Some have a love-hate relationship with it, but these Smith machine exercises are great for gains.
For those of us who lift, we may look at Smith machine exercises and scoff. The smith machine does have that reputation for not being a “real” lift, or that somehow using this machine is just a cheat. So, we continue to lift that bar freely as we pack on the weight and totally neglect the potential of another group of exercises that can help our gains. While you may have different opinions of what the Smith machine can or cannot do, just hear us out, for we have an argument to be made for why you should use it.
Smith machine exercises are essentially the same exercises that you would perform on the free weights, just with the assistance of this machine. But in reality, you are lifting the same amount of weight, albeit with some of that assistance. Your muscles still get work done and you can target specific groups to start to challenge yourself and your goals. To help change your mind, think of the smith machine as just another training tool. You won’t be competing with it, just boosting your gains so you start to see that desired physique you want most.
Let’s look into some awesome smith machine exercises to boost your workouts to new heights. While many of these will be familiar to you, putting them into the format of the smith machine will allow for some real growth and a chance to propel your progress.
What Is The Smith Machine?
The smith machine is a piece of weight training equipment that is fixed within a steel rail system. This fixed track allows for resistance while still operating in similar fashion to the free weight squat rack. By using this machine, you start to eliminate a lot of the load off your muscles and the movement tends to be more smooth since you are running on a fixed point (1). Some say this is cheating because you can really pack the weight on and potentially lift more than you would with a traditional free weight exercise. Regardless, it is a great training machine to boost your gains.
Pros & Cons of Using It
The smith machine has some pros and cons that are good to consider before jumping right into this. What the smith machine does well is it will help with balance and stability while enhancing safety since it is on a fixed track. You can lift more as well increasing muscle growth for that increased strength and size. Looking at the downsides of the smith machine, the movement of the bar is only up and down on a straight line, sometimes it can be on a slight angle too. However, naturally, your body doesn’t usually lift like this so it can be an unusual movement without targeting your stabilizer muscles, which are vital to grow for better support and functional movements (2). Like anything, the smith machine has its pros and cons but ones worth looking into.
Great Smith Machine Exercises For Boosting Gains
A typically sensitive movement since you are under so much weight, really nailing down form with this is key because you want to stay away from injury and only boost those lower body gains. One tip is to have your feet slightly in front of the bar instead of directly under, like you would do on a traditional free weight back squat with a barbell.
Bent Over Row
The bent over row is an awesome back exercise and to really widen out those lats. With the smith machine, it takes out the need for those stabilizer muscles and is a good one for isolating the lats and other muscle groups associated with the lift. Help tackle your posture needs with this as well.
Great for working one leg at a time, using the smith machine is often better than using barbells or even dumbbells, and can work for better balance so you can focus on working those muscles more without wasting concentration on stability. These can be done flat on the floor or with the back foot elevated.
The bench press on the Smith machine is the perfect exercise for those seeking to build muscle in the chest. It allows for heavier weight and you will be able to pump out a few more reps given its fixed stability.
If you have an adjustable bench, you can perform the exercise in incline, decline, or flat to hit all different angles of the chest. The Smith Machine is a great training tool for that desired muscle growth.
We all know shrugs can work to give your traps some nice strength and size and the Smith machine allows us to focus on range of motion to really target the upper traps. The nice part is you can do shrugs either with the bar in front of you or behind you.
Featured Home Gym To Enhance These Gains
For some, getting to the gym can be a pain. A good quality home gym is something that can work to boost all areas of your training and performance while giving you the luxury of working out from home. So, while the Smith machine is something that can really give you the edge when you are at the gym, this home gym from Force USA is exactly what you need to boost those gains from home.
Force USA G9
Force USA G9 is the ultimate plate loaded all-in-one trainer to capitalize on your home gym goals. Engineered to be tough, sturdy, and versatile, the options are endless to see gains. What makes this home gym so complete is that it combines a power rack, smith machine, cable pulley, chin-up station, dip station, vertical leg press, low row, and core trainer to have all the strength training machines you need in one unit. With built in storage for barbells and other weights, as well as attachments, this can help keep you organized and is a great overall home gym.
Check out our list of the Best Home Gyms for more awesome at-home gyms!
Smith machine exercises and the many benefits associated with them are great for all of your gains. By working on stability and really targeting muscles differently, you get the most out of each of these exercises to boost your gains. Don’t let the stigma of the smith machine hurt any chance at serious gains and work to give yourself the best chance at growth.
*Images courtesy of Envato
- Saeterbakken, Atle H.; van den Tillaar, Roland; Fimland, Marius S. (2011). “A comparison of muscle activity and 1-RM strength of three chest-press exercises with different stability requirements”. (source)
- Schick, Evan E.; Coburn, Jared W.; Brown, Lee E.; Judelson, Daniel A.; et al. (2010). “A Comparison of Muscle Activation Between a Smith Machine and Free Weight Bench Press”. (source)
- Pasiakos, Stefan M.; Lieberman, Harris R.; McLellan, Tom M. (2014). “Effects of protein supplements on muscle damage, soreness and recovery of muscle function and physical performance: a systematic review”. (source)