By: Brandon LaRue CSCS “Coach Street”
Christmas comes every month now that the NSCA’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research is distributed monthly! It’s moments like this where I become frustrated with other fitness professionals who declare that they lack the time to read Evidence Based Research (EBR) and implement EBP into their services. This is exciting stuff; sometimes I wish I wasn’t so passionate about this field, because then I would get to bed at a decent time!I’m not even a quarter of the way through reading December’s issue, but I’m already planning a way to implement a new strategy to our personal training services. This study is not “press-stopping” news in my mind; however, it should lie to rest a piece of equipment that I’ve always found to be a complete waste of space. “Death of the Smith Machine” is what I’ll call it, even though that’s stealing a page out of Michael Boyle’s repertoire. In a recent study, Schwanbeck, Chilibeck, and Binsted (2009) compared muscle activation of the tibialis anterior, gastocnemius, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, biceps femoris, lumbar erector spinae, and rectus abdominus during the free weight squat and the smith machine squat. Without reading this study, I think most of us could draw the conclusion that the free squat is the superior exercise in the activation of these muscles; however, it’s only opinion until you actually read and digest the information. The good news is that we were correct. The free weight squat does activate most of the musculature more-so than its ugly cousin the smith machine squat. In fact, there was a 43% higher overall muscle activation in the free weight squat than the smith machine squat. Areas of the body that were stimulated significantly statistically (say that three times fast) were the knee extensors, knee flexors, and the ankle plantar flexors. Furthermore, statistically insignificant but significant to mention is that there was higher trunk activation in the free weight squat as well, although it was deemed insignificant. (Shane Schwanbeck, December 2009)A couple things should be mentioned regarding this study. Only 6 people (3 females, and 3 males) were used in this study, so there is definitely a lack in the power of numbers, which technically makes this study less valuable to the practitioner. Although I believe if this study were to be replicated a hundred more times to increase the number of participants, this study’s results would hold true. Probably the most important part of this post is to demonstrate that EBP is occurring as I write this. Its implementation already happened in my mind; how difficult was that? Although I don’t think I’ve ever used the smith machine for much of anything other than to have clients use the bar for balance or to do pushups to an incline position, now I know the reasons behind why I won’t use the smith machine for squats with our clients.
Shane Schwanbeck, P. D. (December 2009). A Comparison of FRee Weight Squat to Smith Machine Squat Using Electormyography. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 2588-2591.