T Nation

Bench, Free vs Smith?

Ok, so I don’t have anybody to spot me when I’m benching and I was wondering how much it would really affect me if I went from Free weight barbell bench press to a barbell bench press that was using the cable bench bar. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about here’s a picture of what I’d be using.

Why do you need someone to spot you? You don’t need to go to failure on every set. I bench and only use a spotter when I try my max every couple of months. DC trainees use smith machines because they max out on their one set. I’d say stick with the regular bench and don’t go to failure.

Can’t you ask another member to spot you? Also is there no power cage in the gym? I would only use the smith machine as an absolute last resort. Look for other options first. IMHO you’d be better off doing dips, push ups and dumbbell work instead of the smith machine

[quote]robo1 wrote:
Can’t you ask another member to spot you? Also is there no power cage in the gym? I would only use the smith machine as an absolute last resort. Look for other options first. IMHO you’d be better off doing dips, push ups and dumbbell work instead of the smith machine[/quote]

Free weights not to failure.

I hate it when people bench in the power rack…

Well, I remember I was reading this article. People who bench on smith machines had 16% less strength then free weight benchers. Funny enough this was the opposite for people who squat since the smith machine isolates the quads.

Anyways, it depends on how you feel. I’m personally doing dumbbell benches and smith machine bench because I have a major weakness in my left pec. Using the smith machine without worrying, I can make sure I’m using my left pec as much as possible all the while with the dumbbell bench I’m fixing the problem.

If you’ve been training a hell of a lot longer then me, you should move to free weight bench. That’s where the real stuff is at. I’m just not ready to go free weight bench yet. I have a lot of lagging muscles on my left side to fix.

So it’s all really based upon how you feel and what you want. There’s nothing wrong with smith benching even if you don’t have lagging muscles but the point of free weight benching is there’ll always be that extra sway in that movement or a difference in how you push the weight up and down that’s where the extra strength kicks in and the effectiveness.
Whereas the smith is one straight up and down controlled movement.

Also, I think if your technique on the free weight bench is bad, Smith, I think, is a decent way to fix it.

There is nothing wrong with the smythe machine, but I wouldn’t use it 100% of the time.

The evils of the Smith machine are greatly exaggerated. For your purposes it is an ideal piece of equipment. Happy lifting.

You would probably get better results and keep healthier shoulders if you went a different route. Push-ups, chins, dumbbell work are good options. Like mentioned before, press out of the rack and overhead pressing are also possibilities.

Some people think the smith machine is alright, but it is my thought that it is about as useful as a limbo pole for lifting purposes. You can get a lot more done in your backyard. JMO.

I don’t have a partner either so I chose to utilize dumbbells. I’ve had great results.

[quote]speed wrote:
There is nothing wrong with the smythe machine, but I wouldn’t use it 100% of the time.[/quote]

Second that. It can be helpful with futzy shoulder issues, trying to isolate problems with form and just for a change of pace, but isn’t a full time replacement for regular benches.

You should probably be doing more incline dumbell bench press anyway. I haven’t had a spotter for flat bench for months. I’ve just done weighted dips, dumbbell incline bench press, pullovers, military press, push press, and push-up variations.

If I had access to a smith machine I’d only use it to dick around and do the throwing version of the bench press. The only thing the smith machine is good for is its usefulness as a pull-up bar.

[quote]FightingScott wrote:
<<< The only thing the smith machine is good for is its usefulness as a pull-up bar. [/quote]

I disagree. The Smith is a legitimate piece of equipment with legitimate applications. I’m not concerned with how cool or macho anybody thinks certain pieces of equipment or exercises are, which is usually a big part of where this kind of disdain comes from.

If it helps me progress that’s all I care about. There’s no logic behind discounting a potentially useful tool because somebody else doesn’t like it for whatever reason.

Well I’m sure we all can agree that Smith is a good piece of equipment but it has it’s limit. This is my own opinion pros and cons any of you can feel free to agree or disagree:

SMITH: Pros - No need for a spotter, helps technique, helps you focus on lagging muscles
Cons - Less strength gains, not entirely free weight

Free Bench: Pros - Increases strength better
Cons - Needs a spotter, if technique isn’t good can result in more lagging muscles, if lagging muscles are present can be hard to utilize the full benefits

So I think Free bench is the best when you’re ready to move to it. It’s all about progression. There is no rush. I recognize that I have lagging muscles so I use the Smith. I don’t care if someone thinks it’s wimpy or pathetic, right now I’m focusing on strengthing my left side and I never ever have a spotting partner so the smith will allow me to push more with my left then my right. Just my opinion.

If you’re training for cosmetic effect it really doesn’t make much difference. Use whatever means you feel like; what matters is that you overload your muscles.

If you want to be a powerlifter or strongman, don’t even think about it…you shouldn’t be doing a competitive lift to failure anyway.

Ok thanks for all your input. I’ll probably be rotating just about everything you all mentioned.

I had been doing some Dumbbell bench presses, but than I got sick for a week and didn’t train. I came back to it and I couldn’t lift the 80lb dumbbells into a bench anymore. I got really discouraged. :frowning: