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Smith Machine Workouts and Gym Equipment

We get a lot of questions about Smith Machine squat alternatives for the Smith Machine workouts featured in our My Gym Trainer 2 – Intermediate workout system.

It’s a great questions because not all gyms have Smith Machines, so we’ve created this article to address some of that.

Smith Machine, named after the inventor, Rudy Smith, who got the idea from Jack Lalanne.


Smith Machine Squats


Most gyms have at least one, and the advantage of these over free weights such as Barbells and Dumbbells, is that the rack serves as a backup “spotter”. Having the rack to lift off from and return the barbell to, is a huge safety benefit.

So for instance, I can squat 80-100lbs, but I might have a hard time getting that heavy barbell up over my head and onto my shoulders, and then back again to take it off.  With the Squat Rack or Smith Machine, it’s a easier and vastly safer to walk up to the rack, under the bar and lift it up onto the your shoulders.

In our My Gym Trainer workout system we use the Smith Machine extensively because it’s an awesome tool for safer implementation of numerous exercises utilizing barbells, especially at heavier weights.

The next closest thing to a Smith Machine is a Squat Rack.

Some call these Power Rack or Squat Cage, and they come in different configurations and price points. Mainly it’s just different terminology for the same basic thing: machines designed to be a virtual workout buddy. With Smith Machines, the bar runs within a track system, affording more stability and balance to the core during movements, and you can add weights to the ends.

But even though the Smith Machine makes it easier to do more, using proper form is still important. People often lean back too far, using the track as support rather than in the straight back forward leaning position, more naturally a part of the squat dynamics.

There are lots of articles and opinions out there on the pros and cons of each, so ultimately it comes down to what works for you.  We favor a balanced perspective, where in most things there are pros and cons, so from there it boils down to personal preference and desired outcomes. 1)

But do study up on proper form and check yours often to be sure you’re on track.  We can think we’re in right form until seeing yourself in the mirror, so yes, all those mirrors are actually for something besides primping and flexing!2)

Most home gyms—or women-only gyms—don’t have a Smith Machine , Squat Rack, or Squat Cage or Power Rack.

So if you do not have access to any of these kinds of equipment, don’t be afraid to experiment. You can still accomplish all that you need to with barbells, dumbbells, exercise bands, leg presses machines, benches for step ups and single leg lunges instead.

Smith Machine Flat Bench Chest Press, position 1
Smith Machine Chest Press, position 2
Smith Machine Flat Bench Chest Press, position 2


Squat Rack Barbell Squat. This guy has perfect form!
Power Rack
Squat Cage
Incline Bench Chest Press with Rack
Incline Bench Chest Press Machine

This article also covers substitutes for the specific Smith Machine exercises in the My Gym Trainer 2 – Intermediate binder. But first, here are two workouts that incorporate Smith Machine exercises from My Gym Trainer 2. These are both lower body exercises which occur on the 1st and 4th days of the 6 day My Gym Trainer 24-day workout cycle.



Dumbbell Lunge
Dumbbell lunges can replace Smith Machine lunges.


Dumbbell Squats
Dumbbell Squats can replace Smith Machine squats.


For Squats, you can also use resistance bands, or, “flip” your squat and use the Leg Press Machine for Leg Presses instead of Squats. Shake it up to break it up and keep things interesting.  It’s all good!

Squats with Band, can replace Smith Machine squats, though we would choose barbells or dumbbells first. Image from
Image from
Even the Leg Press Machine can substitute for Smith Machine Squats – wide and regular stance, and regular stance. Image from





See this great tutorial from on Wide-Stance Squats.

Please let us know if this was helpful, and if you have other resources or favorite substitutes to add, let us know and we’ll be glad to add them here.  Even better, if you send us photos of you doing the exercises we’ll be glad to post them and a link to your site if you have one.

For more advanced gym workouts that utilize the Smith Machine, you may be interested in checking out My Gym Trainer 3 – Advanced workouts. (See sample below):

smith machine, squat rack
My Gym Trainer 3 – Advanced includes a number of Smith machine exercises.

For comparisons of Power and Squat Racks, you may enjoy this article.

For some alternate exercises you can do without a Smith Machine, you may enjoy this video with personal trainer Jill Coleman describing exercises performed by LeAura Alderson.

Be awesome… be fit!

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