Other than resistance machines and free weights, the smith machine is one machine that you may probably not know exists.
For most people, unless they are booked into a specific class, they will spend their gym time on the treadmill or cross trainer.
This is not because they don’t know that the rest of the machines in there are equally good for them and are there for a reason, they just haven’t gotten a clue how to use it yet.
Fitness experts have pointed that many people end up performing exercises the wrong way after learning bad habits from copying other people working out. This ends up putting them at risks of injury and also wastes their time.
Among the machines that look so daunting is the Smith machine.
This piece will help you get your finger around this machine and help you get the most out of it.
WHAT IS THE SMITH MACHINE?
It looks like a barbell which has been attached to a supporting frame.
This machine is designed to give you more support during your barbell workouts and uses a fix up and down movement.
It makes the barbell exercises much easier because it will prevent you from swaying back and forward out of the frame.
However, don’t underestimate its effectiveness simply because it is easier compared to using free weight barbells. You can get a full body workout from this gym equipment, but only if you use it in the right form.
HOW TO USE THE SMITH MACHINE PROPERLY
Whether you are using this machine to do squats, presses, push ups or dips, below are guidelines which will ensure you use the machine properly.
ARMS AND LEGS
Don’t lock your arms or legs when using this machine as this could lead to serious injuries. When doing any exercise that involves a full extension of your arms and legs, be keen not to lock them at the elbows and knees respectively.
One good thing about this machine is that it allows you to use weights without a spotter. However, you should be keen not to start with weights that are way too heavy immediately when starting out.
Starting with heavy weights straight away could strain your muscles and joints,
Instead, you are advised to start with small and manageable weights until you build your strength, only then will it be appropriate to advance to heavier weights, although gradually.
Fitness experts advice that you consider complimenting the machine with other free weight exercises. Doing this will help your body to move dynamically and freely without a locked bar.
Combining this machine and other free weight exercises will help you to build different muscle groups and maintain a wide range of motion when working out.
WHAT MUSCLES DO THE SMITH MACHINE WORK?
Here are some of the muscles you hit when using this machine.
One of the most common exercises on the Smith machine that targets the quads and hamstrings is the Smith machine squat.
If you want your shoulders to look good, this machine should be your go to equipment at the gym. Other than adding to your physical appeal, it also aids in the development of your upper body strength. One good thing is that the Smith machine can significantly isolate your shoulder muscles!
The smith machine shoulder press is the best exercise for you to perform if you want your shoulders to develop.
It is also important to try to keep your back flat against the bench maintaining contact through your upper back and butt. If there is difficulty in extending the arms, slightly arching the lower back is acceptable.
HAMSTRINGS AND QUADRICEPS
Your hamstrings and quadriceps are the main muscles targeted by the Smith machine. This is because most of the exercises done at the machine tends to target these muscles.
The hamstring is one of the three posterior thigh muscles in between your hip and knee. These three muscles cross both the hip and knee joint and are therefore involved in knee flexion and hip extension.
Also, your quadriceps is a group of muscles situated in the front of your thigh. This group contains four separate muscles.
These include the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and the rectus femoris. Each of the vastus muscles originates on the femur bone and attaches to the patella, or the kneecap.
Other than the hamstrings and the quadriceps muscle, the gluteal muscles are also one of the most commonly isolated muscles when performing exercises in the smith machine.
The gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles which make up your butts. These muscles include the: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. These three muscles originate from the ilium and sacrum and insert on the femur. The functions of the muscles include extension, abduction, external rotation, and internal rotation of the hip joint.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE SMITH MACHINE AT HOME
Below are the best setups that can be used for a home gym and can be used as alternatives to a Smith machine.
The barbell is the best option to replace a smith machine at home. However, just a barbell is not enough though. To stay safe, a power rack has safety pins you can set at different heights to catch the bar if you would drop it.
Barbells are great for lifting heavy weights and therefore building a lot of muscle and strength. Dumbbells on the other hand are better for smaller exercises and are great for building up those stabilizing muscles. This is because dumbbells can move separately from each other unlike barbells.
COMMON SMITH MACHINE MISTAKES TO AVOID
Avoid locking your arms and legs as this could lead to injury.
Avoid ego lifting as this could cause unnecessary strain on the targeted muscles.
You might have been nervous watching people using it and hence have avoided it at all costs. However, this is one of the most effective machines which will flip those boring gym routines into exciting ones. Once you start out on it, you will never look back.