Smith Machine 101

The Smith machine can sometimes get a bad reputation in the fitness world, but if used correctly, it can be a great option for both new gym goers as well as experienced weightlifters. In this blog, I will share the major components that make up the Smith machine, list advantages of using the machine, and demonstrate a few basic exercises you can try to start incorporating the machine into your workout routine.

Basic Components of the Smith Machine:

Sliding Rails– These rails line the outside of the squat rack and act as the track for the barbell to slide up and down when performing exercises. This limits the range of motion of the barbell as it only allows it to be moved vertically.

Safety Bars– These small bars are spaced 8 inches apart along the squat rack and allow the safety hooks to be rotated over them at any point in the exercise to prevent the barbell from falling.

Safety Hooks– These hooks are connected to the barbell and can be rotated over the safety bars.

Stop Pads– These can be set on any of the safety bars and unlike the safety hooks, these pads are permanently locked into place during the exercise.  These pads are typically used for safety in case the weight is dropped but can also be used as a starting point to rest the weight before beginning an exercise.

Benefits of Smith Machine:

Experiment with New Exercises Whether you are new to lifting and trying to learn some basic exercises or an experienced lifter who is trying to incorporate more complex lifts into your routine it can be nerve racking to try a new exercises! With all the safety features built into the Smith machine it allows you to push out of your comfort zone with the peace of mind of knowing you are safe.

Push Yourself– The safety hooks act as a built in spotter so you can challenge yourself with heavier weight. If it becomes too heavy, simply twist the bar so to lock the bar and prevent it from falling!

Recovery from Injury– The limited range of motion and safety features make it a great option for people who may have restrictions and need a more controlled environment to get reintroduced to lifts.

Target Large Muscles– Since the sliding rails keep the bar stable you will activate your larger muscles groups more than using free weights that required auxiliary (smaller) muscles to assist in stabilizing the weight.

New Starting Points – Sick of starting your exercises from the same starting point? Try mixing it by using the Smith machine to start from different points and challenge your muscles in new ways. Ex. Set safety pads so the bar rests 6 inches above your chest and push up from there.

Sample Exercises:

Half Kneeling Shoulder Press

Upright Row

Split Squat Lunge

Chest Press

Glute Bridge/Hip Thrusts


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