Basic and Beginner’s Primer to the Smith Machine
The Smith Machine is a wonderful thing; no seriously, it really is.
It gets a lot of ‘critics’ and detractors that attempt to devalue its actual worth, and this doesn’t even mention the multitudes of ‘gym bros’ who think that anything and everything involved with the Smith Machine is simply ‘girly’.
Well let me be the first to tell you that that is absolutely the wrong attitude to have.
Now only is that simply false as there are plenty of different exercises, routines, and ways to challenge yourself on a Smith Machine, but to simply write off an entire platform from which you can switch up your routine with is absolutely careless and also just close-minded.
Because when your body begins to adapt to the programs you’ve been using, and it starts getting used to the exercises you’ve been running over and over again for a long time now; it’s going to be really helpful that for you to use something like the Smith Machine to force your body to again adapt to something new and keep making those gains now isn’t it?
So with that being said, let’s go to some Smith Machine foundational knowledge.
Smith Machine 101
So, right away, just looking at the Smith Machine you can probably tell that all of your exercises are going to be some variation of whatever you were going to do with just a regular barbell.
Now I suppose this is where the source of all the Smith Machine’s haters are coming from, because they think that it’s just an easier version of barbell exercises.
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That’s not true, not at all!
The usual line that “there’s nothing you can do on a Smith Machine that you can’t do with a regular barbell” is simply not telling you the whole truth.
So let’s start with:
- The fact that the Smith Machine balances and stabilizes the weight for you is actually probably its number one benefit! Look when you do ‘normal’ free weight routines and exercises such as Squat, Dumbbell Bench, and Dumbbell Military Press you waste a lot of energy and tire yourself out a lot because of the fact that your body must divert a lot of its focus to the small stabilizer muscles to prevent you from falling over and what not. This is not very efficient for making gains. It’s actually the exact opposite of that! And the reason why is because if your body is focused on not tipping over then it can’t focus completely on utilizing the big muscles that you want to work out on when you exercise. The Squat would be the perfect example of this actually. When you squat a lot of the work is done by the calves and the Tibialis Anterior muscle in making sure that you don’t fall to one side or the other, and the same goes for your abs too. They need to tighten and maintain tension in order to prevent your upper body from ‘rolling over’ to one direction or another. Now if you imagine that the body didn’t have to worry about those things, but instead was able to focus on just the big muscles that are needed to perform the motion then you would realize that now those same muscles get an even ‘harder strain’ put on them by the same movement!
- Another huge benefit with the Smith Machine that you absolutely could not replicate with traditional barbells and dumbbells would be ‘Ballistic’ training. What is Ballistic training you say? Easy, this type of training is simply the idea that you continuously accelerate your movement throughout the entire positive portion of the rep. This doesn’t sound insignificant until you realize that this isn’t possible at all with ‘normal’ free weights, because with normal free weights you must slow down and stop at the top of the motion before going into the negative part of the rep. But a Smith Machine does not have that limitation. A Smith Machine allows you to push as hard as you can throughout the whole thing and then slightly let go of your grip at the very top of the movement. See with a ‘normal’ free weight exercise you can really only accelerate for the first ⅓ of the motion or so. After that you are actually decelerating until you get to the top or the end position. At which point you would naturally get right into the negative part. So, in essence, free weights are almost like ⅓ of the ‘challenge’ of a Smith Machine…note the sarcasm here though guys.
Anyway, I just wanted to bring your attention to those two points right here because they strongly disprove the sentiments of anyone who is disregarding the massive potential benefits of incorporating the Smith Machine into your arsenal of equipment to help make those gains.
But, as always, what would any article about gym equipment be without the incorporation of some exercise guides?
Well it’d be an article that didn’t actually have anything of pragmatic value then.
Smith Machine Exercises
The following is just sort of a quick rundown on some of the exercises that you can use the Smith Machine for in ways that you definitely would not be able to replicate nearly as well with free weights…if you could replicate them at all with free weights even that is.
- Reverse Grip Bench Press – Start as you normally would for a ‘normal’ bench press…by lying flat on a flat bench. Position yourself so that the bar is roughly mid chest or so. Vary it to your desire. Grab the bar but do so with an ‘upside down’ grip wherein your palms are facing in the direction towards your face/head and not away from it. Now proceed to lift/push the weight as you normally would with a ‘normal’ bench.
- Drag Curl – Stand upright and with a straight spine and proper posture inside of a Smith machine. Grab the bar as you normally would with an underhand grip. The same grip that you normally would use for a ‘normal’ Bicep curl. Now in an upward pulling motion ‘drag’ the bar vertically from its starting position around your upper thighs to as high up on your torso as possible. Be sure to keep your elbows behind you at all times and not by your sides. Once you have gone as high up as you can go, slowly and in a controlled manner bring the weight back down. That is now one rep. Perform as many reps as desired.
OK and there you have it!
Two exercises that are either not possible with free weights or simply much better off being done in a Smith Machine.
Now just remember that if you hear someone saying that the Smith machine is not all that great to point them in the direction of this article.
Good luck and have fun out there in the gym!