T Nation

Smith Machine Goodies

In my ignorant past as wannabe Pler, I dismissed the Smith machine as worthless. Well, since some time now I’ve seen the value of BBing training methods, but I haven’t used the Smith machine much.

Recently, I have started doing some incl. presses for my pecs after Meadow because I have a hard time feeling/activating them in press exercises (shoulder dominant) and the Smith machine works well for that I think. I feel that the Smith machine could also be a great tool for hitting other muscle groups.

So I would like to hear how people use the Smith machine in their BB training. In particular, I’m interested in detailed descriptions of exercise execution (exercise tweaks). Not just “I’m doing incl. benches on the Smith”. You get the idea.

ps: I’m familiar with Meadow’s article “Why I love the Smith machine”

Here are some movements I enjoy:

-Seated behind the neck military press - I like using the preacher curl bench to sit on, gives a wider backrest. I can do use a lot of weight like this.

-Shrugs - Allows me to use more weight somehow. Less focus on balance and grip.

-Floor Presses - a lost movement, great for fixing sticking points on bench. Probably the safest way to do a floor press with heavy poundages

  • Calf raises - I use some blocks or stacks of 45lb plates, and do standing calf raises.

Barbell Rows

I do calf raises as well, shoes off, flat foot to full tiptoe with a big squeeze at the top. I’ve been following Iron Dwarf’s program (roughly) by choosing a weight I can manage 20 reps with then resting long enough for the burn to subside then go back for 18 more, then 16 etc until I’m down to 8 reps

I also tried the somersault squats I saw on here in another thread > http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kXNlrHOXw2s
The gym was nice and empty and I had all but finished a legs session so I thought why not… The best quad isolation exercise I have ever done, the technique took some getting used to and I wouldve been reluctant to try them on a busier day but these will now be a staple for me on leg days. I will use them as a finisher as I worked my way up to an almighty 50kg and it just got too much of a load for my upper quads at that point

I have also started incline pressing again after writing it off as useless and I feel I’m benefitting from it. No tweaks or anything just making sure I keep the tension constant with no locking out and touching my chest with the bar. I tend to leave these until 2nd or 3rd exercise

Great post. I love the Smith Machine. I’m so glad I stopped being such an impressionable minion and actually gave it a chance.

I’ll share some of my favorites. I could go on and on with the nuances and descriptions but will do my best to keep it concise.

Curls - My favorite is drop-and-catch curls. I use two 10-lb plates on each side. I’ll do some of these with a longer range-of-motion where I let the bar drop for a foot or so before using a violent biceps contraction to not just catch the weight, but to catch and reverse it’s direction at the same time.

I also do very small ROM curls this way, and the pump is insane. High reps, fast-paced, maximum contractions.

Partials at the top end of the range are also very nice. I like holds in this position. Move your entire body slightly closer or further from the bar to really zero in on the perfect contraction, which is normally hard to get up at the very top of the range.

Sometimes, I stand sideways to the bar and do different 1-arm versions. Very nice way to use subtle changes in wrist position to really localize the contraction focus.

Shrugs - I do so many variations…here’s one: (25’s on each side of the bar would be a good starting point) Use a high-pull type motion to get the bar moving up quickly. Violently contract the traps to hold the bar for a brief second at the top of the motion and as you very slowly allow the bar to descend, lean away from it. Woah.

I have a million other ones for traps. The assistance element of the Smith Machine allows you to achieve holds and slowish negatives in unleveraged positions, that’s what I love.

On the other end of the spectrum, I also use it for more powerful movements like flat bench press.

Basically, I do explosive reps from a deadstart (bar a few inches from chest). This allows me to localize the contraction before I move the bar. Once I have max tension, I pop the bar up like popping a cork. Minimized risk of injury because I can spend time in the setup getting things aligned in a way that I know works for my structure. The explosive concentric is great, but I think there’s more benefit in the negative portion. I allow the bar to free-fall for just a split second, and then catch it with a violent contraction - kind of plyometric in nature, I guess. Then I set the bar down, reset, and do it again. This is where I’ll push the loads up and try to generate a powerful tension signal.

I’ve been thinking about using it for either a close grip bench press or jm press I believe it’s called

[quote]Serge A. Storms wrote:
Great post. I love the Smith Machine. I’m so glad I stopped being such an impressionable minion and actually gave it a chance.

I’ll share some of my favorites. I could go on and on with the nuances and descriptions but will do my best to keep it concise.

Curls - My favorite is drop-and-catch curls. I use two 10-lb plates on each side. I’ll do some of these with a longer range-of-motion where I let the bar drop for a foot or so before using a violent biceps contraction to not just catch the weight, but to catch and reverse it’s direction at the same time.

I also do very small ROM curls this way, and the pump is insane. High reps, fast-paced, maximum contractions.

Partials at the top end of the range are also very nice. I like holds in this position. Move your entire body slightly closer or further from the bar to really zero in on the perfect contraction, which is normally hard to get up at the very top of the range.

Sometimes, I stand sideways to the bar and do different 1-arm versions. Very nice way to use subtle changes in wrist position to really localize the contraction focus.

Shrugs - I do so many variations…here’s one: (25’s on each side of the bar would be a good starting point) Use a high-pull type motion to get the bar moving up quickly. Violently contract the traps to hold the bar for a brief second at the top of the motion and as you very slowly allow the bar to descend, lean away from it. Woah.

I have a million other ones for traps. The assistance element of the Smith Machine allows you to achieve holds and slowish negatives in unleveraged positions, that’s what I love.

On the other end of the spectrum, I also use it for more powerful movements like flat bench press.

Basically, I do explosive reps from a deadstart (bar a few inches from chest). This allows me to localize the contraction before I move the bar. Once I have max tension, I pop the bar up like popping a cork. Minimized risk of injury because I can spend time in the setup getting things aligned in a way that I know works for my structure. The explosive concentric is great, but I think there’s more benefit in the negative portion. I allow the bar to free-fall for just a split second, and then catch it with a violent contraction - kind of plyometric in nature, I guess. Then I set the bar down, reset, and do it again. This is where I’ll push the loads up and try to generate a powerful tension signal.[/quote]

Interesting. I have avoided chest exercises on the Smith because I found it hard on my shoulders, unless I got my form absolutely perfect. Even then, the bar path was unnatural for me. Maybe its time I try again, its been 5 years probably

[quote]demonthrall wrote:

Interesting. I have avoided chest exercises on the Smith because I found it hard on my shoulders, unless I got my form absolutely perfect. Even then, the bar path was unnatural for me. Maybe its time I try again, its been 5 years probably[/quote]

Two things you can try:

  1. partial-range reps. the bar path may be natural for part of the range and then not so much for another, so partials may solve the problem
  2. allow your hands/wrists to slightly rotate through the movement or try some alternative hand positions (easy to do on Smith).

I have to spend some up-front time getting into the right groove, but once I find it, I can hammer away.

I wish I hadn’t listened to the guys who made it seem feminine to use a smith machine. My chest never grew like it did when I was doing smith incline all the time. I loved them for squats too and leg development really slowed down when I stopped using it.

Use it. It is awesome. If I had the money I would buy one at the drop of a hat.

[quote]paulieserafini wrote:
I’ve been thinking about using it for either a close grip bench press or jm press I believe it’s called[/quote]
C_C used to advocate doing CGBP’s in a smith machine while pushing the bar towards your feet. I think it is a DC concept but I don’t remember entirely. I did them a few times and they are murder for your triceps…

I got a home gym now but I’m seriously considering getting a gym membership just to use a smith machine again!

[quote]krazykoukides wrote:

[quote]paulieserafini wrote:
I’ve been thinking about using it for either a close grip bench press or jm press I believe it’s called[/quote]
C_C used to advocate doing CGBP’s in a smith machine while pushing the bar towards your feet. I think it is a DC concept but I don’t remember entirely. I did them a few times and they are murder for your triceps…[/quote]

I think I’ve read about that, Inhuman press I think it’s called.

You can use the smith for seated calf raises if you use one of those pads for squatting on your knees

I like to hit decline with the SM. I know it may sound strange, but if you put it on a 15 degree angle and kind of push in on the bar while pressing it hits the upper pecs really well. I have a hard time getting a pump like i do (in the Upper pec) using any other exercise. The added bonus is that its decline so you can use a decent amount of weight.

I practically live on the Smith machine.

To add to what gato10 said above, declines to the throat (aka decline guillotines) are one of the best upper-chest exercises I’ve ever found, and the Smith machine provides a safe way to do this potentially dangerous movement.

[quote]rds63799 wrote:

[quote]krazykoukides wrote:

[quote]paulieserafini wrote:
I’ve been thinking about using it for either a close grip bench press or jm press I believe it’s called[/quote]
C_C used to advocate doing CGBP’s in a smith machine while pushing the bar towards your feet. I think it is a DC concept but I don’t remember entirely. I did them a few times and they are murder for your triceps…[/quote]

I think I’ve read about that, Inhuman press I think it’s called.

You can use the smith for seated calf raises if you use one of those pads for squatting on your knees[/quote]

The Inhuman Press also incorporated having the entire lower body off of the bench, and putting only the lower back and above on the bench.

Incline Guillotine presses

Haven’t used the smith for much in years, but I do like doing bench toss when I have access to one (depends on where I’m lifting - in a given month I may lift in up to 4 different gyms, sometimes more).

Bench toss is like the explosive bench Serge was talking about, except you go kind of light and actually try to launch the bar, with a soft catch at the bottom (hands already dropping before bar hits, to avoid impact). I have done them both from a deadstop at the bottom, and with a more rhythmic pattern. Setup is key, as you want your shoulders in the proper position for these. I tend to set up with the bar kind of low, either right at the bottom of my sternum or just below it, keeps stress off my shoulders this way.

I like the somersault squat idea, basically a loaded version of what we call monkey fuckers or bootstrappers. Going to work those into my lower body days.

Single leg squats, bulgarian split squats.

FUCK THE SMITH MACHINE

[quote]Michael Crehan wrote:
FUCK THE SMITH MACHINE[/quote]

I tried that.

Thought it might improve my upper glutes and lower abs.

Tried it from behind, in front, slow reps, fast reps. Nothing seemed to work. I concluded that it wasn’t designed for this purpose.

i can’t stand the smith machine… the point of the design is to eliminate the need to balance the weight… which seems like half the point to me…

to each their own though but i get ten times the overall workout by staying to free weights and by using high volume