Smith Machine: Another name for a brand of Nautilus
machines at the gym which are used to add variety to workouts. They
offer many disadvantages, but normally, free weights are
Benefits of the Smith Machine
The Smith machine offers many benefits which you would not be able
to get using conventional free weights. For one, Smith machines can
be used for a high variety of exercises that any one regular
machine would not be able to accomodate. Take for example the flat
bench. A flat bench in itself can be used for flat dumbbell or
barbell presses, but unless it is designed to also include the
incline, the number of exercises you can perform will be severely
restricted. A Smith machine, based on it's construction, can be
used for so many different exercises that you will be able to do a
full body workout using the machine alone! With an adjustable
bench, you will be able to perform any of the following exercises
using the Smith machine:
- Bench Press
- Incline Bench
- Decline Bench Press (with
adjustable or decline bench)
- Behind the Neck
Other than the machine itself, with the availability of a flat
bench, you can add other exercises like dips or bench push-ups.
Of course, there are many criticisms against the Smith machine,
and they do have merit. However, Smith machines are only lacking
when compared to perfection; in this case perfection would be using
convential free weights during workouts, ie, dumbbells and
barbells. Of course, dumbbells and barbells are better, but Smith
machines are still highly beneficial.
Muscle Fiber Recruitment
Barbells and dumbbells recruit additional muscle when training,
because you need to stabilize the motion by yourself. When you use
a Smith machine, the machine stabilizes the motion for you
throughout the entire range. This makes it easier for you to
perform the motion safely, but the problem is that you will not
recruit muscle fibers used to stabilize the motion as you would
using free weights. As a result, the level of development for both
muscle mass and strength will be lower while using the Smith
machine than while using free weights. But think about that closely
- your workouts may lack in comparison to a workout using free
weights, but that is not to say you will not gain both muscle mass
and strength, as well as having satisfying workouts.
Variety is the Spice of Life
No exercise program should consist of machines alone, and no
exercise program should consist of free weights alone. Variety in
the type of exercises you incorporate is exactly what you need to
develop your body. It is a way of keeping your muscles on their
toes by changing things up every now and then, and if you are the
type of person who only uses free weights, adding Smith machine
exercises may be exactly what you need to get your body through a
plateau. As with anything, keep the use of the Smith machine in
moderation, and don't rely on it.
Smith machines are the perfect full body workout for people who
are constantly on the run or unable to get a membership to a gym.
They are not too big and can likely fit in your basement depending
on how crowded or roomy it currently is. It is a great alternative
to a full gym workout when you can't make it to the gym, and even
though nothing beats getting a pump at the gym, the Smith machine
is a good place for a workout if that is all your schedule
Bottom line - Any exercise, whether free weights of a machine,
which puts adequate amount of stress on the target muscle with
enough intensity WILL help to develop that muscle. Sure, you might
make smaller gains if your program consists more of Smith machine
exercises than with free weights, but we are not all out to seek
the perfect workout. If you have the opportunity to go to the gym
and use more free weighs than Smith machine workouts, you should
take that option. But if a Smith machine in your home is the only
working out your schedule will allow, it is FAR better than doing
nothing, and you will make gains. The main criticism occurs because
Smith machines are constantly being compared to perfect workouts,
in the hypothetical situation that every person has all have the
time and resources to do so. The reality is, people are in a hurry
in today's busy age, and Smith machines may be just the thing they
are looking for!
Tips for Using the Smith Machine
Never use the Smith machine as a crutch - never use it to lift
heavier weights than normal, push through a sticking point you couldn't get past
before, or use it to cheat on exercises with the machine helping
you through parts of the range of motion you couldn't do by
yourself before. Use the Smith machine as it is meant to be used,
with an amount of weight you can handle and with good form and
intensity, and you will make good gains off it.
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