Smith machine or dumbbell squats?

It’s tough to assert which is better between the smith machine and dumbbell squats.

And why would you even want to compare these two, when the free barbell squat (“back squat”) is considered by many fitness experts to be the best type of squat?

It’s because not all people find the back squat to be friendly to their back or knees. Or, some really struggle with proper form.

Thus, they seek out alternatives.

If you hate doing Smith machine squats, but are able to stick to the dumbbell version, then the dumbbell squats are better for you.

This is simply due to personal preferance.

You will be able to faithfully adhere to these and you’ll more likely do them with intensity.

But for others, the Smith machine wins out.

Some people do not like any kind of free squatting motion, of which use with dumbbells would be one, and fare better with the tracking device of a Smith machine.

So for them, as far as adherence and morale, Smith machine squats would work better.

If you’ve done Smith machine squats and those with dumbbells, I needn’t tell you that each routine feels quite different from the other, especially when done deeply or “ATG” style (“ass to ground/grass”).

Squats with a Smith machine. Shutterstock/Auttapol Sangsub

Doing ATG Smiths feel awful in the quads, and you may not want to do these ever again.

On the other hand, though ATG dumbbell squats aren’t exactly pretty, it’s a feeling that you can tolerate, and you might not even mind doing several sets in one session, even at a highly intense level.

Dumbbell squats have a proprioceptive component that Smith work does not, plus, dumbbell work will recruit your upper body muscles, unlike Smith work.

But then again, if you require really heavy resistance to challenge your lower body, the dumbbell squats may not work too well.

Your grip will have to be able to support the weight through to muscle failure of your lower body.

Of course, the Smith machine can be loaded with hundreds of pounds.

An advantage of Smith machine squats is that you can place your feet way out in front, and have a lot of room to work with as far as foot placement and leg angle.

You can also work with just one leg, too. Try doing that with dumbbell squats.

Try both routines and see how you like them. If you like both, then include both in your training regimen.

If one feels awful, then avoid it, and stick to the other. If you like both Smith and dumbbell squats, you can do one to muscle failure, and then immediately jump right into the other for an agonizing superset.

Doing several such supersets will create some serious fat burning and strength building.

What about the back squat?, prostooleh

There are some individuals for which the back squat just does not work well.

It’s the prized movement for ultimate quad and glute development, but the reality is that not everyone takes to the format.

The Smith machine, as well as dumbbell squats, then become strong options.

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



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