Squats On The Smith Machine vs. Barbell Squats: Which Has The Most Benefits As A Lower Body Workout

I am sure some of you have your preference already, squats on the smith machine and those who prefer barbells squats in their lower body weight training workout.  Maybe you have wondered which offers the most benefits when it comes to building muscle and wonder if you should chose one or the other.
Diddley Squat
Photograph courtesy of Paul Brooker

Well the good news is both are excellent to develop your legs.  Both types of exercises are performed by many weightlifters to get great lower body development.  It is not uncommon to see squats performed by all types of athletes, whether it is baseball, football, basketball and track, to name a few.

The most important thing to remember is that for any exercise to be effective it has to be performed properly.  I cannot stress this enough.  In fact this is one of the primary reasons why many people stay away from this lower body workout.

What are the benefits of squats?

  • Squats are a great multi-joint exercise.  Along with the deadlift, squat exercises are great in developing muscle, burning fat and getting lean and having better definition.
  • Squats elevate human growth hormone levels.
  • They increase overall body strength.

You can see that those few advantages I have listed are not bad at all if you want to gain muscle.  So which type of squat exercise is best for lower body workouts?

Benefits of Smith Machine Squats

  • The main advantage I see in this exercise is it helps with keeping great form.  By allowing great form it is much harder to become injured.
  • You are able to add more weight without fear of losing balance.  For those who like to go heavier on their exercises this is a good reason to use a Smith Machine.

Benefits of Barbell Squats

  • Using a barbell is a classic exercise in weightlifting.  A major advantage in using this exercise is that it allows for a more natural range of motion.  Often times people see a smith machine as too restrictive.
  • It is cheaper to have a barbell squat at home.  It is very common for homes to have a barbell and barbell rack as their only piece of equipment.  If this is what you have to work with then by all means keep using it. You are light years away already.

The important thing to remember is that either one of these lower body weight workouts is effective.  Each has its benefits and everyone has their preferences.  Some have a bias and prefer barbell squats while other prefer squats with a Smith Machine.  The important thing to remember is that either of these weight training workouts should always be performed with proper form and without overdoing it in the heaviness of the weight.

Comments

  1. I love squatting and one of my goals is to squat 3 times my body weight ( I weigh 154 lbs and currently squatting 400 lbs) so I have a bit to go.
    I prefer free weights over smith machines ( unless you have an injury) I believe you lose benefits of developing extra stabilising muscles with a machine.
    Also I prefer to squat in bare feet , my Nikes get very unstable when I’m putting over 550 lbs on them.
    Raymond

    • Sam Munoz says:

      I saw some guy squatting barefoot a few days ago at the gym. I know Schwarzenegger and other body building greats performed them this way. I was surprised to see it but thought it was cool to see it being performed.
      I think switching between free weigths and machines is always a good thing just to switch it up once in a while. We all have our preferences but like you said sometimes injury can force us to stick with one specific technique.
      Keep up the gains and reach your goals with your squats!