The Smith Machine – Severely Underrated For Gains

What Is The Smith Machine?

The smith machine is a piece of exercise equipment consisting of a barbell affixed to rails on a machine to create a linear path. Most smith machines have vertical rails, allowing for purely vertical movement of the barbell. Fewer smith machines have slanted rails allowing for an angled movement path of the barbell. Rarely will one find a smith machine that has movable rails, allowing for the barbell to move 2-dimensionally in the sagittal plane.

smith machine

The Smith Machine Is Severely Underrated

The smith machine has received a bad rep due to the fact that it is a barbell mounted on rails. Barbells being a traditionally free weight equipment, it possesses the ability to move around 3-dimensionally in all directions. The smith machine takes away this freedom and instead fixes the path to a 2-dimensional plane of movement. However, this actually gives the smith machine key benefits that make it more viable for some barbell exercises than the barbell itself.

Benefits Of The Smith Machine – External Stability

As with any exercise, stability is very important to producing force. Machines tend to be much safer as they provide additional external stability, allowing you to produce more force and reducing possible movement mistakes that cause you to fail repetitions. The smith machine allows many barbell exercises to be taken closer to failure safely, which can be a really important component to making greater muscular gains. Of course, a demerit of the smith machine is the fact that the barbell has a fixed path, making it less authentic to the free weight barbell variation and its exercise benefits. To this point, both free weight barbells and smith machines have their own purposes.

Specific Training – When To Use The Smith Or Not

For barbell sport athletes, the need to train with a barbell is a must. However, for many general population lifters, the smith machine provides a safer, more progressive alternative to barbell lifts. This allows them to reap the benefits of the barbell exercises, such as developing muscular strength and size, without the many risks that come from a barbell, namely it falling onto you or tipping over to one side (and thus falling onto you). However, the fixed paths of the smith machine have received criticism as being “non-functional” as compared to the more functional free weight barbell. Rather than functional, it is more important to look at practical; both of these equipment can be used to produce results. A good coach and lifter will simply use the one that meets their needs best.

Adjust The Exercise To You – Not The Other Way Around

The fixed path of the smith machine is not a dismissable point. While many exercises have relatively straight paths, plenty of exercises operate on curved paths, such as exercises based around the elbow and knee joint. As a result of the smith machine’s fixed path, it is important to make adjustments to your exercise technique in order to allow the smith machine to be operated smoothly. A simple example would be standing too close to the smith machine on squats. Putting the feet too close to the bar can limit your squatting range of motion as deep knee and ankle flexibility will be required. Positioning the feet away from the machine can allow deeper squatting, less discomfort, and more gains.

Exercise Variations On The Smith Machine

Many barbell lifts can be done on the smith machine as a more stable variation. Commonly seen are exercises that operate along what is called the sagittal plane. The sagittal plane refers to the 2-dimensional plane that separates the body into left and right. As the smith machine prevents the affixed barbell from tipping over to either the left or right side, it prevents any lifting mishaps from that happening. The barbell incline chest press, the split squat, and the hip thrust are some popular exercises that take the greatest advantage of the external stability provided by the smith machine.

Incorporating Smith Machine Exercises Into An Exercise Program

The smith machine can be used for a similar purpose as most barbell lifts when available. Few exercises are impractical, such as the Olympic Weightlifting exercises called the snatch and clean and jerk. Choosing the right exercise for the kind of smith machine can be quite important. For example, the Romanian deadlift exercise fits well with the vertical smith machine. However, the inclined smith machine provides a good replacement for the barbell row and barbell incline chest press instead, as it matches the movement path of the exercise well.

Safe Smith Machine Workouts With The Gym Pod!

Many of the Gym Pods located in Singapore and worldwide are equipped with a smith machine in order to provide safe and effective workouts for our clients! If you are unsure of when to use a smith machine for a variation of the barbell exercises, please do consult one of our Gym Pod Academy personal trainers. Our personal trainers can provide you with an exercise program and guidance on how to perform these exercises in person. What are you waiting for, arrange a consultation with our personal trainers now!