Never underestimate the Smith machine when it comes to strength and mass gains in the major muscle groups.
Why Use The Smith Machine?
This equipment consists of a tracked barbell that moves up and down in a linear path, thus eliminating the need to control it beyond one dimension; the barbell remains fixed in a vertical direction.
Any apparatus like this is generically referred to as the Smith machine. Free barbell routines are touted as being the most effective for building muscle. However, one may become bored with the same barbell routines.
A tracked barbell device can really test your limits, even though the release of the weight (“negative” or lowering action) typically feels easier than when it’s done with a free barbell.
Try the following upper body routines and you won’t think that the negative is so easy anymore.
1. Stability Ball Bench Press
The ball eliminates the hassle of centering a bulky bench under the bar. Just roll the ball in place, easily centering it by eye, and begin bench pressing as you normally do.
The amount of weight used will be less than what you normally use, but practice good form with an 8-12 rep max, and you will get an excellent workout. The ball will also prevent the cheat move of arching the back off of a bench.
2. Shoulder Press
This too can be done off a stability ball, and adjusting your position beneath the bar can be done very speedily.
As in the bench press, the weight load will be less with the Smith machine, but take your time on the negative and use enough weight to make more than 12 reps impossible.
There’s no such thing as a routine being too easy with the Smith machine if you put enough weight on the equipment.
3. Close-Grip Bench Press And Shoulder Press
Again, use the ball, and place hands very close together for greater emphasis on the triceps muscles. The Smith machine makes close-grip presses easier on the wrists than when using a free barbell.
4. Barbell Row
This is the same as a free barbell row. Just make sure the low back is always arched.
5. Upright row
Perform as in the free barbell version.
6. Shoulder Shrug
Grip barbell and start shrugging, holding the top of the movement for a solid second before releasing.
Yes, one can get a good deadlift routine with a tracked barbell. Depending on your height, you will need to stand on something to get a full range of motion.
Otherwise, the barbell won’t go down far enough and you’ll end up doing only a partial trunk flexion. One can stand on a step aerobics platform or a small stool.
However, depending on the model of the equipment and one’s height, straightening out on the stool (full back extension at the top of the deadlift) will result in one’s head making contact with the equipment.
Do a practice rep with no weight first to see if this happens, then adjust accordingly.
8. Modified Pull-Up/Chin-Up
Get beneath the bar and hang straight-armed from it, body and legs straight, heels on floor. Keeping entire body straight, pull yourself up as high as possible. The higher the bar is, the easier it will be to pull up.
9. Standard Pull-Up
Why do this on a tracked barbell? Because the regular pull-up/chin-up stations are occupied, and perhaps you want to superset squats with pull-ups.
Leg Smith Machine Workouts
The nice thing about a tracked barbell is that it allows you to place feet more forward, whereas with a free barbell, there’s only one place to set the feet relative to the bar, or else you’ll fall.
A lunge with the Smith machine can be done with the same leg forward for the entire set, or with alternating legs.
12. One-Leg Squat
The Smith machine is ideal for learning to do 90-degree one-leg squats.
13. Leg Press
Place a mat below the bar and place the middle of the soles of the feet against the bar. Experimentation is necessary to figure out which position works best, regarding just where one’s buttocks will be in relation to the bar.
The more that the buttocks are past the bar (making knees more directly beneath it) as opposed to directly under it, the more buttocks (gluteus maximus) recruitment will occur.
A leg press with the Smith machine is a truly dynamic way of working the legs because it allows the trainee to get maximum range of motion (provided he or she is flexible enough).
Use light weights at first to get the feel of this version, especially since it may feel that the bar will slide off the feet. It’s a matter of getting used to this; once one is acclimated to this unfamiliar way of pressing weight, the feet will become more secure.
Esoteric Smith Machine Exercises for Building Muscle and Busting Boredom
Here are some unusual but highly effective Smith machine workouts.
14. “ATG” Squat
ATG stands for “ass to the ground.” When done with a Smith bar, the ATG squat kills. The beauty is that the distance of the feet from the bar can be varied, making for different patterns of neuromuscular recruitment.
15. One-Arm Bent-Over Row
Position yourself alongside the bar (which is set low on the equipment) as you would for a dumbbell bent-over row. Then pull the bar up with one hand, while the other hand rests on a bent thigh.
A variation is to straddle the bar with your legs and pull the bar up with one hand, or with two hands. As in the bent-over dumbbell row, make sure the lower back is always arched; do not round it.
16. One-Arm Alternating Shoulder Press
Place bar low enough so that you can stand beneath it (you’ll need to squat somewhat) and push it upward for a full range of motion shoulder press.
Do repeatedly with one arm at a time, or alternate. If you alternate, switch the arms at the top of the movement so that the other hand must “catch” the bar as it’s beginning to drop on the track.
This maneuver will require some conscientious head repositioning for each rep.
17. Modified Pull-Up/Oblique Twist Hybrid
Hang in the start position of a modified pull-up (straight armed), but with only one arm. As you pull yourself up with the right arm first, twist body so that the left arm can touch an imaginary object far over to your right above the bar.
Lower in a reverse motion. All the reps can be done on one side first, or alternating.
Of all the Smith machine workouts, this is the most difficult: a pull-up that morphs into a dip.
Do a pull-up as high as possible, then transition shoulders and arms so that you can then press upward to get the torso above the bar. Though this move is often seen being done with a pair of rings (like what gymnasts use), it can be done with a bar.
Smith machine exercises for building muscle and busting boredom really come in handy when other equipment is tied up, and if the bar is loaded enough, you can really challenge muscle fibers and spur hypertrophy.
Try the Smith apparatus sometime; you may even come up with several funky routines that are not mentioned here.
Free weights, of course, should always be the mainstay of a muscle building program.
If you’re serious about building lean muscle and burning fat, you’ll learn all the great free weight routines and how to put together the best training programs in No-Nonsense Muscle Building Program by Vince DelMonte.
There are 29 programs in an easy-to-follow format, plus loads of information on nutrition for training support.