Ask any weightlifter what the one exercise he or she always includes in a workout would be, and you're likely to hear squats. These exercises are often best done with the help of a squat machine that helps facilitate proper movement and supports the weight of the barbell should the lifter lose control of it. Choosing the best squat machine starts with determining your fitness goals, space limitations in the home or workout space, and budget. Several types of machines exist, from Hack squat machines to Smith machines, as well as front squatters.
Front squat machine models are useful for working the thigh muscles as well as the calf muscles. These machines will feature padded arms that rest on each shoulder, as well as handles for the lifter to grasp. He or she will stand facing the machine and start in the squatting position. With the weight already selected, the lifter will press upward on the padded arms, paying close attention to keeping the back straight. This machine is fairly compact and easy to use as compared to other squatting machines, and it is versatile because more than one muscle group can benefit from the machine.
A Hack squat machine, sometimes known as a sled machine, works quite differently from a front squat machine and mostly works the thigh muscles. This machine will feature a moving sled that slides along a diagonal track. The user will rest his or her body weight against this sled and push upward on padded arms, thereby performing the squatting motion. The hack squat machine is advantageous because the user does not have to focus as intently on balance, since the machine will support the body's weight. Keeping the spine straight and engaged can be more difficult, however. It is also much easier to go too deep into the squat, potentially leading to damage to the back and legs.
The Smith squat machine is perhaps the simplest of all the machines, though it should only be used by advanced users. This machine features a vertical frame in which the barbell bar can be stabilized. The user will grasp the bar and perform a normal squat, and the frame will stabilize the bar throughout the motion and lock in place should the lifter lose control of the weight. This machine is probably not the best choice as compared to other units because the bar moves straight up and down; this does not accommodate natural movements of the body and can therefore lead to injury or excess strain.