The Truth About Smith Machines And How To Use Them To Build Muscle

April 19, 2022

The barbell is king for overall muscle development. However, some complex movements take body awareness to perform correctly. In addition, a barbell is more dynamic than a Smith machine because the barbell is not attached to anything and can move freely. That does not mean a smith machine is not an excellent tool for exercises, but it does not have all the benefits of free weight training with a barbell. 

Building Muscle With a Smith Machine

Although a smith machine can be used to replace a barbell, doing all of your exercises on the smith machine is not necessarily a clever way of training. However, including it in your routine can be an excellent tool for your workouts; just make sure you know how to use it for each exercise and the benefits you are using it. 

A smith machine is not moving, it will not fall over, and the weight will fall on the bar. Compare this to using a barbell; if your body does some weird movement and forgets to use clips, you might be on a meme page. The smith machine allows you to use heavier weights than you would be able to use on a barbell. The safety hacks take the intimidation away from lifting, limiting the need for a spotter, and reducing the risk of injury. 

One of the main drawbacks of using the smith machine is that it does not need the stabilizer muscles while lifting and can give poor muscle recruitment for some people. However, depending on your goal for the exercise you are performing, not having the stabilizer muscles having to work could be what is wanted. The idea of not having to worry about stabilizing and just feeling the pump is excellent for muscle building. That is why so many bodybuilders use the machine in general. The key is using the smith machine within your workout and not the only part. 

Here are some great tips for the smith machine:

Squat Variations

Have you ever tried doing a sumo squat with a barbell? Doing so can be hard to keep your chest up and allow your hips to do the work. Try this same exercise as a smith machine, and now you can feel the training in the target muscles. Having your feet wider (sumo) or more in front of you while using a smith machine for squat can change how the exercise targets the muscles.

Single-Leg Exercises

Balance is a crucial part of single-leg exercises. They’re also great for building strength and muscle. Using a smith machine removes the stabilizing on one leg and allows you to lift, not focusing on balancing. You can get in more reps and feel the burn.

healthy mature man doing exercise shoulder blog


The bench press is a great exercise, but it can be easy to focus on lifting with single-hand placement. Take your press exercises over to the smith machine; now you have a safe place to try a wider grip while benching. You can also put an adjustable bench at an incline and train the chest without worrying about your shoulders. 

Bodyweight Exercises 

Inverted rows are one of the best back exercises you might not be doing. They can be done with a TRX, Rings, and barbell on a squat rack, but it is when a smith machine that many beginners feel the safest. The smith machine does not move, allowing for many to row without the exercise becoming a swing. You can also flip around and try push-ups on the smith machine. Because the smith machine allows for easy adjustment of the bar placement, you can easily do burnout sets while slowly lowering the bar. 

Final Words

The smith machine has a bad reputation online for many reasons. However, that does not mean it can not be an excellent tool for your workouts. Using the smith machine property can give a different feel from a traditional barbell exercise. So, next time you see the smith machine at the gym, give it a try and experiment with your workouts. 

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