In my earlier post of the barbell squat, I recommend beginner to start with Smith Machine. However, for those who have been training with Smith Machine for a while or those who dare to try for a different challenge, go for free weight squat.
While I was with Clark Hatch Subang Sheraton, I always stuck with Smith machine because it did not any power rack there. In this gym, finally, I had the chance to try on free weight squat. I went into the cage and I did my first squat without any weight attached to the straight bar. I kept looking at the front and side mirror to ensure I got form correct. It was not easy when comes to balancing, much tougher than what I expected.
In my next squat session, once I know how to stabilize myself, I put on few pounds at the barbell. Even that, it is just light weight.
The feeling of training with free weight is completely different. It is tough but it is worth it. Let me tell you why?
- Train your stabilizer muscles. Stabilizer muscles are muscles that act to provide stability during a movement in free weight squat. Your leg muscles are main muscles being worked out. Other muscles are working hard too. They are calf muscles, torso muscles and back muscles. It is no longer the machine is helping to support the bar, but your body is the only one that takes the load and many muscles will have to work together for the stabilizing.
- More functional. Smith machine movement is fixed. Some people think that it is not natural to move according to the machine path. Free weight solves this problem.
Yes, no doubt, you are able to take more weights with Smith machine, but not with free weights. That is normal because you do not need to maintain balance with Smith machine and therefore channel the energy for more weights whereas in free weight squat, muscles are working hard not only to stabilize, but also to take on the load.
I am not the type of person saying that you must only do squat using barbell and not with Smith machine. In fact, I still train occasionally using the Smith machine to build mass for the free weight squat using barbell. Also, when you want to go for huge weights without spotter, Smith machine will be safer. Not forget to mention for beginners too. In fact, for beginner, I recommend you to try Wall Squat first, which is much easier.
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