Smith Machines

Smith machines – love them or hate them, they’re here to stay!

Smith machines would have to be the most divisive piece of gym equipment – you either love them or hate them! In essence, this weight machine is similar to a power rack or squat rack because it has uprights and you are lifting weights on a bar. The machine mirrors the movement when doing similar exercises with free weights.

The big difference is that the lifting bar is fixed, and it runs up and down on the guide rails. The Smith machine offers protection and provides a safe alternative to trainers who don’t have a spotter.

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Is it more dangerous than lifting free weights?

The Smith machine haters will tell you that the fixed plane of movement not only limits your muscle growth but also leads to injury. They claim that you’re not actually lifting a weight in the traditional sense – you’re simply moving it along a guided plane of movement. In fact, one of the injury claims come from the fact that you are moving the bar along a fixed and unnatural plane.

The most common argument stems from the fact that when you’re lifting weights in a cage or a rack, some effort is required in stabilising the barbell.

It is argued that when you are using a Smith machine, you are not stimulating as many muscle fibres as you would in free weights because there’s no need for you to stabilise the weight. There are studies that document this, but I have been in the game long enough to realise that for every study that supports one theory, there will be others that say it is not true.

Make up your mind about the benefits…

I often wonder why these theories are applied only to Smith machines and not to other types of fixed plane machines, such as a leg press. In all my years of selling fitness equipment, I have never heard of someone saying their injuries were caused by a Smith machine. Their injuries nearly always stem from using too much weight and/or incorrect form, often with barbells or dumbbells – the very equipment so-called experts say are the safest.

Many reputable trainers who swear by the Smith machine are often seen in the gyms of elite sporting organisations, which speak volumes about the performance of these machines. It’s true I wasn’t a fan of Smith machines while I was training in commercial gyms many years ago, but I had little experience with them back then. After seeing others train on these machines, and experiencing them firsthand over the last 10 years, I think they’re brilliant. They allow you to isolate your muscle groups better and perform exercises or variations that you can’t perform with a barbell.

Feel safe and gain confidence using a quality Smith machine from Sam’s Fitness

If you cannot make up your mind about the effectiveness of a Smith machine, I have great news for you. All the Smith machines we have for sale offer you the option of free weight training with a barbell so you can get the best of both worlds!

The Smith machines we sell have a secondary safety mechanism, which acts as a stopper of the lifting bar. I strongly recommend that you utilise this mechanism. If you tear a muscle or suffer from another serious injury, you may not be in a position or condition to actually lock the lifting bar out. This secondary mechanism will add that extra level of safety.

The ATX MPX 620  Smith Machine comes standard with barbell supports. This means you can lock your lifting bar out of the way up top, and set up your barbell just like you were training on a squat rack. While the ATX MPX 730 features an Optional Free Weight kit. Even better, both these gyms have lat tower options available that can be bolted to the back of the machines so you can perform your cable pulldown and seated row exercises.

For a bodybuilder or strength trainer looking to build muscle, this is heaven! This will allow you to work your various muscle groups with multiple exercises in the barbell, Smith machine, and cable formats.

The Ironmaster IM2000 has optional j-hooks and spotter arms that can be purchased separately. While this may seem like an additional expense, this is completely offset by the machine coming standard with a high and low pulley. It also has weight plate storage on the back – not bad for a machine with only a 130cm x 130cm footprint. With the various options available on both the IM2000 and the Super Bench, this is not just a Smith machine but rather a complete home gym system.

I always encourage anyone considering of purchasing gym equipment to do their research. A Smith machine is one piece of gym equipment that involves a lot of pseudo-sciences. I always acknowledge that free weight training is superior – but for the average punter who struggles to find the time to hit the gym, slips up on their diet, has a couple of beers on the weekend, and doesn’t get enough sleep, do you really think training on a power cage vs a Smith machine is going to make a world of difference?

My advice is to always choose a machine that you like training on as this will increase the likelihood of you using it often and achieving the results you want. In the case of a Smith machine, weight trainers who love variety will find an ATX® or Ironmaster IM2000 Smith machine perfect as these gives them nearly double the exercises in both Smith and barbell forms. All this variety will have you tearing down the gym door to rip into your training! That is the secret to getting results in the gym.

Now regarding the so-called Smith machine injuries, what I do with every exercise is to only use a weight that I can handle with proper form. I also vary my grips, foot positions and position under the lifting bar not to avoid injuries, but to utilise different muscles.

Smith MachinesFrequently Asked Questions

How much does a Smith Machine Bar weigh?

This can vary widely – not just be brand but also by design. Some smith machines have a counterweight design. This is used when the barbell is particularly heavy. Inexperienced lifters would struggle to bench press the smith machine bar. A pulley and counterweight are employed to offset the smith bar weight.

Smith machines with lighter bars do no need such set ups. Both the ATX-MPX-620 and ATX-MPX-730 both have 30mm barbells. They don’t have steel Olympic sleeves, but rather light weight nylon ones. This makes the smith bar much lighter.

If the purpose of the question is to work out the actual weight you are lifting, my advice would be not to count the smith machine bar. You can not compare lifts on smith machines unless they are done on identical machines.

Just count the weight you have loaded on the bar. There are no smith machine records to break. All you want to do is measure your progress, and you can do that by counting the weight alone.

How to use a Smith Machine?

Smith machines are relatively simple to use. Position the bar to your desired start and stop position. If the smith machine has some form of spotter or safety mechanism, make sure that is positioned just below your bottom out point.

Once you have the bar positioned, load up the weight, then get into the correct position for your desired lift. You must lift the bar slightly, then roll your wrists back or forward depending on the lock out mechanism on the machine. You can now perform your lift.

When you have finished your set, re-lock the bar. The benefit of a smith machine is that you can go for that extra rep. If you don’t make it, you can lock out safely below your start and stop position. This does not mean throwing out your form. You will always get better gains if you keep good form.

Can you Bench on a Smith Machine?

Yes, you can! Using a smith machine for bench press can be quite beneficial to athletes of all levels.

Even though smith machines do get a bad rap in the weight training community, they can be a brilliant tool to build some serious muscle mass. Smith machines can be a safer alternative for a lot of people when it comes to bench press.

First there is no horizontal movement, this means that you don’t have to worry about stabilizing the barbell and can truly push yourself during training. Your stabilizing muscles are quite small and will fatigue much quicker during training compared to the enormous chest you are trying to build. A Smith machine lightens the load on your stabilizing muscles allowing you to blast those pecs until failure.

Most smith machines have built in safety stoppers, which can be a life saver (literally) for those who are training alone.

There are a couple of things you should know before you start using the smith machine for bench press. Most don’t know how to set up properly for a smith machine bench press.

First thing you should be aware of is your bench position. The middle of the backrest pad should be in the centre of the smith machine bar. If the bench is not in the correct position, e.g., off centre, you will be placing too much strain on one of the shoulder joints.

Second thing you should pay attention to is the depth of the bench. You will have to push the bench in deeper than you normally would on your free weight bench press. When doing a traditional barbell bench press you start with the bar above your head. On a smith machine the bar goes up and down vertically. Therefore, you will need to push the bench in to where your bottom position will be – normally around the NIPPLE line.

While you may not need as much leg drive, you should still brace yourself during the lift.

The same rule applies for arching. Just because it is a smith machine press, doesn’t mean that your form should completely alter from the barbell bench press.

Can you Deadlift on a Smith Machine?

You can certainly deadlift on a smith machine. The range of motion will depend on the design. Some smith machines reach the end of their range above where you would bottom out on a traditional barbell deadlift.

Although I would strongly suggest you give them a go, I know some people are hesitant. They believe that they may injure themselves. Smith machine deadlifts are a great way to dip your toe in the water. You can use a lighter weight and perform higher reps. If the range is restricted that will take more load off your lower back.

But don’t think partial or smith machine deadlifts are just for noobs. Bodybuilders that compete at the highest level use them. .

How do I maintain a Smith Machine?

Maintaining a quality smith machine is relatively simple. The main priority is to keep your shaft clean. For smith machines that utilise linear bearings, if you keep the guide rails clean, the bearings won’t accumulate debris.

Even machines that utilise nylon bushes on the lifting bar, like the ATX-MPX-620, keeping the guide rails clean will ensure smooth operation.

On both types of machines, once you have wiped the dust off the guide rails, you can apply some light machine oil. You don’t need to drown it – the oil will just pool at the bottom of your shaft. Instead, just apply a light and consistent coating.

On linear bearing machines, if for whatever reason you get debris in the bearings some minor surgery is required. You will need to disassemble the machine to a point where you can remove the lifting bar. CAREFULLY and GENTLY remove the debris – you don’t want to dislodge the bearings. If you do, make sure you find them and then press them back in.

Once clean, lightly apply some light grease. You don’t want a lot because it will attract more debris. Then re-assemble.

Besides the lifting bar, the only other maintenance of a smith machine is the same as what applies to other gym equipment. Look for any loose nuts or any other signs of wear and tear. It is good practice to do this before training or in between your first warm up sets.