The squat has, rightly or wrongly, assumed the status of king of weight training exercises for anyone wanting to get bigger and stronger. While the old-fashioned barbell squat remains a popular option, there are a large number of squat machines that have come onto the market to provide further options. In this article, I’ll provide an overview of the squat machine types that are on the market right now.

Smith Machine

Best Smith Machines

The Smith Machine has a barbell that is fixed between moveable rails that allow it to move vertically on a fixed track. On the uprights that support the bar are a series of slots that you can offload the bar onto throughout any part of the range of motion of the exercise, you are doing. This acts as a self spotter, allowing you to rack the bar without the aid of a training partner if you cannot complete the movement.

The Smith Machine is mainly used for squats but can also perform any exercise that involves moving a barbell in a straight vertical line.

Hack Squat Machine

A hack squat machine consists of a large steel frame that is angled at around 45 degrees and has an angled footplate. The back of the frame slides up and down on the frame and is plate-loaded. There are pads on the frame for you to position your shoulders under.

To use the hack squat machine, you get under the pads on the frame and place your feet on the footplates. The positioning of your feet on the footplates will affect the area of the quads, glutes, and hamstrings that are targeted. You then release the catches and descend into a squat. 

The hack squat is a variation of the original barbell hack squat, made famous by old-time bodybuilder George Hackenschnmidt. His version involved doing a squat with the barbell held behind your back.

Leg Press


The leg press is an inverted version of the squat. Instead of loading weight on your back and bringing your butt to the floor, the leg press keeps your upper body stationary and moves your legs back and forth. There are a number of variations to the leg press. The most popular is the 45-degree leg press where the frame of the machine is angled at 45 degrees. You sit in the machine with your head lower than your feet, load the appropriate weight and push up at a 45-degree angle. 

Other variations are the vertical leg press on which you are pushing the weight directly up into the air. Another is the horizontal leg press where you press directly out. There is also a variety of pin-loaded weight stack leg press machines.

Sissy Squat Machine

The Sissy Squat Machine consists of a steel frame that features ankle pads to lock your feet in place along with footplates. There is also a pad to rest your hamstrings against. To use this machine, you get in position, standing on the footplates and locking your ankles in place. Placing your hands at chest level, you then lean back and descend into a squat. This is an excellent bodyweight exercise to isolate the quadriceps. You can add weight by holding a dumbbell or weight plate in your hands.

Also Read:   The Best Squat Racks for a Home Gym

Zane Leg Blaster

The Zane Leg Blaster is a squat variation that was developed by legendary bodybuilder Frank Zane. It has a padded harness that fits over the shoulders and rib cage. Plates are loaded at ribcage level. There are many benefits to performing squats on this device, as explained by Frank Zane himself …

It is engineered to hug your ribcage when you squat with your upper body in an erect position, making it unnecessary to use a lot of weights to get results. You can do any kind of squat simply by changing your foot position. The side weight-bearing arms of the harness angle downward giving you a lower center of gravity making it easier on the knees and lower back. You’ll find it safer and more enjoyable to build, shape, and define your legs.

Pendulum Squat Machine

The Pendulum Squat Machine is a plate-loaded machine that provides a pendulum-style counterweight designed to make your squats more effective. They allow for a deeper squat and relieve pressure on the spine.

It features a long pendulum arm with shoulder pads on the end of it that you position yourself under. Your feet are positioned on the adjustable footplates. Because of the length of the lever arm, you do not need as much weight on this machine as you would on a free-weight back squat. 

Belt Squat

The Belt Squat consists of a low-profile plate-loaded steel frame that has a belt attachment that you put around your waist. A pulley allows for weight movement. When you attach the belt, your hips are naturally drawn forward slightly. Your body will then counterbalance, providing a greater degree of glute activation than you would get on other squat variations. This is another squat machine that takes all of the compressive pressure off your spine. 

Should You Use A Squat Machine?

Now that we’ve considered the seven most popular squat machine types on the market, let’s consider whether you should actually be using them. The old-fashioned barbell squat has some inherent problems that these machines promise to overcome.

The biggest is the compressive pressure that loading a heavyweight on your back puts on the spine. Another is the safety issue – if you don’t have a spotter or power rack, you can get into trouble on the free weight squat. Then there is the issue of proper form. Many people have difficulty with their form on the barbell squat. 

Using a squat machine will allow you to get an effective lower body workout without putting pressure on the spine. It will also provide a safer squatting environment and promote a better exercise form. The best squat machine to provide these benefits is the Belt Squat Machine.

This article was last updated on October 7, 2021 .

Written by
Steve Theunissen

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