Recently, weight and resistance training has been gaining popularity. The goal of this training is to increase strength, tone, mass, and/or endurance of the muscles through constant exercising against an external resistance which can include dumbbells, own body weight, gym equipment, and other objects that cause the muscle to contract. Resistance training can significantly change morphologic appearance of muscles, improve motor functions, and develop power dimensions. One can either do free weights or exercise machines for these two are the most commonly used type of resistance training.
Free weight, also called free form exercise, allows one to exercise and perform actions imitating to those in real life. This includes using one’s own body weight to do resistance training. On the other hand, exercises on the machines, also known as fixed form exercises, are performed under a more controlled setting and require less muscular coordination and postural control and hence there is less risk for injury.
One of the most common equipment being utilized for fixed form exercises is the Smith Machine. The Smith Machine, invented by Jack Lalanne in the 1950s, is a weight equipment containing a barbell fixed between steel rails. Users of this machine can perform a wide array of exercises such as squats, bench press, rows, seated overhead press, and drag curl. Only vertical movements were allowed by a traditional smith machine. However, with recent developments in sports science, the new models of the Smith Machine can allow movements in forwards and backward directions. The weight present at the base of the machine counterbalances the heavy weights users lift in order to have more body control and stabilized muscles.
Now we’ll tell you more about the smith machine and how it can actually help you in your resistance training. Here’s your guide in knowing more about the Smith Machine and all the things you can do with it.
What is the purpose of the Smith Machine?
The Smith Machine is a weight equipment that helps in resistance training especially to those casual or inexperienced strength trainees who do not know how to safely perform free weight exercises involving heavy weights. So if you are one of them, this machine will surely be of benefit to you because you can perform various exercises with a more stable body movement and a better posture, hence, making the most out of every exercise routine.
Now that you have been introduced to the Smith Machine, it is better to know the advantages and disadvantages of using such a machine when doing resistance training and fixed form exercises.
Benefits of using the Smith Machine
Generally, according to the study of Arandjelovic (2012), the reason to prefer fixed form exercise using the Smith Machine rather doing a free form exercise are as follows: (1) exercises on the Smith Machine usually do not need developed skilled in comparison to the same exercises performed with a free weight exercise, thus, this is good for beginners; (2) it allows the weight trainers to safely engage supramaximal loads in a limited range of motion by considerably decreasing the balancing demands; and (3) by motion constrained to a single degree of freedom, a more controlled and safer environment for resisted exercise may be offered. As a general input, machines like the Smith Machine appear to lower risk of injury than free weights and therefore are preferable if safety is taken into account. Specifically here are the advantages of the Smith Machine:
- Balances the weight for you
Undeniably this is one of the greatest strengths and advantages of the Smith Machine. If you do free weight exercises for example using dumbbells and barbells, a part of the energy used by your body is put into incorporating stabilizers in order to balance the weight along with your own body in every repetition of the training. The Smith Machines overcomes this energy lost. Hence, you can focus your attention on your weight for pressing and pulling in order to make the most out of the exercise. In exchange, major exercises can be done in its full capacity meaning you get the full benefits of the exercise you are performing.
- Increases muscle growth and increases strength
If you are under resistance training, any gym tool or home equipment that can help you achieve your fitness goal should be learned and used. There’s no other tool out there like the Smith Machine that gives you a wide selection of options to increase your muscle growth and improve strength.
The Smith Machine can be considered as a tool-in-one. It affords you to do partial reps allowing you to work through a short range of motion like using the power rack; It also allows you to press or pull against an immovable load through different angles offered by the machine imitating an angle-specific isometric training; It also allows you to do reverse movements in which you can start the exercise at the bottom of the rep removing the negative energy augmented during the eccentric component of the repetition. Because the Smith Machine is significantly safer to conduct than free form exercise, you can certainly choose from a wide range of different techniques that will be beneficial for your muscle gain.
- Improves power training
Power training allows athletes to develop power and speed-strength through accelerating a load as fast as possible with no deceleration phase. This type of training is usually lost and hard to achieve with a standard barbell. However, using the Smith Machine, you can incorporate barbell power training moves safely and effectively. It allows you to power all the way through the full range of motion while making sure you can safely let go of the bar at the highest point where you reach full extension. Through this, you engage more energy in each muscle fibers on each and every rep. This, in exchange, translates to a significant increase in muscle size and strength.
- Significantly safer
It has been mentioned all throughout that the Smith Machine increases the safety of each exercise. It provides safety programs that you can adjust during training. Smith Machines have pins that can be adjusted according to your choice of range of motion or you can set barriers to the range of motion itself. It gives users of the Smith Machine a sense of mental confidence and safety because you don’t have to worry about balance or the weight crashing down to your body. In exchange, you can focus more on important things such as having good posture or body stance to perform certain exercises. In this way, you can get the most benefits of each rep of different exercises.
List of Exercises
Now that you know more about the Smith Machine. Here is a list of exercises you can do and choose from when using the Smith Machine:
- Bench Press Throw
Power exercises, as stated above, can increase muscle strength, build muscle mass, and even help body fat loss. It can be done using light weight barbells with fast reps. In doing so, it can trigger the fast-twitch muscle fibers to develop.
These muscle fibers are the ones that grow the biggest, strongest, and fastest. They can also burn calories causing body fat loss. One of the most effective ways of building your upper torso through power exercises is through the Smith Machine-assisted Bench Press Throw.
In order to do a bench press throw in a smith machine, you must place a flat bench in the middle of the equipment. After that, load light weight onto the bar. Next, position yourself on the flat bench making sure that the bar is above your lower chest when you bring it down towards your body. In order to remember it easier, always put the bar below your nipples. Next, grab the bar a bit wider than shoulder width. Once you have your grip set and you are comfortable enough, release the hooks to set the bar free and move it over your chest with arms fully extended but elbows not locked out. You must lower the bar down to your chest and press the bar up as fast and explosively as possible. Catch the bar as it comes back down lowering it again in your chest and repeat once again the process. Once you have mastered the light weights, you can increase your weight and your ep in order to further enhance muscle power and strength.
It is better to do this in a Smith Machine than a regular barbell because the equipment keeps the bar on the same path so that you know exactly where it will be as it comes back to you. This reduces the risk for injury and makes the bench press throw safer.
2. Power Row
It is good to note that in every exercise routine you should always include power exercises in order to build muscles and improve strength. By the progressive development of power through constant exercise, it allows you to lift heavier weights and that aids to place more load on the target muscle for better growth.
As mentioned above, the Smith Machine is a good way to generate and develop power because the bar is set on a guided track, hence you can easily catch the bar on the way down for example in exercise like bench press throws. However, you can also exercise your back extensively through the Smith Machine-assisted Power Row.
In order to do the exercise, you must stand sideways in the smith machine so that your left leg is almost touching the bar. Next, you must bend forward from the hips so that you set your torso approximately 45-degree angle relative to the ground. Next, you must grab the middle of the bar with your left hand. Next, pull the bar up as high as possible using your legs, hips, and back to generate the initial power. Let go of the bar in the top position and then grab it as it begins its descent back to the original position. Repeat this again but now use the right side of your body.
It is suggested to do 2-3 sets of this exercise. In this way, muscles of the back and lats will be warmed-up for the next exercises and it will certainly gain more muscle mass and strength.
The Smith Machine is a good tool to help you improve your squat technique. It looks and feels similar to a traditional squat rack, however the equipment aids and assists in the movement in each squat.
In order to do a Smith Machine Squat, you must adjust the bar of the equipment so that it falls right onto your shoulder height. Next, you must start loading the weight of your choice to the bar. After that, position your hands about shoulder-width apart on the bar and grip it. Next, step in front of the rack while the rest of the bar is placed on your upper back. Next, do an open wide leg stance. After that, unlock the bar. Next, descend as slowly into a squat feeling the weight on your abdomen while keeping your head and spine in a normal position. Once in a squat, hold for one second in that position.After that, with the force on your core, stand back up and squeeze your glutes at the top of your squat. Then repeat steps for a good three sets of 12 reps.
4. Lateral Raise
To build the middle head of the deltoid, a free form exercise such as dumbbells lateral raise can be utilized. This exercise can also significantly improve the width and roundness of your deltoids. However, with the use of the Smith Machine, lateral raise can produce even better results. This is because the equipment shifts the focus of the exercise only to the middle deltoids removing the unnecessary force transmitted to the forearms.
In order to do the Smith Machine-assisted Lateral Raise, you must place light weight on the bar and set it approximately above your waist. After that, you must stand in the middle of the Smith Machine with your left arm touching the bar. Next, you must make your forearm parallel with the bar through bending your arm 90-degrees at the elbow. After that, unlock the bar with your right hand and support the weight with your left forearm. Next, you must maintain the bend at your elbow and raise your arm up to lift the bar to about shoulder height. You must hold this position for a good second and then slowly lower down the bar to your waist. Finish all set in one arm then repeat with the other arm.
5. One-Arm Shrug
In order to build a good set of traps, you must do this exercise. Dumbbell shrugs are a great variation however you can observe great benefit when you do the exercise using the Smith Machine.
To perform the Smith Machine-assisted One-Arm Shrug, you must load the bar with the starting weight of your choice. Stand in the middle of the equipment with your right side facing the bar. Grab the middle portion of the bar right hand and shrug your shoulder as high as possible while maintaining your arm as straight as you can. You must hold this position for a second and you must squeeze your traps muscle hard. After that, lower your arm back to its original position to get a full stretch. After finishing all reps on one side, repeat to the other arm. It is suggested to do 4-6 sets of this exercise.
When doing an exercise routine, abdomen exercises should never be absent. It is one of the most vital things in order to develop a strong core. Hence, you must train your abdominal muscles to increase strength and resistance.
Free form exercises such as using weight plates, dumbbells, or balls are good methods in order to develop our core abdominal muscles. However, these forms of exercise can be limited in such a way that only a small amount of weight can be placed on your abs. Hence, the Smith Machine can help you with that in order to maximize the abdominal workouts.
In order to perform the Smith Machine-assisted Crunches, you must first place a bench in the middle of the equipment. Then, you must lie face up with your knees bent and feet flat on the bench. It must be noted that the bar should line up over your upper abs as you hold the bar at arm’s length above you. Then, you must use your abdominal muscles to instantly lift your torso up as high as you can pushing the bar up as well as you do it. After that, slowly lower your body back down to the bench and repeat again. One can do 6-8 reps for this workout.
There are still a wide range of exercises you can choose from besides this. However, presented here are one of the most commonly used fixed form exercises using the Smith Machine. If you are still a beginner in weight and resistance training, you can begin using the Smith Machine and follow the exercises presented above. In that way, you have somewhere to start and begin your fitness journey.
Different Smith Machines Specification available
Now that you know the benefits and some of the exercises you can do with the Smith Machine. Here are some of the following Smith Machines available in the market that have quality features in them:
- Inspire Fitness Ft2 Smith Machine
This Smith Machine includes a 800 lbs weight capacity for both cage and bench. It also provides a large walk in space for easier side to side movement. It includes 2” x 2” square steel frame construction with two 3 ¼” long chrome lock safety bars and two 23” long chrome dual mounted safety bars. It has 19 adjustable height levels for the safety bars which is compatible with 7’ olympic bars. It also includes multiposition over head grip bars. Its bench has user height up to 6’4” and is composed of a 12 position adjustable backrest and adjustable 2 position front leg. This Smith Machine can be folded with a size of 51” L x 23.5” W x 9” H. You can order this with an additional attachment for J-Hooks, Dip Bars, Weight Plate Holders, and Landmine.
- Marcy Smith Machine With Bench SM-4033
This is a line-bearing Smith Machine which includes a 600 lbs weight capacity. It has a cage dimension of 83.5” L x 67.8” W x 86.2” H. It has a stand alone bench which has a 63” L x 26.4” W x 53.9” H dimension. It has a butterfly press station. It also includes a multi-grip pull-up bar with a preacher curl pad. Its pulley system is composed of a single lower pulley system and dual cross-swivel pulleys. Its accessories are Plate Posts, Lat Bar, Dip Bar, Shiver Bar, Tricep Rope, Ankle Strap, 2 Single Handles, Foot Plate, and Landmine.
- Bowflex Xtreme 2SE
This Smith Machine has a maximum user weight of 300 lbs. Its dimensions are 58” L x 83” W x 49” H. It comes with a vertical bench press. There are 70+ exercises you can do using this Smith Machine. It also has a quick change power rod system.
- Icon Fitness Weider PRO8500
This Smith Machine has a user weight capacity of 300 lbs. It is 84” L x 83” W x 110” deep. It comes with a weight cage with bench, Multi-function pulleys, and 4-post squat rack. It features a multi-grip pull-up and pull-down system. It has an adjustable bench for chest, curls, and leg extensions or curls.
- Deltech Fitness DF4900
This Smith Machine has a user weight capacity of 700 lbs. This is composed of a 11 & 14 Gage steel tubing with durable black and white powder coat paint. It is a Zinc Plated Hardware welded to American Welding Society (AWS) Specifications. Its bar weight is 70 lbs with precision linear roller bearings on the steel bar. It features chrome plated bar hook rods and weight holders with 6” spacing between lockouts. It also comes with rear support hold plates when not in use. Available exercises can be squats, calf raises, shoulder shrug, and chin-ups.
Setting Up Your Own Smith Machine
- Space Required