The Smith Machine: essential bodybuilding tool or a complete waste of time? Check out the hard facts about this versatile gym machine and decide whether it is the right choice for you.
The Smith Machine: The Good, The Bad and Ugly
There is a love-hate relationship between the Smith Machine and bodybuilders. Some bodybuilders love this weight training apparatus and use it often in their strength training routines to help them pack on more muscle.
Others think using the Smith Machine is a waste of time and they would rather not see it in the gym. As you can see, there is a lot of debate about the usefulness of the Smith Machine among bodybuilders. This article will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of using the Smith Machine as a workout tool.
The Smith Machine is a piece of resistance equipment that lets you perform a variety of exercises. With this machine, you can perform exercises like squats, bench presses, shoulder presses, and barbell lunges. The Smith Machine works through a system of rails that has a barbell attached to it.
This machine allows you to perform only vertical movements or movements that are very close to vertical. Unlike free weights which have to be placed on the rack after each set, the Smith Machine has slots that allow you to re-rack the barbell just by rotating your wrist.
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Benefits and Strengths of the Smith Machine
The Smith Machine is a great piece of exercise equipment to use when you want to focus on one muscle group. If you are used to training with free weights and find there is an imbalance in muscle growth, the Smith Machine can help you target a specific muscle so that it will catch up with the rest of the muscle.
If you have overdeveloped calves and hamstrings and want to target your quadricep muscles, you can use the Smith Machine to do squats that will help your quads grow. Just position yourself correctly under the machine, place your feet out in front slightly (instead of keeping them in line with your body) and you’ll have an exercise that focuses solely on your quadriceps.
The Smith Machine, in its ability to target certain groups, also allows you to avoid working body parts that might be recovering from injury. Some people have back issues, but they still want to perform squats.
The Smith Machine will allow someone with a back issue (or another injury) to perform the exercise in a completely vertical position and also comes with the added benefit of providing the exerciser with a built-in spotter.
Another strength of the Smith Machine is that it gives variety to your workouts. Some bodybuilders get into the habit of performing the same exercises ad nauseum.
It’s always free weights and arms on Monday, legs on Tuesday, chest on Wednesday, and the pattern continues like this for years. The Smith Machine can help you break up the pattern of doing the same exercises.
Since your range of motion is limited on the machine, you’ll be forced to work out differently and this may add a bit of spice to your workout routine.
As mentioned before, the Smith Machine comes with a built-in spotter. This can be invaluable on days when you are working out alone or just don’t feel like asking a fellow gym goer to act as a spotter.
When you perform exercises on the Smith Machine, all you have to do is hook the barbell into the slots that are spaced closely together. This will allow you to work out quickly and safely.
Disadvantages and Weaknesses of the Smith Machine
One of the biggest drawbacks to using a Smith Machine is that you are performing movements only on one plane. You only have the ability to move vertically on the Smith Machine.
This way of moving is unnatural. The body can move not only vertically, but it can move horizontally and twist from side to side. This limited movement reduces the amount of muscle that you can work with each exercise
Free weights help you improve your balance and coordination because you are lifting the weight all on your own. In contrast, the Smith Machine is built to balance the weight for you.
This is another weakness of using this machine because you aren’t developing stabilizing muscles that could help you better perform daily activities and help you excel in sports.
If you want to get as strong as you possibly can, relying on the Smith Machine is a bad idea. This comes back to the point of not using stabilizing muscles.
Since the machine is helping you lift the weight, you are able to lift more weight. However, once you switch to free weights you will immediately notice that you have to greatly reduce the weight if you want to perform the exercise correctly.
Although using the Smith Machine can help people with injuries exercises more easily, there is the potential to incur injuries when using the Smith Machine.
It all revolves around the correct positioning of the feet when performing exercises. If your feet are too far behind the bar or too far in front of the bar, you can place undue stress on your knees or your back and that can result in knee and back pain or injury.
Make Your Choice
The Smith Machine has its strengths and weaknesses. It can help you target muscles, add variety to your workout and act as a spotter when you’re training alone.
The weaknesses of using this piece of workout equipment include the ability to perform only limited movements, the potential to maximize strength is limited, and the possibility of injury exists if you perform the exercises incorrectly.
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