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5 Facts That Are Wrong About The Smith Machine

The smith machine is a common piece of fitness equipment in commercial and home gyms. If you have seen a barbell system in your commercial gyms where the bar is attached to the steel frame of the equipment, then that’s the smith machine.

Invented by Jack Lalanne in the 1950s, the smith machine allows users to perform a wide array of exercises such as squats, bench press, rows, seated overhead press, and drag curl. The greatest benefit of the equipment is that it allows you to spot you while you exercise because the barbell is attached to the rails. Hence, with that, the smith machine allows you to spot yourself. Moreover, it also has pegs in every couple of inches where you can lock the bar in place. This is beneficial especially when you are squatting or bench pressing by yourself and you get stuck halfway because you can safely exit the machine through locking the bar in where you are. Furthermore, the weight present at the base of the smith machine counterbalances the heavy weights users lift in order to provide them with more body control and body posture.

However, there are also limitations with the smith machine because of having its bar attached. Because most smith machines only allow the bar to travel vertically, you can not move the bar forward or backward. But, it is good to note that there are now available smith machines in the market that have a double rail system which allows users to actually move forward and backward.

Now that the smith machine has been presented to you, there are actually a lot of misconceptions with the usage and purpose of the smith machine. Hence, this article was written in order to help you know those misconceptions so that you can utilize the equipment better for your fitness goals.

1. The Smith Machine Increases Injury

Most people who do not like the smith machine will always tell you that the equipment causes injuries because of muscle imbalance and weakness after prolonged use of the smith machine. However, it must be noted that the smith machine has a unique safety feature that attracts many fitness enthusiasts. Moreover, the smith machine is usually utilized in rehabilitation centers in order to help people build and strengthen their injured muscles. This is also the reason why the equipment is usually seen in elite sporting facilities to aid weakened muscles. Furthermore, the smith machine permits people to work muscle groups with greater stability especially when they are recovering from an injury or when their joint is unstable.

In addition to that, the smith machine is also an amazing equipment that reduces the risk for injuries especially when you are training by yourself because it makes the workout much safer. The smith machine is safer because it has two twin rods which aid in guiding the barbell vertically and improving the posture of users. Furthermore, there are two safety catches on the smith machine that are designed to stop the barbell going lower than needed. Thus, this equipment can be utilized for big and heavy exercises because it has these safety features. So if you are a beginner in fitness exercises, the smith machine helps you boost your confidence because it offers that extra security you need physically and mentally. Moreover, no matter your experience level in performing weights and resistance exercises, and not just for the smith machine, the key in order to avoid injury is making sure that you have the correct body positioning. With the smith machine, because you have the barbell fixed in the frame and will only move in a vertical line, you will automatically compensate for this by correctly positioning your body. It is also good for you because the bar will not drop or pull you in any way. For example when doing bench press, rather than positioning yourself in the unracking position you have to place yourself in a position which will permit you to lower the bar in the same spot as you would do in free weight training. If you do not do that, then your shoulders might go too far back. This will cause you to have a forced internal rotation of your rotator cuffs which can then result in injury. With the smith machine, you are able to position yourself correctly. Hence, making sure you can perform a wide range of exercises safely, even without a spotter.

2. The Smith Machine Does Not Isolate Specific Muscles For Workout

Many will debate that the smith machine does not isolate specific muscles. However, it has already been proven that one of the major benefits when using the smith machine is that it can be utilized in order to effectively isolate a specific group of muscles. The smith machine allows you to significantly change the mechanics of certain movements that you are doing in order to train specific muscles that you want to adapt, since the equipment removes the element of stabilizing a bar. Furthermore, because in the smith machine, the bar is locked into a fixed plane of motion, as a result, you do not need to use nearly as many stabilizer muscles as you would if you were lifting with free weights. So when you are doing a bench press on a smith machine, it is possible to isolate your chest more than you might on a regular free weight bench press. Moreover, when you perform a smith machine squat, if you were to move your feet slightly forward, then you would definitely put more stress onto our quads. In this way, the smith machine squat acts more like that of a hack squat. This will be a great substitute in isolating your quad muscles especially if your gym does not have a hack squat machine. In addition to that, the Smith machine can also provide significant advantages for the classic hip thrust exercise. The classic hip thrust is a glute exercise. This is performed through sitting on the ground with your shoulders propped up against a bench and a barbell on your lap. This is frequently done with a few padding on the bar in order to protect your fun bits. After that, you extend your hips into the air. This may make people feel awkward especially when performing the exercise in the gym with many people. But, this exercise is also considered as one of the best glute workouts. With the smith machine, you can isolate your glutes better for more defined muscle toning and development.

3. The Smith Machine Does Not Train Your Stabilizer Muscles

Another misconception that people have with the smith machine is that it does not train your stabilizer muscles. As many people will say that one of the positive benefits of the smith machine is that it can be utilized in order to isolate certain muscle groups, as stated above. Many would also debate that a point against it is that the smith machine does not effectively make use of your stabilizer muscles. However, all of this depends on your perspective.

For many exercises, especially those that involve compound movements, they utilize more than one primary muscle group. This can include several stabilizer muscles that aid you in stabilizing the weight throughout the exercise. For example, in performing a bench press, you need the stabilizer muscles of your shoulders. If someone who just started to workout performs the bench press, chances are that he or she will be shaking all over the place, because they have not yet developed the appropriate stabilizer muscles. Hence, it is not only important to be able to press the actual amount of weight but also stabilize the weight so that there are better exercise outcomes. This is where most people think that the smith machine can be a problem. They think that if you keep using the smith machine for the majority of your sets, it will only make it more and more difficult for you to stabilize your muscles and to lift properly in the future. This may be partly true. However, it must be noted that you must never perform all exercises such as bench press solely in the smith machine. That is not just logical. You must train your muscles using the smith machine, and then alternate it with a free weight exercise. The smith machines are designed to aid you in targeting a specific muscle group, just like what has been stated above. So if you just finished your free weight bench press, then you must certainly go on the smith machine and perform incline bench press or triceps press which involves medium to narrow grip. Alternating both of these forms of exercises, trains your stabilizer muscles better. It can also aid you in pushing hard either for maximum weight or a certain number of reps. Thus, through alternating with the smith machine, you are able to target specific muscles of the body such as the upper chest that was not overloaded when you did the flat bench press. With that, the smith machine is frequently the best way in order to isolate specific stabilizer muscles.

4. The Smith Machine Allows You To Perform Exercises Excessively

Most people think that because the smith machine stabilizes and balances the weight for them and because it is significantly safe, they can perform exercises excessively. However, as with any exercise, you should understand your body well enough to know when to stop in order to avoid injury and to keep your muscles in shape. Overexercising, even with a smith machine, is bad and never recommended.

Furthermore, if you are a beginner with exercising and you are not familiar with the smith machine, you must make sure that you do not utilize it in the wrong way. For example, you must not overload it with too much weight just because it is safer, at least choose only the weight that enables you to lift 12 repetitions. In addition to that, correct foot placement and positioning should also be observed when performing weight assisted exercises including squats and lunges. Even if the smith machine offers you a significant sense of safety, proper body positioning and skillful technique are still of utmost importance when performing different exercises with the equipment because although the smith machine can assist with your posture and control, wrong placing can still result in an injury and an issue in later life. Likewise, with upper body exercises, if the weight is too heavy, it can cause your muscles and joints to be in a state of unnecessary stress and strain. Hence, it is important to exercise within your means. It is important to stop if you feel any pain and unwanted strain on your body when performing exercises. So if you are unsure or you do not feel confident using the smith machine, speak to a fitness professional. Ask them how to use it properly and do not overuse your muscles.

5. The Smith Machine Does Not Allow Your Muscles To Perform In A Real Range of Motion

It is true that the smith machine does have a fixed range of motion. This is because of the bar that follows a fixed path which is different when someone does a barbell bench press and barbell squat using free weights. However, it is still debatable whether or not this fixed path causes for the muscles not to perform in a real range of motion because it is important to quantify through scientific studies if using the smith machine is any less natural than the movement of a leg press, leg extension, preacher curl, lying leg curl, seated calf raise, other exercises machines available in home and commercial gyms. Therefore, to say that using a smith machine will lead to muscle imbalances and weaknesses due to performing the muscles not in real range of motion, should really be qualified and quantified.

Moreover, like any weight training equipment or exercise, the smith machine when used improperly will lead to muscle imbalances, weaknesses and most significantly, injury. The smith machine is a very valuable tool if people utilize the gym equipment properly, with correct form and in the right order in their workout. More importantly, just like any machine you use for your exercise, you first need to learn how to utilize the smith machine in a way that will suit your own body shape. Simple and easy things like adjusting your grip when benching allows you to shift the load on to different and specific groups of muscles. You can also position yourself under the bar in order for it to be higher or lower on your chest so that it can target also different areas in your upper body exercise. During squats, rather than standing in the same position when doing the exercise, you can step forward and vary your feet width in order to shift the load so that there will be activation of targeted muscle or groups of muscles. You can also do front squats in the smith machine. It is easier to perform the exercise with the equipment. Therefore, all these subtle variations work together in order to improve imbalances and not create them, and hence, in a way, will most likely make you reap the benefits out of the exercise, even with a limited range of motion when using the smith machine. In the end, even with a fixed range of motion or fixed path when performing exercises using the smith machine, the variations you can do with the exercise using the equipment surpass the limitation of a fixed motion and fixed path of the smith machine.

In summary, the smith machine is a valuable common piece of fitness equipment in commercial and home gyms. With its great safety features and self-spotting system, it allows users to perform a wide array of exercises such as squats, bench press, rows, seated overhead press, and drag curl. There are many misconceptions with the smith machine, as presented above. However, once you get to have knowledge on these wrong facts about the smith machine, you get to utilize the equipment better for your weight and resistance training.

References:
1. Caliber Strong. 2018. Should You Use The Smith Machine?. Retrieved from: https://caliberstrong.com/blog/should-you-use-the-smith-machine/. Retrieved on 21 July 2020.
2. Exercise.co.uk. 2016. Are Smith Machines Safe To Use. Retrieved from: https://www.exercise.co.uk/learn/are-smith-machines-safe-to-use/. Retrieved on 21 July 2020.
3. Gibson, B. Fitness19. 2012. Benefits Of Using A Smith Assisted Squat Machine. Retrieved from: https://www.fitness19.com/benefits-of-using-a-smith-assisted-squat-machine/. Retrieved on 21 July 2020.
4. Hawkley, F. Fitplan. 2019. How To Use A Smith Machine. Retrieved from: https://blog.fitplanapp.com/how-to-use-a-smith-machine/. Retrieved on 21 July 2020.
5. SamFitness. 2018. Are Smith Machines Bad?. Retrieved from: https://samsfitness.com.au/sams-blog/are-smith-machines-bad. Retrieved on 21 July 2020.

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