Are you wanting to know which machines you can use at the gym for squats to stoke your thigh development and get defined quads? Or maybe you want to know if squatting is good to do with machines? Read on and we will cover both topics and more as well as some recommendations for machines you can put in your own home gym.
Proper form is key to getting the best out of your squats and to reduce the risks of getting injuries during your exercise. Building those breathtaking leg muscles takes practice, consistency and help from different gym machines.
We will walk you through the gym machines for squats that will not only help you master the proper squat form, but also allow you to perform different variations of this fantastic exercise to maximize your potential.
Variations are a great way to increase the difficulty of the movement as you get stronger and shift the targeted muscles depending on what you’d like to strengthen and focus on.
One of the most popular squat machines that you’ll often find in a gym, squat racks are a piece of equipment designed to support load as you perform squats. They are made of two vertical posts that are connected with a horizontal post for support and stability.
Benefits of Squat Racks
- Squat racks provide safety and stability even when you do not have a spotter or are training alone. This allows you to lift comfortably and focus on your form.
- Versatility is one of the biggest benefits that a squat rack offers. It provides support to people of all experience and fitness levels. Plus, it can accommodate different training attachments, increasing the variety of exercise options that you can perform.
- Squat racks are lightweight and portable, and have small footprints, making them an ideal addition to any gym, even ones at home.
How to Use a Squat Rack
Using a squat rack is pretty straightforward. First, ensure that the rack can support the weight plates before using it for the first time. Remember that a squat rack is supposed to keep you safe so it should be able to support a lot of weight—far more than you are lifting.
Using the j-hooks, set the bar at a height that is right for you. Most hooks may be adjusted, if necessary, by simply twisting them to the side and taking them out of the rack's hole. In the same fashion, reposition them on the rack.
Start off with an empty bar in the starting position and never with a loaded bar. This will allow you to inspect your squat rack setup and get in a few solid warm-up reps.
Set the safety bars' height next. If you're unsure of precisely where they should go, put them about hip level and verify the height when you perform your first warm-up set of squats.
Squat Rack Recommendation
For a squat rack that allows you to combine convenience with strength and durability, I recommend the JX Fitness squat rack. It is ideal for smaller spaces. As well as a quality squat rack, you can also enjoy a range of other workouts, and the rack blends perfectly with barbells, dumbbells, and weight benches for a comprehensive full-body workout.
Its full adjustability allows you to enjoy this unit no matter your height and adapt it according to your training needs and unique body type. Its steel construction ensures that you can use it with safety and security, while the inclusion of plastic anti-slip caps on the base keeps the rack firmly in place while you are working out. On top of these, high-quality metal nuts are used to construct the rack, and these require a wrench to tighten for added peace of mind.
JX-Fitness’ Squat Rack is the perfect choice for small garages and restricted spaces as it is compact and easy to store when not in use. Whether you are just getting started with weight training, or consider yourself a seasoned pro, this is a sound, solid investment.
Power racks are similar to squat racks in the way that they are basically places to rest your barbell during lifting but are both effective tools to help you build a dynamic routine.
Unlike a squat rack, power racks are consisted of 4 vertical, adjustable metal poles that have hooks to support your barbell. These poles are connected together by horizontal framing, creating a cage-like shape.
This construction makes the power rack an extremely stable and safe equipment that allows you to confidently squat with the highest load capacity without a spotter. They include safety catches which are there to keep you safe in case of a failed lift.
Benefits of Power Racks
- Power racks allow you to perform just about any barbell exercise, making it one of the most versatile gym pieces you can add to your space. Most power racks also allow you to add attachments or accessories, expanding your training options.
- Movements such as back squats, barbell bench press and barbell overhead press are hard to perform safely without the help of a power rack. It eliminates the risks and dangers such as accidental falling of weights.
- Your standard power rack is the perfect companion to building up your strength as it supports you in lifting more weight than you would normally with a traditional squat.
Take note, however, that power racks tend to have a bigger footprint than a squat rack. If you have a space big enough to accommodate a power rack, it is definitely worth the investment.
How to use a Power Rack
Using a power rack is similar to using squat racks. Make sure to take time to prepare and adjust the equipment depending on your specific needs.
Place the j-hooks on a hole that is just below your shoulder and the safety catches just below your lowest squat point. Make sure to give yourself the full range of motion, diving as deep as you can.
Position yourself or take a step back when unracking the bar to allow it to clear the J-hooks both when going down and when going back up. Hitting the hooks on your way up will not only ruin the lift but can also increase the chances of you getting injured.
Power Rack Recommendation
Body Solid’s SPR1000BACKP4 Power Rack Package is the complete power rack solution for any size fitness facility or gym. It is the perfect blend of value, quality, and function.
It is made with 3”x3” 11-gauge steel mainframe that can carry a weight capacity of 1000 lbs and can withstand even the most strenuous and demanding workouts. The 1" hole spacing for the safety spotter bars means you will always find that perfect stretch without compromising safety.
Versatility is another strong benefit of this unit as it comes with several attachments to expand your training options such as a multi-chin bar for pull-ups and chin-ups, and a dip station to get those shoulders and back muscles working.
Body Solid sets the bar high with this power rack with the benefits it offers. Definitely a great investment for anyone looking to strengthen and see significant gains.
The Smith Machine is another exercise equipment that can easily be confused with the squat rack because of their similarities in appearance. However, unlike a squat rack, smith machine consists of a straight bar locked into two vertical steel rails. This design makes for a fixed movement trajectory that helps you during up and down movements but does not allow you to move forward and backward.
There are two main types of a rack on a Smith machine. One is a sequence of symmetrical teeth running along both sides of the frame that you can hook the bar onto. The other uses a sequence of pegs that can be latched on to using hooks fitted to each end of the bar.
Benefits of a Smith Machine
- Smith machines offer a comprehensive, full-body workout, while still offering a wide variety of attachments and extra extensions to allow you to target specific muscle groups and body parts.
- They come with spotters built-in, eliminating the need to have a separate spotter working with you. This means that they can be used alone, allowing you to squat at a time and place convenient to you.
How to Use a Smith Machine for Squats
So, how to squat on a Smith machine? Setting up the smith machine in the proper way is essential to make sure that you avoid improper form when doing your squats. First, set your bar at shoulder height and stand with your feet should-width apart. This will give yourself plenty of surface area to squat with an even distribution of weight.
Step in front of the rack and rest the loaded bar on your trapezius muscles. Unlock the bar from the rack. In most cases, to free the bar from the rack, all you have to do is to twist (not pull) the bar away from the rack whilst lifting it up.
Shift the weight back to your heels, brace your core and begin lowering your body into a squat. Maintain your spine in a neutral position and hold for a second. With your core still braced, slowly stand back up.
To set the bar back onto the rack, simply twist the bar towards the rack and slide it either over the teeth and into the supporting recess or latch the hook onto a pair of the pegs.
Smith Machine Recommendation
The Valor BE-11 offers all the basic essentials of a Smith machine with its effective and gloriously uncomplicated design.
This is a unit that feels solid and sturdy, even when you push it to the limits, and includes a 30lb knurled bar, which is designed to run smoothly on the reverse-pitched guide rods. No matter how much you are lifting, you can rest assured that they will run smoothly.
Safety is another important benefit that this unit offers; all safety latches are made from solid steel, and will lockout at 14 separate points, all across the frame. You can also enjoy peace of mind with the spring mechanism included in the system, that is designed to prevent the bar from falling on you. The mechanism can be paired with a Counterbalance Kit, and this means that the bar will float, rather than drop, all the time it is unloaded - ideal if you are new to strength training and are looking to lift only the bar.
In terms of strength and convenience, the Valor machine can be used with both standard and Olympic plates, and this ensures that you have a machine that can grow with you. The overall design is light, compact, and comes with rubber pads to give your floor a little extra protection - overall, everything you could ask for from a home gym system.
Hack Squat Machine
A popular choice for people who want to build significantly strong and defined quads, the hack squat machine targets several muscle groups such as the quadriceps, glutes, abdominals and even back muscles, earning it the title “the ruler of all leg moves”.
A hack squat machine typically includes a backrest and shoulder pads for support, that slide back and forth on tracks placed on either side of the machine.
Benefits of a Hack Squat Machine
- It provides the user a natural and comfortable way to perform the exercise.
- It is designed with adjustable levels of resistance that provides support to people of any fitness level.
- Hack squat machines offer numerous benefits that range from muscle growth and weight loss to improved flexibility and posture. They are also a great machine for people who want to work on their coordination and strength.
- It is efficient as it allows you to target several lower-body muscles with just one machine especially the quads, glutes and hamstrings. It can also, to a lesser degree, work the calves but if you want to isolate those muscles, a calves workout machine will be the better choice.
How to use a Hack Squat Machine
Step into the machine’s footprint, and press both of your shoulders against the machine’s shoulder pads. Position your feet in the stance you’d position them in for any other variation of the squat. Stand, and disengage the stoppers. Place both of your hands on the hand grips near your shoulders and begin lowering yourself by bending at the knees. When you’re parallel or a little below parallel, push the platform away from your body to stand back up. Once the set is completed, engage the stoppers once more.
Making a few adjustments to your machine or form can help you get the best out of your hack squats. Start light at first to perfect your form and learn how to use the machine effectively. As you become stronger, try to do progressive overload -- increase your reps and sets, add weights, or control negatives-- and do this gradually until you feel comfortable while squatting. Remember to always use your safety gear and adjust the height of the machine to fit your needs.
Hack Squat Machine Recommendation
The Body-Solid GLPH1100 is a hack-squat- and-leg-press-machine-in-one and is the perfect addition to your home gym or any fitness facilities. It features a quad-track roller system for smooth operation and even weight distribution, making it perfect for users of all levels of experience.
It has an adjustable frame that lets you choose the perfect height, a gliding seat system that prevents your feet from getting stuck, and three lockout positions to ensure the safety and convenience of the user.
The Body Solid GLPH1100 offers maximum strength, stability, and resistance - three key factors for achieving muscle growth.
Pendulum Squat Machine
While it isn’t usually the first equipment that comes to mind when someone wants to do squats, the pendulum squat is weight-loaded machine that provides greater versatility and benefits than a traditional squat and is definitely worth using when available. It works several lower body muscles simultaneously, mainly the quads, glutes and hamstrings.
Benefits of a Pendulum Squat Machine
- The biggest benefit one can get from a pendulum squat machine is the great range of motion it offers. The machine is designed in a way that allows your hips to sit back while your knees move considerably further, just like a pendulum.
- The machine allows you to load up more than you would with a regular squat as it does not require you to stabilize the weight.
- The pendulum squat machine allows for more foot positioning variety which targets the legs differently and greatly changes the intensity of the exercise.
How to Use the Pendulum Squat Machine
Start by loading the machine with the appropriate weight. Like with any exercise, make sure that you start light if you are new to this and gradually increase you get stronger or more familiar with the exercise.
Press your lower back into the backrest and place your shoulders under the pads. With your feet around shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward, stand on the footplate.
Grab the handles and straighten your legs to release the safety bar. From here, start moving to a squat position until your knees are bent at about 90-degrees.
Pendulum Squat Machine Recommendation
Pendulum squat machines are not as easily accessible as the other squat machines listed but, the good news is, Arsenal Strength has got you covered. Their Reloaded Pendulum Squat machine checks all the boxes that a good machine should have and more.
With 4 position adjustable height, large platform for varied foot placement, and comfortable handle position throughout range of motion, this gym equipment feels extremely natural and is sure to provide the perfect environment for both beginners and advanced exercisers alike.
If you want to give yourself one heck of a full body exercise, this pendulum squat machine is definitely a must.
Sissy Squat Bench
One squat variation that is sure to give your quads growth and definition is the sissy squat. The movement involves leaning back on tiptoes and shifting your body weight onto your quads. Unlike the standard squat, sissy squats allow you to go all the way down into a sit-up position.
For beginners, the sissy squat can be a challenging move to perform and target the right muscles. Luckily, there is a machine that helps you do this squat variation properly – the sissy squat bench.
This equipment is designed to hold the legs on the ground and provide stability while doing the sissy squats. It primarily consists of a non-slip footplate, a rear calf support pad and a bar to hold the feet in place.
Benefits of the Sissy Squat Bench
- By using a sissy squat bench, you may gradually build your strength while being fully supported by the pad rest at the back. They are therefore appropriate for both rookie and professional lifters, and they are completely safe to use.
- The machine significantly helps in keeping the body in the perfect form while doing the sissy squats for great results.
- It is a great option for your home gym. Not only does it have a small footprint, but it is also affordable way to add variation to your lower body workout
How to Use a Sissy Squat Bench
Position your feet on the machine. Rest your rear calf against the calf pad and lock your feet using the adjustable bar. Position your body in a squat form until your thighs are almost parallel to the ground. Make sure to maintain the tension around your thigh area throughout the position.
Sissy Squat Machine Recommendation
There are plenty of choices for sissy squat benches in the market but not all can provide the comfort and security that Element Fitness' Sissy squat machine gives.
This unit is made with an 11-gauge steel frame with a grey powder-coated finish that ensure it can withstand any use.
With its lightweight design, adjustable height, and padded calf pads, this machine can easily accommodate lifters and athletes of varying heights and weights. Apart from feeling comfortable while performing squats, the machine also provides stability during movements by keeping the legs vertical while locking in the feet.
Affordable and durable, there's no doubt that this sissy squat machine is worth adding to your gym.
Belt Squat Machine
Belt squat machines, although popular among serious lifters due to its benefits and versatility, are a piece of equipment that is rarely found in gyms. It is a cable machine that, as the name implies, is designed specifically for performing belt squats. The machine consists of an elevated platform with hooks in the middle that is connected to a weight belt.
Benefits of a Belt Squat Machine
- The biggest benefit of the belt squat machine is that it allows you to maximize muscle recruitment in the legs while reducing the level of spinal loading and compression. This results in reduced lower back strain, making it perfect for lifters or athletes who want to build serious gain and strength while protecting their backs.
How to Use a Belt Squat Machine
Load up the machine with the barbell weights that you want to lift. Secure the belt around your waist then strap it to the machine. Stand on the elevated platform with your feet should-width apart and start bending your knees and lowering your body towards the ground in a slow and controlled manner. Go as low as you can but do not go beneath the weight.
Without the upper body in the equation, it works a bit similar to the leg press or hack squat, while still providing the balance and stability benefits that traditional squats offer.
Belt Squat Machine Recommendation
Bells of Steel has established a reputation for providing high-quality gear at affordable prices over the past few years, and their Belt Squat Machine 2.0 is definitely something that exceeds the needs of many. Made with 11-gauge steel, this machine can carry a maximum weight capacity of 700 pounds and will last you for many years.
A key feature of this machine that makes it such a great option is the range of motion it offers that not a lot of squat machines can provide. Its cut-out on the footplate enables the lever arm to travel through a broader range of motion. Its top-loading mechanism also allows for the user to achieve a full range of motion.
With its durability, affordability and great quality, the Bells of Steel belt squat machine definitely makes for a worthy purchase. Start making big gains in your lower body without hurting your back by adding one in your gym.
Gym machines for squats are great tools that provide you with a safe, easy and effective way to perform squats and strength training and eliminate the need for a gym buddy or spotter. They can be a hefty investment but with the right machine, they can be well worth it in your journey to strength and fitness.