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Get to know the Smith Machine

Updated on February 22, 2016

What is the Smith Machine

The Smith Machine is a piece of equipment used in weight training. It consists of a barbell that is fixed within steel rails, allowing only vertical or near-vertical movement. A Smith machine often includes a weight rack in the base to help stabilise it. Some Smith machines have the barbell counterbalanced. The machine can be used for a wide variety of exercises.

How it came along:

In the 1950's an American named Jack LaLanne rigged up a sliding apparatus in his gym. Rudy Smith, a men's bath house manager, commissioned Paul Martin to improve upon Jack's original so that he could place the modified version in the gym he was managing, Vic Tanny's gym in Los Angeles. And by the end of 1950, Rudy Smith had moved up to executive of Tanny's chain of gyms, where the Smith machine was now being manufactured and sold widely.

The drawbacks:

  • Uses a fixed plane of motion with limited types of exercises

  • Some lifters feel the restrictions of the equipment detracts from their desired results
  • Stress is placed on the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints
  • Many lifters believe you build muscle at a slower rate when compared to using free weights for the same exercises

Benefits:

  • There is no need for a spotter, meaning if the weight gets to heavy or you drop your grip the bar will not come down on top of you
  • Many consider this a safer option when lifting heavy weights
  • Vertical lift, means the bar can’t move forward, backward, or side to side-limited to up and down range of motion.
  • Promotes form with stabilization and keeps you in your posture throughout exercise

What can you do on the Smith Machine:

Lunges

Squats

Calf raises

Deadlifts

Bent-over rows

Bench presses*

Triceps extensions*

Shoulder presses*

*The use of a straight bar during these exercises can compromises the range of motion and places the strain on your shoulder joints.

**As with any exercise you should always consult your physician and stretch all major muscle groups afterwards. Stop if you feel pain or discomfort

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