Smith Machine Split Squat

The split squat is a versatile exercise for hitting various muscles in your legs. But it can also be tricky to master the balance at first.

With the Smith machine split squat, the guides help you balance, so it’s easy for beginners to learn. And it has benefits for advanced lifters too.

This article will show you how to position your feet on the Smith machine split squat to target your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

Smith Machine Split Squat

What Are Split Squats?

The split squat is a compound lower body exercise where you put one leg forward and one leg back. This staggered stance requires more balance and works each leg independently.

There are multiple ways to perform the split squat using body weight or resistance, including the smith machine. Also, you can vary your foot position to target different muscles in your legs.

Smith Machine Split Squat Muscles Worked

Like any squat movement, the Smith machine split squat works many of the muscles in your lower body. That includes the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

But unlike other squat exercises, you can target more quads or glutes/hamstrings depending on where you place your front foot.

Smith Machine Split Squat Muscles Worked

Smith Machine Split Squat Foot Placement

You can think about foot placement in terms of the length of your step or stride. In this section, I explain how your stride length changes the mechanics of your leg and the muscle used.

Medium Stride

A medium stride is where you place your heel just in front of the bar. In this position, your knee should be about even with your toes at the bottom of the split squat.

With this foot placement, you get a good balance of muscle recruitment on the front and back of your legs. So you can hit the quads along with the glutes and hamstrings.

Smith Machine Split Squat Medium Step

Short Stride

A short stride is where your heel is slightly behind the bar. Moving your foot back puts your knee in front of your toes when you squat down.

With this foot placement, your knee bends more. And that results in greater quad activation.

Smith Machine Split Squat Short Step

Long Stride

Lastly, a long stride is where your heel is a few inches in front of the bar. So your knee is behind your toes at the bottom of the squat.

Now your knee bends less, which decreases knee extension and increases hip extension. Therefore, you end up using more glute and hamstring.

Smith Machine Split Squat Long Step

Smith Machine Split Squat Benefits & Limitations

As you can see, the Smith machine split squat allows for a great deal of customization for targeting specific muscles.

In addition, the fact that the Smith machine bar travels on rails means it’s easier to balance than other split squat variations.

However, this exercise is not without limitations. For one, it doesn’t hold a candle to barbell squats for maximizing strength and muscle gains.


  • Can change foot placement to target specific leg muscles
  • Fixed bar path makes it easier to balance
  • Works each leg independently


  • Not the best mass building exercise

How To Do A Smith Machine Split Squat

I will show you how to do the Smith machine split squat with your back foot elevated. By raising your back foot, you increase the range of motion and make the exercise more challenging.

Before you begin, place a box, step, or bench slightly behind the Smith machine. Also, adjust the Smith machine bar, and safety stops to the appropriate height.

Now step under the bar and place the heel of your front foot relative to the bar based on which muscles you’re targeting. Then place the toes of your back foot on the platform.

From this starting position, squat down by bending your front knee. Next, lower your hips until your back knee grazes the floor (or as low as you can get).

Extend your front leg by squeezing your quads, hamstrings, and glutes to stand back up to the starting position. Perform the desired number of reps before switching legs.

To recap, here are the step-by-step directions:

  1. Set the Smith machine bar and safety stops to the appropriate height
  2. Place the heel of your front foot under the bar
  3. Put the toes of your back foot on a box, step, or bench
  4. Squat down by bending your front leg
  5. Lower your hips until your back knee grazes the floor
  6. Extend your front leg to stand back up
  7. Perform the desired number of reps, then switch legs

Smith Machine Split Squat Video

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe or click on the button below!


Smith Machine Split Squat Form

With any split leg squat variation, it’s essential to use proper form. Correct execution allows you to target the right muscles and avoid straining joints and tendons.

First, make sure you keep your upper body still throughout the movement. In other words, don’t bend your back or move your arms excessively.

Smith Machine Split Squat Form

Also, try to lower the weight in a controlled manner. This way, you won’t bang your knee on the ground at the bottom.

Finally, maintain an athletic body position. That means your feet are not wider than your shoulders, and your stride is not too short or long.

Custom Nutrition & Workout Plan

Get a personalized meal plan built to fit your body and lifestyle. Including a custom workout routine designed around your fitness goals.

With your custom plan, you will finally be able to burn fat, build muscle, and transform your body. All this for just $19.99!

Click here to choose your plan.

Smith Machine Split Squat Alternatives

Keep in mind that the Smith machine split squat is only one way to perform this exercise. You can also do a split squat using a free-weight bar or dumbbells.

In addition, there are other single-leg squat movements that you can use as an alternative to split squats.

Barbell Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is the variation where you elevate your rear foot. While you can do this exercise with bodyweight, you can also place a barbell across your shoulders to add resistance.

Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

Another way to add resistance to the Bulgarian split squat is by holding a dumbbell or dumbbells. In the video below, I show you how to do this split squat variation while holding a dumbbell in each hand.

Walking Lunges

A walking lunge is essentially a split squat where you take steps for each rep instead of standing in one spot.

The advantage is that this creates a more dynamic and natural movement pattern. But the downside is that you need plenty of space to create a walking path.

Box Step Up

The box step up is like a split squat, except you elevate your front foot box or bench. Then push with your front leg to raise your body until your leg is straight.

You can perform this exercise with one leg at a time or alternate legs with each rep. And you can add resistance the same way you would for a split squat.

7 Best Smith Machine Squat Variations

Smith machine split squats are an excellent exercise for building your legs while developing balance and coordination. But there are so many other squat variations you can do on the Smith machine.

You can try the Smith machine hack squat or the Smith machine front squat for targeting your quads. And for overall lower body growth, I recommend the Smith machine back squat.

Click the image or button below to see more Smith machine squat variations.

Smith Machine Squat
More Smith Machine Squats

With this information, you’re well on your way to building a better body. And if you found this article useful, I hope you’ll check out some of my other informative content below!

Simple 3 Minute Proats Recipe

Protein oatmeal (aka proats) makes your breakfast better. This simple proats recipe gives you a complete meal with loads of flavor.

Share with your community and get the conversation started!

Go to Top