12 Most Effective Smith Machine Leg Workout & Exercises

Using the Smith machine for leg workout such as quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves is one of the best methods for putting new muscle onto your legs.

But, smith machine workout is an intense subject of controversy. Compared to free-weight squats, smith squats are entirely different.

It is important to remember that while free weights are often regarded as top movements to gain muscle and strength, using Smith machines can also result in high amounts of muscle growth and strength.

Note, that if you are doing leg exercises on Smith machine, it is key to set the safety racks and thoroughly understand movements mechanics with free weights as well. This will help optimize strength, movement, and increase overall performance.

To address this topic, we intend to go through the proper form, technique, and Pro-tips

Benefit Of Smith Machine

A Smith machine leg workout has many potential benefits. Below are some of the most common reasons why you should use smith machine during leg workout.

1. Increases Muscle Isolation.

Smith machines are very effective at isolating the quads, hamstring, glutes and due to the ability to change body position and not worry about stabilization. There are also many variations, so you can hone in on other muscles.  

This is why even pro bodybuilders use the Smith machine for their leg workout. 

2. You Do Not Need a Spotter.

The bottom of every Smith machine has a catch system. This catch system acts as a sort of replacement for a spotter.

Basically, you can rerack the weight at any moment using the available hooks. 

3. Experienced Lifters Can Lift More.

Smith machines remove much of the need to stabilize. For experienced lifters, this means more weight and/or volume, and therefore, more significant gains. 

4. Reduced Chance of Injury.

Your chances of injuries are reduced because of a lifter’s ability to focus on form and the catch system. However, this, of course, does not translate to a zero percent chance of injuries. Like any exercise, you need good form and technique. 

12 Best Smith Leg Workout

Below are 12 leg exercises that can be done on a Smith machine to build leg strength, increase muscle hypertrophy, and enhance fitness.

1. Smith Machine Squat

Squats on a smith machine help to stabilize your core and keep your posture in the correct position while doing a squat.

The Smith machine squat allows you to safely squat a heavyweight without a spotter. Just make sure that you use the safety pins.

An advantage of the smith machine squat is being able to place your foot stance further forward than usual and target more of the glutes and hamstrings rather than the exercises being quadriceps-dominant

Smith Machine Squat
Muscles Worked

Primary: Quadriceps, gluteals.

Secondary: Hamstrings, adductors, spinal erectors, Abs

How To Do Smith Squat
  1. Stand in a Smith machine so that the barbell is behind your shoulders 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. Inhale as you slowly lower the barbell by getting into a squat position.
  4. When your thighs are parallel with the floor, exhale and push off with your legs to reverse the movement and return to the starting position.
Tips
  • Keep your back straight, torso upright, head up, and feet flat.
  • Start light and add weight gradually, allowing your legs and lower back to adapt. Concentrate on form.

2. Smith Front Squat

The smith front squat is another great exercise for your leg workout, and it works the same target and synergistic muscles.

However, the smith front squat recruits more stabilizer muscles, including various back muscles, your shoulders, and your chest.

It is more advanced than the barbell squat. Front Squats with barbell helps build entire thighs and focuses especially on the outer thigh region.

Smith Front Squat
Smith Front Squat
Muscles Worked

Primary: Quadriceps, gluteals.

Secondary: Hamstrings, adductors, lower back, abs.

How To Do Front Smith Squat
  1. Place the bar just underneath shoulder height.
  2. Hold your arms straight out, step on a Smith machine and get the bar on your shoulders in front of you. Cross your arms by placing each hand on its opposite shoulder.
  3. Take a breath and unrack the bar by rotating your wrists back to move the safeties.
  4. Maintain the natural arch in your lower back and keep your head directed forward.
  5. Perform a squat, bending your knees and driving your hips back to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  6. From this position, push yourself back to the starting point.
Tips
  • Start light and add weight gradually, allowing your legs and lower back time to adapt.
  • Keeping your elbows high is an integral part of the proper front squat form.

3. Smith Machine Stiff-Legged Deadlift

If you’re looking for a straightforward leg workout that you can do with a smith machine to build mass and strength, then stiff leg smith deadlift, is a great staple exercise to get you started.

It is a variation of the deadlift and an exercise used primarily to target the muscles of the hamstrings and gluteals.

The stiff-leg deadlift for hamstrings requires a lighter weight than that used during traditional powerlifting for strengthening the lower back.

Smith Machine Stiff-Legged Deadlift
Smith Machine Stiff-Legged Deadlift
Muscles Worked

Primary: Hamstring, Gluteals.

Secondary: Spinal erectors, Quadriceps.

How To Do Smith Stiff-Legged Deadlift
  1. Set the Smith bar to thigh level and stand facing the barbell with your feet around shoulder width apart.
  2. Grab it with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Keeping your back straight, head up, and hips low, lift the barbell into a standing position.
  3. Flex your knees a little and push your hips backward and slowly lower the barbell down the front of your legs.
  4. Lower the bar down as far as your hamstrings will let you comfortably. Now engage the hamstrings and begin to raise the bar straight back up.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Tips
  • Keep your knees stiff, your back and arms straight, and your head up.
  • Do not allow the bar to drift away from your body during the lift. Keep the barbell close to your body.
  • Your eyes should be facing up and your shoulders back. This will prevent your lower back from rounding.

4. Smith Leg Press

The Smith machine Leg Press is an alternative option if you don’t have access to a leg press machine. The Smith machine leg press utilizes a more vertical pressing motion than the traditional 45 degree leg press.

But using a Smith machine to leg press is a bit “dangerous” than with a leg press machine, but if you set the safety bars up, you’ll be fine. 

Smith Leg Press
Smith Leg Press
Muscles Worked

Primary: Quadriceps.

Secondary: Gluteals, hamstrings, adductors.

How To Do Smith Leg Press
  1. Lie on your back and place your midfoot on the barbell, feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. 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.
  3. Inhale, and lower the bar by bending your knees and hips until your thighs touch your rib cage. Forcefully push the bar back up and exhale. There’s no need to fully lock out your knees.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Tips
  • Re-racking for this exercise can be tricky due to the way the smith machine is designed; you will most likely want to enlist the help of a spotter with the exercise to ensure that you don’t risk injuring yourself.
  • Always, start with smaller weights if this is your first time.

5. Smith Lunge

When doing leg workout with smith, them must do smith lunge, as it is a brilliant exercise that helps you to strengthen your legs without hurting your knees.

The primary muscle group targeted during the Smith machine lunge is the quads. However, depending on the width of the split stance you take during the Smith machine lunge, you can focus more on the hamstrings and glutes.

Smith Lunge
Smith Lunges
Muscles Worked

Primary: Quadriceps.

Secondary: Gluteals, hamstrings, adductors.

How To Do Smith Lunge
  1. Set the bar to shoulder height and stand directly underneath it so that the barbell is resting across your upper traps
  2. Keeping your back straight, take a step forward, bending your knees and getting them as close to the floor as possible.
  3. Drive through the front foot and extend the knee as you return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Tips
  • Bend as far and low as possible without losing form.
  • Keep your torso upright and your head facing forward.

6. Smith Reverse Lunge

Smith Reverse Lunges are an excellent leg exercise to build thigh muscles and glutes. Along with squats, reverse lunges are highly recommended to build your butt muscles.

It is great for developing balance, coordination, and unilateral lower-body strength. Start light until you learn balance.

Smith Reverse Lunge
Smith Reverse Lunge
Muscles Worked

Primary: Quadriceps.

Secondary: Gluteals, hamstrings, adductors.

How To Do Smith Reverse Lunge
  1. Set the bar to shoulder height and stand directly underneath it so that the barbell is resting across your upper traps
  2. Keeping your back straight take a step backward bending your knees and getting them as close to the floor as possible.
  3. Return to original standing position by extending hip and knee of forward supporting leg and return rear leg next to supporting leg
  4. Repeat movement with opposite legs alternating between sides.
Tips
  • Keep your torso upright and your head facing forward.
  • Be careful that the knee of the forward leg does not extend past the toes as you bend the leg.
  • A long lunge with feet slightly forward emphasizes Gluteus Maximus; short lunge with feet under the bar emphasizes Quadriceps.

7. Smith Step Up

The smith step-up is a great exercise for building lower-body strength and power. This exercise targets quadriceps and also involves calves and glutes & hip flexors.

However, the setup for Smith machine step-ups can be quite tricky. You’ve got to get the bench position just right and then line your shoulders up perfectly with the barbell—It’s just cumbersome.

Smith Step Up
Smith Step Up
Muscles Worked

Primary: Quads, Glutes

Secondary: Hamstrings, calves, Lower back, Abs

How To Do Smith Step Up
  1. Place a bench in the centre of a smith machine and then set the bar to just below shoulder height.
  2. Stand with your feet in a comfortable hip-width stance. Step forward with one leg onto the bench and drive through that thigh to bring your body upward.
  3. Bring the trailing leg to the top of the bench and stand on the bench, then step back with the opposite leg to the floor and lower yourself.
  4. Alternate legs with each rep. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Tips
  • Not to flex your lower back as you go up and down, your back should remain neutral.
  • Control the movement, using your muscles to slowly lift and lower yourself.
  • Keep your body upright and your feet and knees pointing in the same direction.

8. Smith Hip Thrust

The hip thrust is a popular exercise which is used to target the glutes and hamstrings for muscle and strength-building purposes.

However, Smith machine allows you to load up on big weight and focus all of that loading into the glutes so that they get the best workout.

This also allows for excellent motion range and the kind of continuous tension that really gives the muscles a complete workout.

Smith Hip Thrust
Smith Hip Thrust
Muscles Worked

Primary: Glute

Secondary: Quadriceps, Hamstrings

How To Do Smith Hip Trust
  1. Sit on the bench with your feet flat on the ground and shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward.
  2. 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.
  3. Grasp the bar at each side. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, approximately shoulder-width apart.
  4. Keeping your torso rigid, exhale as you raise the bar by extending your hips until they are fully extended.
  5. Inhale as you lower the barbell by flexing your hips. Do not allow the barbell to touch the floor.
Tips
  • If the bar hurts your pelvis, use padding.
  • Keep your torso rigid. Your back shouldn’t arch, and your pelvis shouldn’t tilt.
  • All the movement should occur in your hips.

9. Smith Donkey Kickback

Smith kickback is also known as Smith machine kneeling rear kick, it targets your gluteus maximus and improve both stability and toning to give you the shaped, toned look you desire. 

It is an excellent isolation movement for targeting the glute and hamstring muscles.

Smith Donkey Kickback
Smith Donkey Kickback
Muscles Worked

Primary: Glute

Secondary: Hamstrings, Quads

How To Do Smith Donkey Kickback
  1. Place a bench under the Smith machine bar. Set the safety pins of the Smith machine at a safe height to prevent the bar from crashing down onto your legs.
  2. Unlatch the bar from the rail by rotating it and bring it down onto the safety pins.
  3. Get on your hands and knees on the bench and place the arch of one foot under the center of the bar.
  4. Exhale as you push the bar upward by fully extending your hip and knee.
  5. Pause for a second, and then lower the bar down under control, resisting every bit of tension with your glutes.
  6. Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions. Repeat the repetitions with your opposite leg.
Tips
  • Make sure that your leg is directly under the bar and that you push it directly upward.
  • If you’re a beginner, just practice the movement with the bar or very lightweight before adding more weight.

10. Smith Bulgarian Split Squat

The smith Bulgarian split squat also known as the single-leg smith split squat.

It is an effective auxiliary exercise for improving your squat and lunge. It is also great for enhancing your balance and developing unilateral functional strength.

To promote equal contralateral strength (equal strength in both sides), start with your weak leg, and do not do more repetitions with your strong leg.

Smith Bulgarian Split Squat
Smith Bulgarian Split Squat
Muscles Worked

Primary: Quadriceps.

Secondary: Gluteals, hamstrings, adductors.

How To Do Smith Bulgarian Split Squat
  1. Set the height of the Smith machine bar to approximately chin height. Position yourself underneath the bar so that it rests on your shoulders.
  2. Put one of your feet on the bench behind you, then slightly lift and rotate the bar to unlock it.
  3. Lower your hips until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and without moving your knees beyond your toes.
  4. Hold this position for one second and get back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions. Repeat the exercise with your opposite leg.
Tips
  • When you squat, your front knee should not pass your toes.
  • Keep your torso upright and your head facing forward.

11. Smith Standing Calf Raise

The smith standing calf raise is a machine-based exercise targeting the muscles of the calves, particularly the gastrocnemius or upper calf muscle.

It is usually performed for moderate to high reps, such as 12-20 reps per set or more, as part of the lower body portion of a workout. Must add this calf exercise in your smith machine leg workout arsenal.

Smith Standing Calf Raise
Smith Standing Calf Raise
Muscles Worked

Primary: Gastrocnemius.

Secondary: Soleus.

How To Do Smith Standing Calf Raise
  1. Place a block or weight plate below the bar on the Smith machine. Set the bar on the smith machine to around shoulder height and rack up the weight you want to use.
  2. Step up on the block and position the balls of your feet on the edge.
  3. Grasp the smith bar with a wide grip and position it across the top of your back muscles. Rotate the bar to unrack it.
  4. Push off the balls of your feet to raise your heels as high as possible. Make sure to flex your calf at the top of the contraction.
  5. Hold the contracted position for a second. And then slowly lower your heels back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for desired reps.
Tips
  • Your knees should remain extended.
  • Don’t let your heels touch the floor throughout the set.
  • Use the maximum range of motion by allowing your heels to drop as far as possible and then raising them as high as possible.

12. Smith Standing One Leg Calf Raise

Single leg calf raises are one of the best ways of building your calf muscles.

It is a very effective isolation exercise which targets the Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles.

You can do the standing dumbbell one-leg calf raise on the floor if you don’t have a platform to perform the exercise from.

Smith Standing One Leg Calf Raise
Smith Standing One Leg Calf Raise
Muscles Worked

Primary: Gastrocnemius.

Secondary: Soleus.

How To Do Smith Standing One Leg Calf Raise
  1. Position yourself underneath the bar so that the bar is racked, leading to your back muscles.
  2. Step with your left foot that the ball of your foot is rested upon the platform, and keep your other leg extended behind you.
  3. Release the bar from the rack and slowly lower your heel down towards the floor, then elevate your heel up towards the ceiling as far as possible, squeezing your calf.
  4. Hold for a count, then return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for more repetitions. Then repeat with your right leg.
Tips
  • Keep the movement slow and under control.
  • Do not lock out your knee.

Takeaways

You can perform numerous leg exercises with the Smith machine that can build muscle. The constant tension placed on your muscles through a range of motion, allowing progressive overload to take place, leading to strength and muscle gains.

Some exercisers will go their entire lives without training on a Smith machine. Despite never having used one, they’re convinced that the Smith machine will lead to injury.

The reality is that when used correctly, this much-maligned piece of gym equipment can be very useful, especially if your goal is hypertrophy. They allow you to train to failure in relative safety and leave you free to focus on lifting and lowering the weight and not balancing or stabilizing it.

More Leg Training Articles

Have a look at the below lower body training articles to gain leg strength and mass!

7 MOST EFFECTIVE Leg Workouts Using SMITH MACHINE

Best Leg Workout

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