Nothing says "I squat" like a well developed outer-quad sweep. You can have the biggest chest in the world, but if you don't possess equally impressive legs, your credibility as a lifer (and a man) is bound to be called into question.
By the same token, nothing screams weak like a puny set of thighs. In fact, having slender quads might actually cause people to think that you skip leg day—even if you don't.
So in this article, I'm going to explain the best practises when it comes to using the Smith machine for quads. And in particular, how to reap the rewards of the narrow-stance Smith machine squat.
For some strange reason, many lifters assume that using a narrow stance is a hall pass to perform half reps.
While constant tension training has its place, it's not an excuse to only squat down halfway. You need to break parallel to enjoy the full benefits of any Smith squat variation. And that most certainly includes narrow squats.
And please, spare me the "deep squatting is bad for your knees" nonsense. The peak tension of a squat occurs at roughly parallel—not below it . Plus, going below 90 degrees stretches your quads more, which leads to a bigger outer sweep in the long run.
Despite what the name suggests, performing Smith machine narrow squats doesn't mean that you should squat with your feet together.
Not only does squatting with your feet together significantly reduce your range of motion (and thereby quad growth), but it also puts a criminal amount of pressure onto your knees .
And contrary to conventional wisdom, you shouldn't force your knees over your toes while close squatting. Instead, you should flare your knees out and open up your hips, which enables you to attain a bigger quad stretch while simultaneously sparing your joints from unnecessary strain .
Smith machine narrow stance squats aren't designed to be loaded up with your one-rep max. They're one and only purpose from a physique athlete's point of view is to develop that coveted outer quad sweep. And you certainly don't do that by maxing out.
What you should do is this: lighten the weight and perform sets of 12-20 reps. But don't fully lock out your knees. Make your quads work by only coming 80% of the way up. Don't stop squatting until the pump becomes unbearable.
I've been using the Iron Bull Knee Sleeves for over a year now, and even though I was sceptical at first, I'm really pleased with the extra recovery they've given me. I'm pretty sure that this expedited recovery is because knee sleeves promote blood flow and reduce swelling, which are critical for muscle repair.
Whatever the case may be, I'm a very satisfied customer. The 5mm thick Tech-Blend provides plenty of support. Yet it also enables me to move around without feeling restricted.
Definitely worth the investment if you train legs twice a week like I do.
In all honesty, I'm not a big fan of knee wraps. I find them really uncomfortable, and they're extremely fiddly to put on.
Nonetheless, when I'm attempting a new squat one-rep max in the Smith machine, I bite the bullet and wear them.
I use these proven knee wraps, and while they're not a game-changer, they do add about 5kg to my max squat, which is pretty decent considering how long I've been lifting.
I love squatting barefoot. It feels primal, and my quads just love it. But it turns out that many gym managers just don't share my love for back-to-nature leg training.
So I decided to look into weightlifting shoes. And after trying a few less-than-impressive pairs, I finally stumbled across the Addidas Powerlifts.
While nothing compares to lifting barefoot, these squat shoes make a big difference compared to trainers. Not only do I feel more stable, but I can actually generate more power off the floor by recruiting my major lower body muscles.
Again, not a game-changer, but they're worth it if you have some extra cash.
As we established a minute ago, the close stance Smith machine squat is crazy effective for pumping up your quads. But as far as actual muscle activation goes, it seems that both wide and close stance squats are equally effective for stimulating the quadriceps.
However, muscle activation measured in a laboratory and real-life muscle growth created in the gym are two very different things. So if quads are your main goal, then I wouldn't jump ship to wide squats anytime soon .
It's a well-established fact that wide-stance Smith squats work the glutes better than close-stance Smith squats. So if you're looking to achieve complete leg development, then I recommend including both variations in your workout routine. Nobody likes a pancake ass!
The erectors help to stabilise your spine during narrow stance Smith machine squats, which in turn enables you to remain more upright and keep the majority of the tension on your quads.
Quads are the new abs. At least that's what I've been telling people for years.
Anyone can get abs by restricting their calories. But it takes a special kind of individual to sculpt attention-demanding quadriceps that beg people to ask "excuse me sir, are you a rugby player?".
No, I'm not. But I sure can squat like one.
And as any bodybuilder will tell you, there's no better way to sculpt stella quads than with narrow squats. If you've never done them or haven't included them in your program for a while then prepare to grow like a new lifter.
Now, I'm not condoning skimping on glute training. After all, the glutes are arguably the ultimate symbol of strength and athleticism. Have you ever seen a sprinter with weak glutes?
Exactly. You haven't.
However, you can't train every muscle group with every exercise. When you're trying to isolate or emphasise a particular body part, your other muscle groups naturally have to take a back seat.
You can't prioritise every body part, and you can easily train your glutes after hammering your quads—wide squats, reverse lunges and hip thrusts will always be there.
Plus if you have overdeveloped glutes, performing the narrow stance Smith machine squat is an excellent technique for building proportional legs. Unless, of course, you're actually aiming to have disproportionally large glutes.
The Smith machine squat close stance is naturally suited to constant tension training since you can easily re-rack the bar at any time during the set with a simple turn of the wrist. Obviously, this brutal training style creates a massive pump in your quads.
And as I mentioned earlier, the pump isn't just a weirdly pleasurable feeling—it leads to highly visible muscle growth.
Besides maybe the guillotine press, performing a vertical leg press on the Smith machine is just about the most dangerous exercise that you can do in the gym. I wrote a guide on how to make it safer. But the way that most people do it sends chills down my spine. Suffice to say that as someone who values their own life, I don't recommend it.
The regular Smith squat is a great exercise if you want to emphasise your glutes and quads equally. It also enables you to lift more weight than on narrow stance squats, hence why it's the go-to exercise for those seeking overall leg mass.
Performing front squats on the Smith machine is a brilliant way to smash your quads without your upper back and core being the limiting factor (as they so often are with the free weight version). Front squats are also incredibly knee-friendly because they provide the same muscle stimulation as back squats, but with lighter weights.
The wide stance Smith machine squat is the narrow Smith squat's non-identical twin. It emphasises your glutes, adductors and inner quads, and is especially effective for those who've got knee issues, but who still want to enjoy the benefits of squatting.