint capsules called proprioceptors. These communicate with your nervous system to tell your brain what position your joint is at. This is how you can close your eyes and be aware of exactly what angle all of your joints are at without actually seeing them. To simplify a complicated issue, the more time you spend with your knee past your toe-line, the more you teach your nervous system to activate the protective soft tissue around the joint therefore PREVENTING injury during athletic situations (Supertraining, Siff & Verkoshansky, 1993). Close your eyes and think of a highly succesful strength coach. Yep, he agrees. Somehow, this news just doesn’t buy column space in Muscle and Fatness

The take home message - learn how to squat with a bar and you'll be well on your way to some sweet legs and a nice, tight, little booty.

Blondell
05-01-2006, 10:42 PM
thank you :P

Rumbach
07-24-2006, 09:27 PM
This should be printed out and stapled to every personal trainers forehead.

Inatic
07-24-2006, 09:37 PM
funny i just posted this on another site.

Not just trainers.. those in "the know"

That and why full squats are better than parallel ones.. :sad:

Aaron_F
07-24-2006, 09:52 PM
If its good enough for ronnie, its good enough for me

:ninja:

Rumbach
07-24-2006, 10:11 PM
Originally posted by Aaron_F@Jul 24 2006, 04:52 PM
If its good enough for ronnie, its good enough for me

:ninja:
LIGHT WEIGHT BABYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!1

funnyesq
07-24-2006, 10:36 PM
Are there no redeeming qualities for the Smith Machine? No practical use? Nothing that would be good? e.g. using it instead of sitting on the couch?

Can it be used as a training devise to insure good form before moving on to a free weight? Is that something positive? Surely people don't JUST USE the Smith. I have as a training devise....maybe I should just lay off it completely. If I can't free squat...don't do any Smith squats?

jaleena
07-24-2006, 10:40 PM
If you can sit on the Smith, more power to you.

But you can't use it for learning form, because proper form is impossible on a Smith. For anything.

You can use it as a coathanger, or hang from the bar to do pullups. Smugs has a link to an article with a few other uses...mobility drills and whatnot. But nothing like what people are encouraged to do with it by the mass media.

smuggie
07-24-2006, 10:48 PM
Here it is (http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=810548)

Aaron_F
07-24-2006, 10:53 PM
The smith machine is a fantastic piece of equipment for certain situations. As long as its not the sole piece of equipment somebody uses who really gives a shit.

PowerManDL
07-24-2006, 11:23 PM
Originally posted by Aaron_F@Jul 24 2006, 06:53 PM
The smith machine is a fantastic piece of equipment for certain situations. As long as its not the sole piece of equipment somebody uses who really gives a shit.
You mean that overzealous myopia, even with good intentions, can be bad???????

Erik
07-24-2006, 11:27 PM
Originally posted by funnyesq@Jul 24 2006, 06:36 PM
Are there no redeeming qualities for the Smith Machine? No practical use? Nothing that would be good? e.g. using it instead of sitting on the couch?

Can it be used as a training devise to insure good form before moving on to a free weight? Is that something positive? Surely people don't JUST USE the Smith. I have as a training devise....maybe I should just lay off it completely. If I can't free squat...don't do any Smith squats?
How can it be used to learn good form, when free bar mechanics are entirely different?

Aaron_F
07-24-2006, 11:49 PM
Originally posted by PowerManDL@Jul 24 2006, 06:23 PM
You mean that overzealous myopia, even with good intentions, can be bad???????
myopia is bad,. mmmm kay

at least when driving a Mack truck

matt
07-24-2006, 11:54 PM
I find it is outstanding to hang belts and shirts on. Oh, and wrist wraps too.

I've used one sometimes to lean on, but I would rather just sit down than lean.

Strive2Define
07-25-2006, 01:07 AM
We use it to play limbo.....its amazing how flexible some people are..especially if one is double jointed. :lol:

Kat
10-16-2006, 08:28 PM
Thanks Leah!! I printed that out for my bf's brother. He just got a trainer and I said "please just tell me he isn't having you use the smith machine" and he said he was and went into this explination about it's better when your trying to get your trying to do "maximum effort" because you couldn't do that in a rack :shock: I just wanted something to show him. Of course he also told his mother to lose the flab in her tricep area that she should just skip lunch and snack and do tons of cardio :finger: I couldn't help but laugh but he wouldn't believe me because his trainer told him so and he is the head trainer :sad:

jaleena
10-16-2006, 08:50 PM
Thanks Leah!! I printed that out for my bf's brother. He just got a trainer and I said "please just tell me he isn't having you use the smith machine" and he said he was and went into this explination about it's better when your trying to get your trying to do "maximum effort" because you couldn't do that in a rack :shock: :
Uh huh...so all those PL guys squatting half a ton aren't giving "maximum effort" because they're not on a Smith...right... :scratch:

KatieB
10-17-2006, 12:15 AM
The only thing I ever use the Smith for is standing calf raises, which I rarely do, but I figured the ROM is so small it didn't matter...

:shrug:

BlueTuna
10-17-2006, 01:06 AM
Yep, I use it for standing calf raises and pullups. Should try the limbo dancing idea too. :lol:

DarrylLicke
02-09-2007, 10:29 PM
what about a "smith" machine that allows movement along the x-axis in the same manner that a olympic bar would....just that it's still on those piston like guides but there is an additional one at the base and the top of the "power" rack?

absolut_blonde
02-09-2007, 10:35 PM
what about a "smith" machine that allows movement along the x-axis in the same manner that a olympic bar would....just that it's still on those piston like guides but there is an additional one at the base and the top of the "power" rack?

I am having a hard time picturing this... what would the point of it be? Why not just use the power rack?

smuggie
02-09-2007, 10:38 PM
what about a "smith" machine that allows movement along the x-axis in the same manner that a olympic bar would....just that it's still on those piston like guides but there is an additional one at the base and the top of the "power" rack?
You mean something like this?

http://www.fitnessblowout.com/products/product.php?product=bodycraft_jones_machine&category=

Jypsie
02-09-2007, 11:26 PM
You mean something like this?

http://www.fitnessblowout.com/products/product.php?product=bodycraft_jones_machine&category=

I don't like the looks of that. I bet it squeaks.

smuggie
02-09-2007, 11:28 PM
I don't like the looks of that. I bet it squeaks.
:lol3:

Tanners
02-10-2007, 01:34 AM
I don't like the looks of that. I bet it squeaks.
:funny:

DarrylLicke
02-10-2007, 04:18 AM
I am having a hard time picturing this... what would the point of it be? Why not just use the power rack?

because there is no power rack....well err...at this gym this is the power rack.

there isn't much power to be found in this gym.

DarrylLicke
02-10-2007, 04:19 AM
You mean something like this?

http://www.fitnessblowout.com/products/product.php?product=bodycraft_jones_machine&category=


si. I saw a guy doing front squats in them a few days ago with only like 50 on the bar (the bar weights 35), with the little bad, and stopping at parallel.

:yucky:

absolut_blonde
02-10-2007, 04:25 AM
because there is no power rack....well err...at this gym this is the power rack.

there isn't much power to be found in this gym.

Oh, gotcha. That sucks. Are there any other gyms nearby? Even the Y where I work out has a power cage and a squat rack.

Sohee
12-28-2009, 06:23 AM
:bump: to add this:


Free Weight Squats Versus Smith Machine Squats

The purpose of this experiment was to determine whether free weight or Smith machine squats were optimal for activating the prime movers of the legs and the stabilizers of the legs and the trunk. Six healthy participants performed 1 set of 8 repetitions (using a weight they could lift 8 times, i.e., 8RM, or 8 repetition maximum) for each of the free weight squat and Smith machine squat in a randomized order with a minimum of 3 days between sessions, while electromyographic (EMG) activity of the tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, biceps femoris, lumbar erector spinae, and rectus abdominus were simultaneously measured. 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.

Schwanbeck, S, Chilibeck, PD, and Binsted, G. A comparison of free weight squat to smith machine squat using electromyography. J Strength Cond Res 23(9): 2588-2591, 2009.

(C) 2009 National Strength and Conditioning Association

mindy8013
06-18-2011, 09:29 PM
Please don't criticize me! ;) but question... what should I do to strength my hip/ knees so I can preform the free wt squats?? The reason why I use the smith machine is because I can rely on the fact that if my knee or hip pops out (which they do often! :( ) I won't lose my balance. Thanks for the input

Sandy
06-19-2011, 11:08 AM
Please don't criticize me! ;) but question... what should I do to strength my hip/ knees so I can preform the free wt squats?? The reason why I use the smith machine is because I can rely on the fact that if my knee or hip pops out (which they do often! :( ) I won't lose my balance. Thanks for the input

Do you mean this in terms of form (e.g., your knees sway out during the squat) or is this a physical problem?

If it is a form problem, start with a low enough weight with free weight squats to maintain good form. If it is a body/physical problem, see a good ART chiro or physio.

mindy8013
06-19-2011, 01:42 PM
Thanks for the response! :) It is a little bit of both. I will start with the lower weights to see if that helps me with my form and everything and then if I am still have problems I will go have it checked out.

But when I was younger I was told that I had "really lose hips" (by my doctor and chiropractor) and they just have never improved. :(