How to Use A Smith Machine

How to Use A Smith Machine


February 20, 2022

A quick fact.  Did you know that Smith machines were invented by an American named Jack Lalanne? 

So, why are they called “Smith Machines”? 

That’s because Rudy Smith developed it after spotting its potential.  He then placed it in his public gym for all to use.  He was, therefore, the person that popularized it.

Jack Lalanne, a fitness specialist, wanted to train safely with his barbell.  He needed a machine that could let him lift heavy weights without the need for a spotter.  The machine was invented in its initial state in pursuit of that goal.

Today, the Smith machine is common fitness equipment found in virtually every gym.  It exists as a barbell system that has bars attached to the frame.

Although the Smith Machine is viral, it is also loathed by many athletes because of its bland design, how it somehow restricts motion, and how it stresses the body more during exercises.  Let’s get into more details.

What is a Smith Machine?

What is a Smith Machine?

A simple definition of a Smith machine would be a machine consisting of a barbell that is fixed within steel rails used mainly for weight training and weightlifting exercises.

A Smith Machine typically has twin rails that guide a barbell, moving vertically. Smith Machines also have safety stops on the guide rails. 

With this, the user can determine how far the barbell would go.  Athletes who use the Smith machine can spot while exercising because the barbell is attached to the rails.

Smith Machines use a pulley system to move weights seamlessly.  This is one of the reasons why weightlifters often do not train with it. 

Many believe that the pulley does most of the work and may not develop the athlete appropriately.

The Smith machine has a spotting function that makes lifting bars much safer.  There are no accident risks with the machine, and overweight bars can easily be stopped before harming the user. 

However,  this attached bar severely limits the motion of the machine.

But the Smith Machine is not known only for weightlifting.  Smith machines can perform different types of exercises, including drag curl, bench press, and squats. 

They are used to doing the popular “Smith Machine Squat” exercises.

Pros and Cons of the Smith Machine

Pros and Cons of the Smith Machine

The Smith Machine is popular with beginners because professional athletes don’t like it: The machine uses a pulley system to move weights.  That way, lifting weights and exercising is far easier and more convenient. 

However, for those already used to weightlifting, the Smith machine proves a very unnatural alternative. 

Because it limits the motions and reduces the workload, the Smith machine is not a favorite of many athletes.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of this machine.


  • Safety: The Smith Machine is considered safe equipment because, unlike the regular barbell, the Smith machine does not pose a risk of hurting the user when training with weights.  With the self-spotting pins, the user prevents a possible injury if the bars are overweight.
  • Balance: When using the Smith machine, the user is in a balanced position.  While the straight position is itself a noted disadvantage, many have taken advantage of the Smith Machine to train by performing several squats.
  • Self-spotting: Smith Machines have self-spotting pins that can stop the weight bars below certain points.  This allows the user to set limits for the weights.  So, you don’t need a spotter with the Smith machine.


  • Unidirectional Weight Movement: The weights can only move in a vertical direction.  This is severely limiting for the trainee who would want to move weights in other directions.
  • Single Training Pattern: The Smith machine allows for only one pattern of training.  This sometimes causes avoidable aches to the person who uses it consistently.
  • It Doesn’t Help Develop Certain Muscles: The Smith Machine only develops the muscles of the shoulders and does not allow for even the development of the entire body.
  • Stressful to the Joints: The machine is often very strenuous to the muscles.  The unidirectional movement of the weight further compounds this.
  • Reduces the weight of Lifts: The machine reduced the weight of lifts, thereby reducing the gains that athletes may make by working on them.

Best Ways to Use a Smith Machine

Best Ways to Use a Smith Machine

There are, however, creative ways to use the Smith machine for optimal output and development of the entire body, and not just the shoulder muscles.

Generally, there are three major ways to work out on the Smith machine.  They are squats, push-ups, and general exercises. 

However, before going into how to use the machine, here are some general information.

  • When working on the Smith Machine, always keep your elbows and knees slightly bent and avoid locking it.
  • Always avoid lifting excessively heavyweights.  Smith machines make it easier to lift heavyweights.  But it’s always better to start with lower weights, especially when starting with the machine for the first time.
  • Target workouts that don’t put too much strain on your muscles, especially the shoulders.  Several workouts target other muscles of the body.  Overall, do what’s comfortable for you.

If you’re still wondering whether to try out the Smith machine or not, here are the best ways to use it for the best experience.

#1 Back Squat

Targeting the core, the back squat is an exercise you can perform on the Smith machine.  It involves using your back to push the weight to a standing position. 

When you squat, the bars should rest on your shoulders.

#2 Close Grip Bench Press

The chest and the pectorals are the main targets of the close-grip Bench Press.  It is performed by lying flat on a bench just under the machine. 

With your arms fully stretched out, grip the bars and lower them down towards your chest until it is about a couple of inches above the chest. 

Return the bar to the starting position.  Repeat the procedure for as long as possible.

#3 Upright Row

This procedure develops the muscles.  With your feet spaced for stability, grip the bar with your overhand and lift it to the waist level.  When you are ready, pull the bar as high as the chin. 

Lower the bar to its original position when it is as high as practicable.  While lifting the bar, it is best to inhale and exhale when lowering the bar.

#4 Barbell Rows

To develop your biceps and traps, perform the barbell rows.  Stand inside the Smith machine and keep your feet apart for better stability. 

Grip the bars from above and pull it slowly up to your lower abdominals, then gradually lower it down till your arms are straight.  Repeat the procedure as many times as possible.

#5 Shoulder Press

The shoulder press is a typical Smith machine exercise.  It develops your shoulders mostly.  Position a bench under the machine, sit in an upright position, and spread your hands wide apart. 

Grab the bar with the underhand and slowly lower it down to your chest.  Lift it again, and repeat the procedure for as long as possible.


The Smith machine has come a long way since its invention in the 50s.  So, if you come across one in the gym next time, you don’t just have to walk by.  You now know how best to put it to use.



Justin Rodriguez has spent most of his adult life inspiring people to take their fitness more seriously. He is not new to the business of providing practical solutions for those looking to set and smash their fitness goals. From sharing professional tips and tricks to recommending awesome products, Justin Rodriguez helps just about anyone who wants to get the best out of their workout routines.Having gathered a lot of experience both in and outside the gym, Justin Rodriguez uses DSW Fitness as a medium to show you exactly how to get that great-looking body with toned muscles you’ve always wanted.