I went into the gym the other day and all of the squat racks were taken…. and it was leg day!!! What to do… Luckily the Smith machine was free and I had forgotten how versatile it really is.
Its especially great if your like me and have imbalances in the strength of your legs. Because of my arthritis, my right leg is considerably stronger than my left, so I’m always looking for exercises that work 1 leg at a time. This forces my left leg to work, instead of letting the right leg do all of the heavy lifting.
Firstly, just in case you are unsure, the Smith Machine is a barbell machine that is fixed to rails, so it can only go up and down. It’s great if you have stability issues, trying a squat variation or wanting to lift heavy but have no-one to spot you.
So I thought I would share some of the leg exercises I do.
Single leg lying press
Lower the bar to the bottom, start with no weight on the bar and just test the bar height. You need to be able to get your body under the bar and position your foot under the bar, ready to press. When you have found the correct height, use the guards to rest the bar on. Lie on the floor, get your foot comfortably under the bar, with toes pointed slightly out and push up. Keep a slow and controlled movement. Make sure you complete the same on both legs.
Wide leg press
Similar setup to the single leg press, but this one uses both legs together. Also you want to position your legs wider on the bar, by widening your stance you are really targeting those glutes. You can also bring your legs in a bit and do more of a standard press if you prefer.
Squat variation (hack squat)
This one is similar to a hack squat, as your feet come out infront of the bar. By changing your foot position, you are able to target the quads, trust me, this one sneaks up on you and suddenly your quads are on fire! So position yourself under the bar, like your doing a standard squat, but then walk your feet forward. You will need to push into the bar a bit to maintain balance, which is why we do this in the Smith Machine. When coming down, you want to create about a 90 degree angle with your legs.
Stiff legged deadlift
Just as the name describes, this is a deadlift but with ‘stiff legs.’ You need to set the bar up on the lowest rung so that its as close to the ground as it goes. Stand with your feet under the bar, legs close together, slight bend in the knees and grip the bar with an overhand grip. When you pull up, you need to think about squeezing your glutes and tightening through the hamstrings. Remember you are trying to work your legs, not your back, so try and keep your legs relatively straight. When lowering the bar, try adding a slow tempo, so lower to the count of three for maximum time under tension (TUT) for your muscles.
This is just a taste of some of the leg exercises you can do on the Smith machine, but don’t limit yourself… Other exercises include:
-Bulgarian split squats
Of course the smith machine can be used for other body parts as well, but that’s for another blog…