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Smith Machine Lunge E-mail
Written by Lynn Glenn   

The smith machine lunge is an excellent alternative exercise to the barbsmith_machine_lungeell, dumbbell, or other weighted lunge exercises for developing the Quadriceps (quads) and Gluteus Maximus (glutes)  and hamstring tie in.

For novices, the Smith Machine can be use to familiarize oneself with the lunge movement, particularly with a trainer's assistance.

For more advanced weight trainers, the Smith Machine Lunge can be implemented periodically after other weighted lunges have become stale, giving the experienced lifter more variety and an alternative way to jump start growth through variety. 


Main Benefit of the The Smith Machine Lunge

Many people have trouble balancing weight on their shoulders, especially novice lifters.

By performing lunges within the Smith Machine form can be controlled. While there may be less supporting muscles use to balance the weight, by performing the lunge movement within the Smith Machine better form can be use and the exercise can be done without a spotter if desired.

Having this increased control and help with balance makes the Smith Machine can be a safe alternative to free weight lunges.  

  Quadriceps (Leg) Muscle Physiology Summary

The Quadricep is made up of four major muscle groups. Quadriceps Anatomy

  1. Rectus Femoris originates on the outside front of the pelvis, ends in the quadriceps tendon with the main purpose for hip flexion and knee extension.
  2. Vastus Lateralis is located on outside front of thigh and is partially responsible for knee extension.
  3. Vastus Medialis, common name tear drop, is inside of femur; thick near the bottom above the knee, and is partially responsible for knee extension.
  4. Vastus Intermedius lies beneath the Lateralis and Medialis and is partially responsible for knee extension.


Smith Machine Lunge Summary 

  • Main Muscle(s) Worked: Quadriceps
  • Other Muscles (Secondary) Worked: Glutes, Hamstrings
  • Equipment: Smith Machine
  • Mechanics Type: Compound (When two or more joint movements are involved).
  • Force: Push (Concentric contraction of the target muscle when movement is away from center of body).
  • Utility: Auxiliary (An optional exercise that may supplement a basic exercise. Auxiliary exercises may place greater relative intensity on a specific muscle or a head of a muscle).

Target Muscles Used for Smith Machine Lunge

  • Quadriceps

Synergist Muscles Worked When Performing Smith Machine Lunge 

  • Gluteus Maximus
  • Adductor Magnus
  • Soleus

Stabilizers Worked When Performing Smith Machine Lunge

  • Erictor Spinae
  • Tibialis Anterior
  • Gluteus Medius
  • Gluteus Minimus

Dynamic Stabilizers Worked When Performing Smith Machine Lunge

  • Gastrocnemius
  • Hamstrings

Antagonist Stabilizers Worked When Performing Smith Machine Lunge 

  • None

Correct Exercise Procedure Use for Smith Machine Lunge

  • Position body under bar and place bar on upper back (trapezius).
  • Stand with one leg forward, with front knee directly over ankle. Knees slightly bent with feet hip width apart. Keep back heel up, toes pointed forward and with good body alignment (abs tight, chest up, back straight).
  • With a controlled motion, lower body by bending knee and hip. Keep back straight and maintain good body alignment.
  • Keep forward foot flat on the floor, continue lowering body until just before back knee touches the ground.
  • While Maintaining controlled motion push your weight through front heel as you rise and return to starting position.
  • Continue until desired reps have been reached, then switch legs and repeat (you can also alternate legs between reps).

Tips for Performing Smith Machine Lunge

By using the tips mention below will help for the muscle(s) full development by incorporating more muscle fibers per rep, thus increasing the muscle's size and strength.

  • Practice proper form and control. Starting with this exercise, or any exercise you have not performed before, use light weight until you have the full range of movement with proper extension and contraction completed. This is important for the muscles full development.
  • Put pad or towel on bar. Use a pad or a rolled up towel around bar. This will protect your lower neck muscles (traps).
  • Push weight through front heel. Keep front foot flat on floor throughout the movement and push your weight through front heel as you rise to the starting position.
  • Keep knees in line with toes. Keep your knees in line with toes and avoid turning knees in or out to prevent injuries.
  • Avoid locking out knee. Do not lock out knee when in starting position, allowing muscles to relax before next repetition.
  • Do not compromise form. Do not compromise your form, keep back straight, chest up and abs tight and maintain good body alignment.
  • Do not allow knee go beyond toe. Make sure your front leg is positioned to where your knee is over the ankle throughout the movement. Do not allow knee to move forward beyond toe to avoid possible knee injury and/or loss of balance.

Frequent Mistakes Made While Performing Smith Machine Lunge 

Performing the exercise improperly, often referred to as cheating, will not allow for the muscle and muscle fibers to be use their fullest potential, resulting in not achieving desired development of the muscle.

  • Movement performed too fast. If movement is performed too fast, it will not allow full usage of all muscle fibers.
  • Using too much weight. A mistake for many lifters is trying to lift too much weight. Make sure to use correct weight that will allow you to use proper form and full range of motion.
  • Twisting upper body and jerky motion. Avoid twisting your upper body and using jerky motions to lift the weight. Doing this will definitely put you at risk for an injury.
  • Locking the knee. Locking the knee will allow the quad to rest and possibly cause knee strain.
  • Limiting the range of motion. Many lifters do not go all the way down or do not squeeze at the top of the movement. If full range of motion is not use, less muscle fiber will be worked and less growth will occur.
  • Allowing knee to surpass the toe. By allowing the knee to move forward beyond the toe can put you at risk for knee strain, knee injury, ankle injury and/or loss of balance.

Variations of Exercise or Equipment Use for Smith Machine Lunge

A variation of a specific exercise is intended to work different subgroups of muscles, or work the same muscles in slightly different ways. There are many exercise variations to this strength exercise. Some of the variations use for the Smith Machine Lunge:

  • Smith Machine Rear Lunge. Similar to the lunge, except using a rear lunging movement with same muscles and stabilizers use.
  • Smith Machine Split Squat. This has an auxiliary utility allowing you to concentrate on one quadriceps at a time similar to lunges. You can either alternate legs during a set or one leg at a time then switching. Flexible hip flexors are important in keeping the torso upright during the movement.
  • Smith Machine Squat. Smith machine squat also targets the quads with basic utility and most of the same stabilizers, but with added Antagonist Stabilizers Rectus Abdominals and Obliques.
  • Barbell Lunge. Barbell lunge is same as Smith Machine Lunge with same synergist and stabilizers being use. The difference with barbell lunge, additional care is needed with balance by using stabilizing muscles.
  • Dumbbell Lunge. Same as the barbell lunge except with the additional stabilizers Levator Scapulse ,Trapezius Upper and Lower.

Other Exercises to Compliment Smith Machine Lunge 

  • Smith Good-Morning. This is an isolated movement for developing the hamstrings which will aid when performing lunge exercises.
  • Smith Straight Leg Dead Lift. This is another hamstring exercise with additional stabilizers that will aid in performing lunges.
  • Sled Seated Leg Press. Is great for developing the Gluteus Maximus with quadriceps use as synergists and hamstrings as stabilizers. This exercise is great for strengthening the gluts for helping with lunge exercises.
  • Hyperextensions. Hyperextensions will strengthen the lower back which is use when performing lunge exercises.

Bottom Line

Smith Machine lunges are an excellent choice for quadriceps also glutes and hamstrings. With using slightly longer lunge will allow more emphasis be directed to the Gluteus Maximus. Smith Machine lunge can be a great addition to your workout routine. With the suspended barbell, that moves on steel runners with safety pegs, makes the Smith Machine a great choice for those who want to lift heavy but do not have any spotters handy. 

About the Author  

Lynn Glenn
Lynn Glenn
Lynn Glenn is a 61 year old natural athlete who started training at the ripe young age of 48. Lynn Glenn is also an avid weightlifter who enjoys writing about hot topics in the areas of health, and fitness and developing further knowledge in the areas of disease prevention, nutritionanti aging and personal training. Lynn Glenn lives and trains in Southern California, and serves as a tremendous inspiration for many "mature" weightlifters in the gym that are trying to look better, feel better, and beat father time!  To contact Lynn, visit Lynn at


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