Barbell back squat vs smith machine squats
Many strength and muscle building experts will say, the barbell back squat is much more effective at building size and strength. They argue free weight squats are a more natural movement and require much more stabilization and balance, which increases its effectiveness. However, the Smith machine is much easier to learn, especially for beginners, which many argue is safer. I contend that it depends upon the person’s build. If one has long legs and a shorter torso, they will have a very difficult time performing a squat correctly in order to get optimum stimulation for strength or growth. In this case and in others, they would benefit greatly from performing smith machine squats. But what does science have to say? Which is better for gaining strength?
Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada compared the free weight squat to the Smith machine using electromyography (EMG). The purpose of their study was to determine which exercise was better at stimulating the prime movers and stabilizers of the legs (e.g., tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis and biceps femoris) and trunk (e.g., lumbar erector spinae and rectus abdominus). Six healthy participants performed 1 set of 8 repetitions using a weight they could lift 8 times, i.e., 8 rep maximum.
Contrary to our hypotheses, muscles of the legs (specifically the vastus medialis and biceps femoris) displayed greater EMG activity during the free weight squat compared to the Smith machine squat, whereas there were no differences between exercises for EMG activity of trunk stabilizers.
Researchers conclude that the free weight squat may be superior to the Smith machine squat for training the major muscle groups of the legs and possibly would result in greater strength development and hypertrophy of these muscle groups with long-term training.
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(9), 2588-2591.
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Just F-in squat
Some say the squat is the king of all leg exercises. They even go as far as saying that if you don?t squat, your chances of building big, strong legs are next to impossible. And there are others who even take it one step further, claiming the squat is the best overall exercise there is period, and no routine should be without one.
Yes, I agree that the squat is unquestionably a very productive exercise in that it works a large number of major muscle groups. More so than any other exercise, however, it is not essential to do the barbell squat in order to get muscular and strong legs. More-over, for some the pain caused by injuries or anatomy makes this exercise very uncomfortable and unproductive. For instance, those who have very long legs and short torsos have trouble doing squats due to bad bio-mechanics. Some people need alternatives, but, for this Exercise of the Month article I focus on how to perform the barbell squat properly and show how to change what muscles are emphasized.
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Barbell Workout for Hard Gainers
If you only have access to a barbell, try these workouts from MensFitness.com:
1 Front Squat
Sets: 5 Reps: 5 Rest: 90 sec.
Start with the barbell on the supports of a power rack at about shoulder height. Grab the bar overhand and raise your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Now lift the bar off the rack, letting it roll toward your fingers-this is where it should rest throughout the exercise (as long as you keep your elbows raised, you won’t have trouble balancing the bar) . Squat as low as you can , and then drive with your legs to return to the starting position. That’s one rep.
Sets: 5 Reps: 5 Rest: 90 sec.
Place a barbell on the floor and grab it with an overhand grip, hands twice shoulder-width apart. Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, crouch down behind it as if you were going to perform a deadlift . Now explosively stand up and raise the bar straight up in front of your torso. When the bar reaches chest level, flip your wrists to face the ceiling and allow the momentum to help you press the bar straight overhead . Reverse the motion to return the bar to the floor. That’s one rep.
3 Barbell Shoulder Press
Sets: 5 Reps: 5 Rest: 90 sec.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly narrower and grab the bar with a slightly wider-than-shoulder- width grip (wrap your thumbs around the bar). To get the bar into position, you can either explosively heave it up off the floor and up to your shoulders, or set the bar at shoulder level on the supports of a power rack. If the bar is on the rack, nudge it off and let it rest against the front of your shoulders. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, and push your chest out . Begin pressing the bar overhead, retracting your head as the bar rises to keep it out of the way. When the bar passes your head, press it up and slightly backward so that it ends up in line with the back of your head . Hold for a moment, then lower the bar back to your shoulders. That’s one rep.
Check out the other workout by clicking here.
If you?re a hard gainer, these workouts can be beneficial because they?re all compound movements that incorporate more muscle groups.
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