Ah, the Smith Machine. The butt of any joke among serious lifters. They’ll say things like “it’s cheating because you’re not using your stabilizers.” I don’t disagree on most of what they’re saying. Hands down, I prefer barbell bench pressing and back squatting over using the Smith Machine for these main reasons:
- The Smith Machine only moves in the Frontal Plane and (in my opinion) doesn’t allow the freedom of movement for you to sit back on your squat and naturally lean forward. I feel very constricted and have never liked Smith squats. The other thing I don’t like is that since the bar is anchored to a sliding track, you’re not getting the full benefits of the barbell squat such as balance and proprioception (the sense of your body’s positioning in space).
- Smith benching to me is even more annoying as you spend 10-minutes just getting the freaking bench lined up to the bar! Let alone the fact that the bar only weighs 15-pounds so you have to account for the difference (most olympic bars weight approximately 45). If your gym has a power rack, you can simply place the bench in it and bring the safety bars down to the bottom-out portion (the point where the bar is touching your chest) so that if you fail you won’t get crushed.
Now, let’s talk about why I love the Smith Machine. There are two exercises that almost all of my Clients use this apparatus for.
- Pushups: Most Clients that start training with me don’t have a ton of upper body strength and that’s okay! I’ve said before that I don’t care about exercises, I focus more on movements. Most people that are getting started don’t have the strength to perform push ups from the floor with full range of motion. This is where the Smith Machine works great! Simply set the bar somewhere above the floor (I start most Clients at about waist height or slightly lower) and the Client should be able to perform the movement with a full range of motion. Gradually lower the bar setting every week or two and the Client will be pushing from the floor in no time!
- Inverted Rows: This is hands-down my favorite use of the machine. Pull-ups are incredibly difficult for most people starting out but with training and this is an excellent body weight upper body exercise. You use the same method that you did with pushups, setting the bar to about waist height. However, in this exercise you’re pulling yourself up. The key is to keep your body rigid and touch your chest to the bar. You’ll have to make adjustments depending on your body dimensions (my taller Clients need the bar to be one or two notches higher than the rest) but this is a great tool as most gyms don’t just have suspension straps laying around. Do not thrust your hips up violently to complete the rep, simply raise the bar until you’re able to perform it with a full range of motion.
Thank you all so much for reading the blog, please let me know what you’d like to see featured in the future!
To your lifelong health and success,