A common misconception regarding a Smith Machine is related to its inability of being efficient when it comes to bench presses and gaining muscle, merely due to the setup the machine uses. All in all, the question remains of whether a Smith machine bench press is effective or not.
Many gym-goers and professional coaches generally dislike the Smith machine, this attitude towards the poor machine comes typically due to the following reasons:
This claim arises due to several reasons, one of the biggest of which is the fixed movement that the machine uses, meaning that while using the Smith machine, you’ll have tons of assistance and it’s highly unlikely that your weights will go out of balance.
Another major concern that many experienced gym-goers and coaches had regarding this machine was the ‘muscle activation’, and rightly so. While performing chest exercises on this machine, you don’t need a spotter since the machine provides you with assistance.
However, due to the assistance provided by the machine, you don’t have to put in much work in lifting weights. This generally leads to lesser muscle activation, and lesser muscle activation can be attributed to slower muscle growth.
With free weights, you have to put in more work, and more stabilization muscles of your body are engaged in doing so. Therefore, free weights are efficient when it comes to overall muscle growth and activation.
Many gym nerds also bash the Smith machine due to its unnatural positions, which contribute to greater risks of injury. This is true but to some extent. The reason for that is that Smith machines are generally safer and comparatively immune to injuries as compared to free weights.
However, it does put one into an unnatural position, specifically, for squats. However, you can always use a squat rack in that regard to minimizing injuries.
You can learn how to squat properly on a Smith machine while mimicking a natural squat position.
Smith Machine Bench Press Benefits
The bad reputation that the Smith machines have gained doesn’t imply that it is completely useless. The machine is quite efficient and beneficial when it comes to tone your body and getting used to heavy exercises.
Here are a few benefits that the Smith machine provides you with:
In the previous section, I talked about how assistance is not effective for muscle growth and activation. However, assistance can also be a bonus, especially if you’re a beginner or someone trying to take on a heavy exercise.
The smith machine provides you with a helping hand during exercise that may not come in handy to get shredded, but it will allow you to spend more time on your exercise routine since the assistance makes your muscles do lesser work compared to free weights.
Less Risk of Injuries
It is a known fact about the Smith machines that they provide you with extreme safety, without the presence of a spotter. Also, due to the assistance the machine provides, you’re relatively safer from fatigue and other muscle-related pains.
Generally, the Smith machine is considered the best place to start, for beginners.
I guess it’s safe to say that we’ve all been there when it’s your first day of starting in the gym and you directly jump to heavy exercises that make one shredded.
However, as many of you may know, that’s never the right way of starting, and you are prone to injuries.
In this regard, Smith machines are a bonus. Why? That’s because they provide you with the assistance that allows you to tone your body, and adjust it in lifting heavy loads, making you less likely of getting injured or fatigued.
If you have a home gym, then here are the Top Smith Machine brands you can use to up your fitness game!
The conclusion regarding the efficiency of the Smith machines bench press is that it depends on your experience, goals, and the exercises you wish to do.
If you’re experienced and tend to get shredded, then the Smith machines probably aren’t for you, but they may be a good place to warm yourself up for heavy exercises that include free weights.
On the contrary, if you’re just starting, then you should spend some time on exercises that include the Smith machine so that you don’t get injured and your body gets adjusted to the environment.
Is Smith Machine as Effective as Barbell Bench Press?
Another debate that has been going on for quite some time now is whether a Smith machine is as effective as a barbell bench press.
A Barbell bench press, also known as the “Olympic bench press” is considered one of the best weightlifting exercises, and since it has earned this title, it surely is a treat.
Smith Machine Vs Barbell Bench Press – Which one’s better?
To provide you with a brief understanding of the two pieces of equipment, I’ll be judging them through several factors.
Due to the restricted movement of the Smith machine, it is disliked. This restricted movement doesn’t engage your stabilizing muscles as much as it would on free weights, therefore, muscle growth is relatively slower.
There is free movement for the barbell bench press. You have the freedom to choose your natural movement, which suits your joints, and muscles. The freedom of movement also allows your stabilizing muscles to engage more.
This increased muscle engagement in barbell bench press exists since you’re under the weight. This means that your chest and arm muscles have to exert a large amount of force to push the weight away, which is also in the direction of gravity.
The freedom of movement also plays a role in this, since you don’t have much assistance as in the case of Smith machines, the weights are likely to tilt in one direction, making you perform more work to keep the heavyweights balanced.
Barbell bench press have a disadvantage in this regard, especially if you’re performing exercise without a spotter and heavy weights.
On one side, the heavyweights could exhaust you, eventually moving in one direction, making you lose your balance and physically harming you.
On the other side, if you’re performing such exercises without a spotter, then the heavyweights get the most out of you, making you exhausted and unable to lift the heavy weights any further. In such cases, you can fall prey to serious injuries.
Smith machines are, however, relatively much safer, and are beginner-friendly as well. The machine provides you with assistance while lifting heavy weights, so you’re less likely to get physically damaged.
The Smith machine in this regard wins the battle. This is because the machine has restricted movement, making the weights impossible to tilt, misbalance, or tip you over. The ability to gain stability while lifting heavy weights is essential if you love your arms. Therefore, it’s always better to start by doing Smith machine bench presses.
Since the barbell bench press doesn’t have this characteristic, it’s not as stable as the Smith machine. The freedom of movement in a barbell bench press allows the heavy weight to move in any direction.
Barbell bench presses, as discussed earlier, move freely. Unlike Smith machines, they don’t have restricted movement that occurs in one plane throughout the exercise.
Therefore, while lifting weights on a barbell bench press, your secondary stabilizer muscles are more engaged, these muscles perform their role in helping you keep the weights steady and balanced so that they don’t tilt towards one side.
This plays a great role in promoting muscle growth in areas other than the upper body.
Smith machines assist their user, therefore, there’s no need for secondary stabilizer muscles. So, you may say that barbell-related exercises take up more of your overall energy.
This may make you stronger, and strengthen your muscles, however, by using the Smith machine, your targeted muscles are affected only, rather than other parts of the body as well. This may sound appealing to some, while to others, it may not. In the end, it all comes down to your preferences and the muscles you’re targeting.
This battle is won by the barbell bench press and it is justified. The area needed for the bench press is roughly 7 to 8 feet wide. It should be long enough to fit in the bench and the barbell.
However, the Smith machine requires a large area. Smith machine is roughly 8 to 12 feet long and wide while being 8 to 9 feet tall.
Smith Machine Bench Press Weight
If you’re a beginner looking to strengthen your cores? Smith machine is the best place to start for you. Although the machine is beginner-friendly, you still shouldn’t overload yourself with heavy weights. It is better to start with lower weights to accustom your body to the machine. Once you have practiced enough then keep aiming for more!
Typically, for male beginners ranging from 15 to 45 years old, the load should be around 43 to 44 kilograms. You can go as high as 46 kilograms (1 RM). Such weight is quite an impressive number for a beginner.
For female beginners ranging from age 15 to 45, the average weight requirement is around 16 to 17 kilograms. For females that are just starting on Smith machines, 17 kilograms is an impressive number.
Gym-goers generally criticize the Smith machine. This leads beginners to ponder whether a Smith machine bench press is effective. However, the reality about these machines is that they’re highly useful, especially for people who are just starting and looking to tone their bodies.
This is Safeer Ahmad founder of FitnessGearsHub. I’m an aspirant fitness freak, I commenced my career as a blogger and I opted for “gym and fitness” as my primary domain. As all fitness gears fancy me, I spend considerable time on research before buying one, I believe a health fanatic should be mindful of the product before making buying decision so I’ll try my level best to provide you ample information to buy one or maintain your gym equipment.