Here are the biggest squat mistakes with the Smith machine.

When doing squats with the Smith machine, beware of some common mistakes.

Based on my experience as a gym personal trainer, I’ve compiled five of the biggest mistakes people commit when doing squats on the Smith machine, or a similar tracked barbell device. These Smith machine squat mistakes are in no particular order.

This first squat mistake on the Smith machine is far more prevalent among women than men, and novice women, at that.

However, being a novice doesn’t mean you should perform squats in the way I’m about to describe with the Smith machine: The legs are way too far out in front of the bar.

When the legs are out too far under the bar (or in front of it), this prevents the lower back arch; that’s one way you know the legs are out too far.

Legs being out too far de-emphasizes quad and buttocks recruitment. Ironically, if the weight is too heavy, this too-far-out leg positioning can result in losing control of the bar.

Then again, when I see women using the Smith machine this way for their squats, they rarely go above 85 pounds.

This positioning also de-emphasizes the core muscle group, which good squat form should recruit.

The second mistake with Smith machines squats is not making sure that the bar is solidly set back in place before exiting the apparatus.

Make sure those little “hooks” are turned in all the way, and are completely settled upon the knobs, before exiting.

Some tracked devices require having to turn the hooks outward to set them back on the knobs. Either way, make sure the connections are solidly in place before exiting.

The third Smith machine mistake with squats is failure to set up stops to stop the bar should you lose control and it comes crashing down.

The stops are built into the equipment and can be raised or lowered, then locked in place. Take the time to set these up before beginning your routine.

The fourth mistake with Smith machine squats is not paying attention to good form because you think that the equipment will take care of that for you.

This may manifest itself in mis-aligned feet, i.e., one foot is slightly ahead of the other; or, one foot is pointing more outward than the other.

Feet should be mirror images of each other, flush, at least shoulder width apart, and both pointing straight ahead; or, if you desire pointing them outward, they should be pointed outward at the same angle.

The mistake of thinking the Smith machine will prevent bad squat form also shows up in people who fail to arch their lower back, and have a rounded upper back. Proper form is very important even for tracked barbell devices.

The fifth mistake that’s made with the Smith machine when it comes to squatting is assuming that this contraption is worthless, and that only free barbell routines will produce any results.

I’ve seen mighty strong men using tracked barbell equipment; it has its virtues, especially for people who don’t have spotters.

Because the equipment helps stabilize the user, the user can use heavier weights.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.