When you're doing your Smith machine workouts for legs, you probably do some kind of squat. But unless you like to think outside the box, then you probably haven't done the Smith machine sumo squat. At least not with any regularity.
It's a shame that the wide stance squat doesn't get more attention. After all, it's one of the best compound leg exercises for firming up the glutes and inner thighs. It's a popular movement with women who want to build their glutes, but who don't want gargantuan thighs that scare off any leg day-skipping men.
So with that said, let's learn how to reap the rewards of this underrated glute-builder...
Here's how to do a wide stance Smith machine squat:
Research shows that a wider squat stance places more tension on your glutes . As a result, it's imperative to warm your hips up properly if you want to avoid injury and give yourself the flexibility to squat deep.
Using a hip circle is a great way to get the blood pumping while also helping you to preactivate your glutes, which will make the actual sumo squats more effective.
Once again, science shows us that flaring our knees out recruits more muscle fibres in our glutes, enabling us to build a bigger bum in less time .
Moreover, flaring your knees out to the sides rather than letting them drift way over your toes actually increases your injury resistance because your patella doesn't get subjected to unnecessary stress.
Unless you're a powerlifter trying to lift as much weight as possible, slow down your eccentric and let your muscles do all the work.
Controlling the weight is especially important during Smith machine wide squats because the exercise naturally stretches your inner thighs, which are a weak (and thus vulnerable area) for many of us.
The hip circle is a cheap and cheerful invention—yet it works wonders for preactivating your glutes. It essentially improves what bodybuilders call the mind-muscle connection. I know it sounds a bit woo-woo, but being able to feel your glutes during compound exercises like sumo squats, where there's always a risk that other muscles could take over, is essential if you want a firmer bum.
The best hip circle, in my opinion, is definitely the Sling Shot Hip Circle by Mark Bell because it's the most durable and long-lasting out of the many hip circles that I've used over the years. It doesn't irritate my skin like the others, and I find that it really helps to get my glutes pumped up before I lift. And that's to say nothing of the extra mobility I've gained from using it.
I'm a big believer in squatting barefoot when possible. It just makes sense for humans to lift that way. But it seems like virtually no gyms allow barefoot squatting, at least in the UK.
So the next best thing is a pair of weightlifting shoes, such as the tired and tested Adidas Powerlifts. They're available in both men's and women's versions, and they really help you to maintain the proper knee tracking, which is especially important for ensuring that the tension stays on your glutes.
Unless you're going heavy (<6 reps) then I don't actually think that you need a weightlifting belt. However, if you want a small yet immediate increase in your sumo squat strength, then I definitely recommend picking one up.
The good thing about the RDX Belt for Weight Lifting, in particular, is that it's actually comfortable to wear for squats. So many other belts dig into your ribs and make it hard to breathe. But that's not the case with this leather lifting belt, which also comes with double-stitching and a money-back guarantee.
As mentioned, studies show that flaring your knees out activates more muscle fibres in the gluteus maximus, which is by far the largest and most prominent gluteal muscle.
Plus, since the peak tension during Smith machine wide stance squats occurs at the bottom of the rep during the stretch, this exercise is perfect to program with hip thrusts, whose peak tension you'll feel at the top of the movement as you squeeze your cheeks together.
The quads are less active during wide stance squats since the glutes naturally bear the brunt of the load. However, you'll likely feel a noticeable pump in the inner head of your quad due to the flared knee position. When developed, this "teardrop" muscle gives your thighs that lean, muscular appearance, without making your outer quad sweep too dominating.
Since your hips are naturally more open during Smith machine sumo squats, your inner thighs will get more of a workout. Obviously, this increases your injury resistance because most people have much weaker inner thighs than they do quads .
Smith machine sumo squats won't get you ripped—only your diet can do that. However, they will increase core strength, which makes you stronger in all manner of compound movements. And as we know, more strength is almost always accompanied with more muscle mass.
The spinal erectors contract isometrically to prevent your lower back from rounding during squats. However, since you're using a Smith machine, your erectors won't be as active as on free weight squats.
But this isn't a bad thing. If anything, not having to worry about stabilising the bar enables you to put more energy and focus into getting the best leg workout possible.
Like the abs and spinal erectors, your hamstrings and calves are active during sumo squats. However, since they're only active isometrically, they don't actually receive enough stimulus to grow.
If you've ever done narrow-stance squats with a decent amount of weight, then there's a good chance that it feels like a bomb went off in your knees the morning after. Thankfully, smith machine sumo squats are the complete opposite.
Since your knees don't protrude over your toes, the vulnerable patella is subjected to much less stress, enabling you to recover faster while also prolonging your lifting career. Of course, getting a good pair of knee sleeves can help your joints to stay healthy, too. But it's certainly not mandatory.
If you've ever wondered why women are the ones doing wide stance squats, this is why.
Studies show that sumo squats elicit significantly more glute activation than both regular and narrow squats—even if you're using less weight. Naturally, this makes wide squats great if you have knee pain since you can get more glute stimulation with less weight .
You can also try Smith machine 1.5 sumo squats for an even crazier glute burn!
Gym goers today are so focused on developing that coveted outer quad sweep that they often forget that their adductors even exist. As a result, their legs look sloppy and artificial, rather than streamlined and proportional.
With time, sumo squats will fix this quadricep pandemic.
When you're learning how to do squats on a Smith machine, there's no better place to begin than with the good old back squat. It's the squat variation that enables you to lift the most amount of weight and work the most amount of muscles in the least amount of time.
And since you have the safety of a Smith machine, you can strive for more muscle growth in complete confidence because the spotter catches will always have your back. Yes, squats to failure are brutal, but they work like gangbusters.
I won't sugar coat it. Learning how to do sissy squats on the Smith machine can take a while. But the pay off in quad development is worth it. Besides leg extensions, no other exercise on the planet isolates the quadriceps as well as sissy squats, which is why almost all bodybuilders swear by them for getting big legs.
Doing feet together Smith machine squats can be tough on your knees. However, if you widen your stance just a little bit, you can hammer your legs with significantly more weight—without taking a hit in quad activation. It's the perfect exercise to pair with a wide stance smith machine squat.