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 – there is no better way to start a heated discussion in the gym than bring up this topic. People either love them or hate them! I have heard compelling arguments from both camps.
In essence, a smith machine is similar to a power rack or squat rack, in that it has uprights and you are lifting weights on a bar. The big difference is that the lifting bar is fixed to the smith machine, and it runs up and down on guide rails. These guide rails have several lock out points, which give you the opportunity to lock the lifting bar if you can’t complete a rep. The barbell is also locked in a fixed plane, another reason some people regard smith machines as a safer piece of gym equipment than a power rack.
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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 muscle growth, it actually leads injury. The logic here is 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 comes from the fact that you are moving 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.
When using a smith machine however, it is argued that you are not stimulating as many muscle fibres, because there's no need to stabilise the weight. Apparently there are studies that document this, but I have been in the game for long enough to realise that for every study that supports this theory there will be others that say that it is not true.
Make up your own mind about the benefits...
I often wonder why these theories are applied to smith machines and no other type of fixed plane machine, such as a leg press. In all my years selling fitness equipment, I have never heard of someone saying their injuries were the result of a smith machine. They nearly always stem from using too much weight and/or incorrect form. Often with barbells with or dumbbells – the equipment the so called experts say is the safest.
There are many reputable trainers that swear by the smith machine, and they're often seen in the gym's of elite sporting organisations which speaks volumes. It's true I wasn't a fan while training in commercial gyms many years ago, however I had little experience with them back then. After seeing others train, and experiencing them first hand over the last 10 years, I think they're brilliant. They allow you to isolate muscle groups better and you can perform exercises or variations that you can’t perform with a barbell.
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Feel safe and gain confidence using a quality smith machines from Sam's Fitness
If you are still in two minds on the effectiveness of a smith machine I have some great news for you. All the smith machines we have for sale have the option to train free weight style 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 to the lifting bar. I strongly recommend that this is utilised. If you tear a muscle or other 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 Barbarian Line and Megatec Smith Machines both come 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. Even better, both these gyms have lat tower options available that can be bolted on the back. This will give you a cable pulldown and seated row.
For a bodybuilder or strength trainer looking to build muscle, this is heaven! This will allow you to work the various muscle groups with multiple exercises in 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. Plus 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 a smith machine but rather a complete home gym system.
When anyone is considering purchasing gym equipment I always encourage them to do their research. But smith machines are one piece of equipment where there is a lot of pseudo-science. 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 achieving results. In the case of a smith machine, some weight trainers love variety, so having a Megatec, Barbarian Line or Ironmaster IM2000 smith machine will give them nearly double the exercises since you can do 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.
In regards to the so called smith machine injuries, what I do with every exercise is only use a weight that I can handle with text book form. Plus I vary my grips, foot positions and position under the lifting bar – not to avoid injuries, but try and utilise different muscles. To me that is just common sense.