Learn how to use this much-maligned machine correctly and you might be surprised by the advantages it offers, says John Meadows
John Meadows is a national champion bodybuilder and works with many of the best physique athletes in the world. He is based in Columbus, Ohio.
I hear a lot of bad things about the Smith machine. But my training partner, Dave Tate of EliteFTS, always says there’s no such thing as a dumb training machine, only a dumb person.
So if you’ve given up on the Smith machine, let me try and convince you why you should give it a second chance.
I personally like squatting in it, once I have a good pump. You need to position your feet slightly more forward than you would on a regular squat, but the Smith machine stabilises you and keeps your spine neutral.
Sure, people say it doesn’t train your stabilisers but maybe you don’t want to if you’re using it purely for bodybuilding purposes.
I really like slight incline and slight decline bench presses in the Smith machine. The key is aligning yourself on the bench so you are pushing the bar up at the right angle. Of course you can start too low so that you excessively internally rotate and get hurt. It all just comes down to knowing how to set yourself up correctly before you start lifting.
I also like bent-over rows. I have a hard time with barbell rows because they are tough on my lower back, especially as I’ve got older. But because the machines have catches or stops, you can use a rest-pause technique so you don’t have to go down all the way and bounce the weight off the ground. Set the stops at mid-shin level so you can rest at the bottom then drive your elbows up explosively to really work your back hard.
I love lunges in there too. When you’re working with dumbbells or a barbell there can be a lot of momentum. Get into a Smith machine and do a lunge and the weight is going straight up and down. You’re lined up perfectly. It’s absolutely the best way to do a lunge.
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