The Smith machine bench press is an effective and safe way to improve your lifting ability.
The bench press is generally well-liked for being a compound exercise that works your entire upper body and sometimes even activates your legs, back and core for extra stabilisation.
But doing it on a Smith machine can take your workout to a whole new level by helping you break through your training plateau and lift heavy weights without needing a spotter.
The process of doing it properly can be described in five main steps; setting up, un-racking, descent, ascent and re-racking.
- Place a bench under the Smith machine.
- Once the bench is set in the middle, lower the bar to a level you will be able to reach while lying on the bench with your arms extended upwards. It should be set in such a way that you will be able to push it upwards when you un-rack it.
- Then, set up the safety pins at a level that allows you to lower the bar through a complete range of motion when your elbows go a bit past 90 degrees. You don’t really need the safety pins if you have a spotter but you can add them for extra precaution.
- Lie on the bench and try to align the bar with your nipple line or mid-chest just to make sure you’ll be using the correct form.
This step marks the starting position of the rep.
- Still lying on your back, reach up to the bar and grab it using an overhand grip that is just slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Lift your chest up and plant both feet firmly on the ground.
- To unlock/un-rack the bar, press your palms onto it and flex your wrists backward or forward depending on how your body is positioned.
- Lower the bar slowly towards your chest as you take a deep breath in. Your shoulders should be tucked in to your sides at about 40 to 75 degrees.
- Keep lowering the bar, stopping just a few inches above your mid-chest.
- Exhale as you press the bar upwards by squeezing your pecs until both arms are fully extended.
- You can lock out your elbows or stop just before you fully lock out to increase the time your muscles spend under tension. This marks the end of your rep.
- Once you’ve completed all your reps, flex your wrists in the opposite direction from how they were when you un-racked the bar.
- Check to make sure you’ve securely fastened the bar to the hooks before you take your hands off it.
WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE SMITH MACHINE BENCH PRESS WORK?
This is the muscle that makes up most of your chest muscle area.
Popularly referred to as the “pecs,” this muscle is responsible for the internal rotation and flexion of the humerus.
This makes it the primary mover in most pressing movements, including this exercise.
Also known as the front delt, this muscle sits at the front part of your shoulder. It helps your pecs press the weight upwards.
The triceps is not a primary mover in the Smith machine bench press, but it is engaged to certain degree in pressing the weight.
Since the stabilizing aspect is greatly reduced in this movement, stabilizing muscles are only recruited to a minimum degree.
These muscles are the rotator cuff muscles, rear delts, core, trapezius, biceps brachii, latissimus dorsi and serratus anterior.
BENEFITS OF THE SMITH MACHINE BENCH PRESS
Although the Smith machine bench press recruits less upper body muscles than the standard bench press, it can help work your pectoral muscles to exhaustion.
This enables you to progressively overload your muscles, which leads to strength and muscle gains.
MINIMAL RISK OF INJURY
Most people believe that this exercise can cause muscle imbalances and injuries.
However, the opposite is true. Like every other exercise machine, the Smith machine carries with it a risk of injury if used incorrectly.
But if it’s properly set up and used correctly, it greatly reduces the risk of injury. In fact, it is recommended for the rehabilitation of injuries as it allows for a stable and smooth movement.
NO NEED FOR A SPOTTER
You don’t really a need a spotter for the Smith machine bench press, unless you feel the need to take extra precaution.
You can set the safety pins to a level where you are protected from injury in case you are unable to complete a rep.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE SMITH MACHINE BENCH PRESS
SMITH MACHINE INCLINE PRESS
This variation follows the same motion patterns as the Smith machine bench press except you do it on an inclined bench and the bar comes to your upper chest.
Here’s how to do it:
- Set a bench to an incline of 30 to 45 degrees.
- Sit on the bench and reach out to grab the bar using an overhand grip that is just a bit wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Un-rack the bar and lower it slowly towards your upper chest.
- Squeeze your lats, front delts and triceps to press the bar back to the starting position.
- Repeat as many times as you desire.
SMITH MACHINE BENCH PRESS MISTAKES TO AVOID
When you are doing a bench press on a Smith machine, you should always be using an overhand grip with your hands placed on the bar shoulder-width ( or slightly wider) apart.
Using any other grip, such as an underhand grip, may fail to produce enough power for the exercise, with your elbows stacked under your wrists.
ARCHING THE BACK
A slight arch on your back is allowed during this exercise, but take care not to overarch the upper back such that you’re putting unnecessary pressure on it.
IMPROPER ELBOW PLACEMENT
Proper elbow placement is vital for a safer, pain-free Smith machine bench press.
Tucking them too much into the torso might cause them to be a bit sore. Likewise, if you flair them out too much you risk hurting your shoulders.
The recommended positioning is at a 45-degree angle towards the body, which enables you to push more weight effectively and safely.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Whether you are looking to train your pecs to exhaustion, work out without a spotter or rehabilitate an injury, the Smith machine bench press will get the job done for you.
So try it out next time you are working your upper body at the gym and get to strengthening those muscles![related_posts_by_tax posts_per_page="4"]