Smith Machine or Kettlebells?

Hi All,

I have heard a few opinions that I should not be using a smith machine while doing squats. I have heard that it is sort of a “Cheater” squat and my stabilizer muscles won’t be getting some of the additional load that I would get using a traditional squat rack/free weight.

My dilemma is that the gym I am using doesn’t have a rack. It does have a smith machine. For Deadlifts, I can get around it by putting a massive amount of weight on a curled bar and using that. Problem is I can’t use a curled bar for my back squats (def not safe either). I am thinking it would still be beneficial to use the smith machine over doing something like KB goblet squats. Would love to hear thoughts/alternatives as well.


I would do both!
The smithmachine or rear loaded squat with a barbell will allow you to lift far more weight than you can with a goblet squat, which is similar to a front loaded squat. More weight is more adaptation, so definitely do the smithmachine!

Then do some goblet squats also! Or maybe some single leg exercises like lunges etc


“stabilizer muscles” seems to me to be way overrated. If you want to grow/strengthen your quadriceps and barbell squats are not an option, then smith machine squats are a for sure good enough as a substitution. KB goblet squats are perfectly fine too but it might be difficult to load them properly and to make a proper progression, but that’s difficult to say for sure without knowing the weights you have available.

anything but the smith machine, its a forced pivot point that doesnt allow for natural movement.


Sure, using a regular squat rack is preferable. But in this case, a smith machine is what he has. They aren’t that bad. With proper form and stance, they can be quite good. there’s hip hinging (pivot) involved in any good form squat


Say no to Smith Machines. I don’t know any serious S&C coach that recommends using one for anything. Can you not find a new gym?

1 Like

I have used kettlebells since lockdown and have made me obviously stronger and more athletic, on the plus side its helped me on my bike. So much you can do with kettlebells.

1 Like

Goblet squats with a band, now theres an exercise! Kettlebells

1 Like

I could… but it would cost me $$$. Right now, my work gym is free and minus the squat rack, it’s got everything else I need.

1 Like

I’d do single leg Bulgarian Split squats with the kettlebells in each hand. Plenty of work for your core stabilizers as well.


The nice thing about kettlebells is they add a core element to pretty much every exercise.

I’ve used kettlebells, a traditional squat rack and a Smith machine. Traditional squats are definitely better than the Smith machine but I did not find the Smith machine unproductive. But, while Smith machine squats will work your major muscles, there are some ancillary elements of a traditional squat you do miss out on because you’re minimizing the stabilization piece.

If I were you (and I might be if I go back to Planet Fitness this winter) I’d do both Smith machine squats and lots of kettlebell stuff, including squats. Kettlebells rule!

1 Like

+1 for Kettlebells. Everyone should have a couple of these versatile puppies.

When gyms started closing I cancelled my gym membership and invested in; kettlebell pairs of 10s, 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. I also bought a bench and with all those now at my house I don’t feel the need to goto the gym at all anymore . I can workout in my underwear, naked it’s great! Bulgarian split squats, goblet squats, squat press, cross hack squats and so many more variations that I can do with dumbbells or kettlebells. The smith machine gets a lot of bad reviews but if it’s all you have at your gym it’s better than nothing! Just work on your hip mobility on the side to make up for the fixed motions from a smith machine!

1 Like

the smith machine is good for one thing, to hang your towel on while you workout
Learn proper form, use freeweights. Kettle bells, dumbells, barbells whatever, BUT NOT THE SMITH MACHINE.

1 Like

Double kettlebell front squats. Even if you can’t find a pair and you have to use uneven KBs they are still good. Just alternate each set.

Big plus one for the Bulgarian split squats which allow you to load a comparatively large amount of weight on one leg (just be very careful, build up slowly and watch your form if you’re transitioning from a machine based leg exercise to one legged squats).

Also pistol squats are another option, but take time to get the movement sorted.

Stronger By Science’s latest email newsletter featured the Reverse Nordic Curl which apparently is such a difficult movement you are very unlikely to ever need weights with it, but which gave really good results in terms of muscle growth. Worth a Google?

1 Like

Use both. Everything in moderation, goes for most things :smiley:


not to be a douche, but “everything in moderation” is nonsense.
Cocaine in moderation?

Smith machine is not to be used by anybody, unless a physical therapist prescribes it for a very particular reason.


The guy has limited gear available. A little work on the Smith machine can be useful when resources are limited.

Another vote for Bulgarian Split Squats.