The Smith Machine is Your Enemy
Modern gyms are filled with fancy machines that promise a great workout. These machines do most of the work for the user while you sit back and gloat in the false belief that it is you who has put in all the effort. Whether it is the chest press machine, the shoulder press machine, the leg press or the fly machine, they all offer the illusion of “working out”. The gym is no longer a place for grit, sweat and grim, but a place replete with air conditioning and tall floor to ceiling mirrors where the wannabe and narcissist bask in their feeble attempts to look good. Perhaps the greatest con of all the shiny equipment one can find in a modern gym is the Smithsonian machine or “Smith” machine, as it is commonly referred too.
What is the Smith Machine?
To put it gently, the modern “Smith Machine” is nothing more than a glorified power rack for pansies. Although the smith machine may look like a power rack it fails to offer the same versatility in training and greatly hinders a users movement and exercise potential (more on this further down). The Smith has a barbell that is fixed to the steel rails and that moves in a single vertical plane with the help of hydraulics. The hydraulic system allows for controlled movement along the rails and the notches on the rails help to the catch the bar in the incidence that it fall off the of the user’s shoulders.
Pitfalls of training with the Smith Machine
The smith machine was invented in the early 1950’s. It was intended to serve as a muscle-toning machine in addition to using free weights. However, it was never intended to replace free weights or be used to isolate and bulk up one muscle group. Even the person who invented it used it only as a toning device to complement his free weight training program. The tragedy is that most uneducated gym buffs use the smith machine to squat, bench press, military press and even deadlift!
The fixed barbell on the smith machine only moves in a single vertical plane, which as you can imagine greatly restricts movement. The body is forced to move in unnatural patterns that can cause a variety of muscle imbalances and hinder further development and progress in training. What’s worse is that people who train with the smith machine can rarely ever lift even30-40% of that weight with free weights (i.e. with a barbell).
The squat is not called the king of all exercises for no reason. It engages the most muscles in the body and is responsible for burning more calories than any other movement. When you squat with a barbell, your body is forced to balance the barbell on the way down and on the way up. In doing this, you engage your core, back and shoulder muscles in addition to the quads and hams in your legs. However, when you squat with the smith machine, not only do you damage your technique, but you also fail to activate all the muscles that the squat incorporates. This applies to the bench press, the military press and any other exercise that you do with the smith machine.
If you want to build real strength and muscle, I suggest that you dis the smith and get started on a regimen using free weights. Work on perfecting your technique and learn to get comfortable with the discomfort and pain accompanied with lifting. This is the only way you will ever build a truly strong body that also looks great.