Smith machines are similar in design to power cages and provide powerful, muscle mass building chest and shoulder exercises. The Smith Machine’s key feature is that the barbell is held in place at either side, so that motion is only in one controlled plane. Usually, they go straight up and down, although some Smith Machines have what is a called a reverse pitch. The uprights on this style of the machine are slightly tilted backward which can provide a biomechanically correct range of motion. The barbell glides along linear bar bearings of smooth bushings to keep every repetition steady.
We carry the best Smith machine home gyms for home and commercial use from Body Solid, Valor Fitness and Yukon Fitness. Every order ships free to the lower 48 states. For some commonly asked questions about Smith machines, see the Q and A below.
How does bench pressing with a Smith Machine compare to using a power cage?
Both Smith Machines and traditional power cages are made with effective safety features, although smith machine barbells only require a small tilt forward to return. As for building muscles, smith machines are all about isolation and control. If your goal is to build muscle mass of specific, then the smith machine will help tremendously by targeting those muscles and allowing you to add more weight to your routine that you might otherwise. One potential downside is that supportive, stabilizer muscles will not be as engaged during the repetitions. So, while you can make good gains in muscle volume, you will not have all the functional strength that you could develop by doing squats or presses with a regular power cage. That said, there is always a trade-off with strength training equipment, so other free weights or weight machines can complement your smith machine perfectly.
Can you use a Smith Machine the same was as a power rack?
You can basically do the same kinds of exercises with Smith machines as you can with a power cages. Bench presses, shoulder presses, and different types of squats are all possible with a Smith machine while sliding the barbell up and down the ball bearings. However, some Smith machines are specially adapted to work like power cage. With the back pair of uprights, you can use the cage as a Smith machine. With the front set of uprights, you can lift the barbell freely like you would with a power cage. The safety bars for a hybrid Smith machine like this jut forward just like a half power rack. This is a popular style of a Smith machine that lets users get the best of both worlds.
How safe is a Smith Machine?
Smith machines are one of the safest kinds of strength training equipment. The key to the Smith machine's safety is the carriage system. Like a power cage, a Smith machine has many lock out or return points. This gun rack style makes returning the barbell easy at any point. The Smith machines uniquely lets you return the barbell with a simple turn of your wrist a few degrees, so you don’t have to spend any more energy lifting the bar. The carriage system also slows down the barbell. If the posts are at a reverse incline, the descent slows down, but the carriage also commonly runs with linear ball bearings, which help the barbell glide more smoothly. Doing bench presses or squats with a Smith machine is predictable and safe.