9 Epic Smith Machine Benefits [+ Disadvantages]

Some people believe that the Smith machine is fantastic because it lowers your risk of injury and aids in maintaining proper form.

Others believe that because it restricts natural movements, it might not be as beneficial as exercising without it.

We’ll examine the Smith machine benefits and drawbacks. We’ll assist you in deciding whether or not it’s valuable to have in your home gym.

What Is A Smith Machine?

The Smith machine is a common piece of fitness equipment found in almost every commercial gym. It consists of a barbell attached to rails, which allows the machine to spot the user during exercises. This is especially useful for those who exercise alone without access to a spotter.

A safety mechanism is provided by the machine in case someone becomes stuck while performing exercises like squats or bench presses. The machine contains pegs that can be used to keep the barbell in place at different heights.

While the spotting feature makes it safer to lift weights solo, the attachment of the barbell to the rails limits its movement.

Most Smith machines only allow vertical motion, meaning the barbell can’t move forward or backward.

Some versions may have a double rail system that allows limited forward and backward movement, but they are still considered Smith machines in essence.

Here are some movements and exercises that are surprisingly effective with the Smith Machine:

  • Smith Machine Hack Squat: The Smith machine provides a guided vertical path for the barbell, which can be helpful for beginners or those with limited mobility. Free weight squats require more stabilization and balance control.
  • Smith Machine Reverse Grip Bench Press: The Smith Machine Reverse Grip Bench Press is a great chest exercise that emphasizes the upper chest. Tucking the elbows and squeezing the chest during the movement targets the upper chest muscles more effectively than a regular grip bench press.
  • Smith Machine Overhead Press: Performing overhead presses with a Smith machine can provide a safer and more controlled motion, especially when lifting heavy weights.
  • Smith Machine Bent-Over Row: This exercise allows for a more controlled movement compared to traditional bent-over rows with a barbell.
  • Smith Machine Inverted Row: The Smith machine’s adjustable bar height makes it ideal for inverted rows, which can be challenging to replicate with free weights alone.
  • Smith Machine Romanian Deadlift (RDL): The Smith machine can help maintain balance and proper form during RDLs, which can be more challenging with free weights.
  • Smith Machine Drag Curl: The fixed plane of movement in the Smith machine allows for strict form during drag curls, targeting the biceps effectively.
  • Smith Machine Split Squat: This exercise is a variation of lunges that can be more stable and controlled using the Smith machine.
  • Smith Machine Calf Raises: The guided bar path in the Smith machine calf raise provides a more straightforward movement, particularly if using heavy weights.
  • Smith Machine Hip Thrust: The Smith machine is beneficial for hip thrusts, especially when loading heavy weights, as it can enhance stability and safety.
  • Smith Machine Bench Press: Similar to the squat, the guided bar path in the Smith machine bench press can assist with stability and allow for targeting specific muscle groups. It’s not the same as a free weight bench press due to the fixed bar path.

9 Smith Machine Benefits That You Need To Know

1. Building Strong Quads:

The traditional barbell back squat requires the weight to be directly over the middle of your foot to maintain balance.

However, the Smith Machine allows for a different approach. By placing your feet slightly in front of you and pushing slightly backward, you can engage your quadriceps more effectively.

This setup benefits taller lifters or those with longer femurs who struggle with the regular barbell back squat. It can lead to a more quad-dominant movement and less strain on the lower back.

Tips for Smith Machine Hack Squats:

  • Stabilize the machine to prevent it from moving.
  • Experiment with foot placement to find the most comfortable and effective position.
  • Keep foot placement consistent to track progress accurately.

2. Easier to Go to Failure Safely: More Muscle Growth

The Smith Machine also makes it easier to go to failure safely.

Without having to worry about getting stuck under the barbell, you can exert yourself to the point of muscle failure.

If you push yourself too far during a standard free weight workout, such as bench pressing a barbell, you might require a spotter to help you properly re-rack the bar if you can no longer raise the weight.

The bar will lock into place on the machine when you release it at the point of failure of an exercise, keeping it from falling on you.

With this built-in safety, you may train harder and work your muscles to the maximum without worrying about getting stuck using heavy weights.

The ability to go to failure safely can be beneficial for muscle growth and strength gains. It allows you to fully fatigue your muscles and stimulate them for greater adaptation.

3. Controlled Range of Motion:

The Smith Machine’s fixed bar path ensures a controlled range of motion during exercises.

This can be especially advantageous for individuals recovering from injuries or those with joint mobility limitations.

The guided movement helps avoid excessive or improper movements, reducing the risk of further injury and promoting safer workouts.

4. Versatile for Different Fitness Levels:

The Smith Machine is suitable for both beginners and experienced lifters.

Beginners can benefit from the stability and support it offers, allowing them to focus on proper form and gradually build strength.

Experienced lifters can use the Smith Machine to isolate specific muscle groups and push themselves to new levels of intensity with heavier weights.

5. Efficient Superset Training:

Superset training involves performing two exercises back-to-back without rest.

The Smith Machine’s quick and easy weight adjustments make it ideal for superset workouts.

Users can transition smoothly between exercises, maximizing the efficiency of their training sessions and maintaining an elevated heart rate for increased calorie burn.

6. Prevent Plateauing:

Incorporating the Smith Machine into your workout routine can help break through plateaus in strength and muscle gains.

By changing the movement patterns and exercise variations, you challenge your muscles in new ways, stimulating growth and preventing stagnation.

7. Isolate Specific Muscles:

The Smith Machine’s fixed bar path allows you to concentrate on specific muscle groups without worrying about stabilizing the weight.

This can be particularly beneficial for bodybuilders and individuals looking to sculpt and target specific muscle areas.

8. Time-Efficient Workouts:

With the Smith Machine, there’s no need to spend time setting up or balancing free weights. The fixed path simplifies the workout process, making it easy to transition between exercises.

This time-saving feature can be beneficial for individuals with busy schedules or those looking to maximize their gym time effectively.

9. Easy to Change Weights:

When working out alone, the Smith machine makes it easier to change weights quickly and efficiently, making it ideal for drop sets and super sets.

Smith Machine Disadvantages

1. Not Engaging Stabilizer Muscles:

When you use the Smith machine, you don’t have to balance the weight yourself because the machine guides it for you.

This means you miss out on engaging the stabilizer muscles that are essential for keeping you steady and supporting the weight during free-weight exercises.

2. Lack of Exercise Variation:

If you only use the Smith machine for certain exercises, like overhead barbell presses for shoulders, you’re always working those muscles at the same angle.

This repetitive movement might cause problems if your body doesn’t like that angle, leading to potential issues over time.

3. Not Suitable for Some Exercises:

Some exercises, like the leg press on the Smith machine, can be dangerous.

The machine’s design makes it tricky to get in and out safely, and it could put your hips at risk.
You might need a spotter to help you avoid injuries.

4. Linear Lifting Form:

Your body moves in a natural arc when you do pressing exercises, but the Smith machine forces you to lift the bar in a straight line.

This can put extra stress on your joints and connective tissues, which may not be good for your body in the long run.

5. Lack of Core Activation:

Since the Smith machine stabilizes the barbell for you, it reduces the need for core engagement during exercises.

In contrast, using free weights requires greater core activation to stabilize the body, which is crucial for overall strength development.

Smith Machines vs. Free Weights: Which is Better?

When comparing Smith machines to free weights, the latter generally come out on top in terms of functionality, muscle building, and strength development.

Free weights allow for a greater range of motion and engage multiple muscles simultaneously, promoting better functional strength gains.

On the other hand, machines can be useful for targeted hypertrophy work or for individuals with injuries.

The fixed path of the Smith machine can be beneficial for isolating specific muscle groups and providing a controlled environment for rehabilitation purposes.

Conclusion: Should you Use Smith Machine or Not?

In the end, it all comes down to how you incorporate the Smith machine into your routine. Advanced lifters might use it sparingly for specific exercises or safety reasons.

However, beginners should prioritize learning proper form with free weights to build a solid foundation for their fitness journey.

What are your thoughts on the Smith machine? Do you include it in your workouts, or do you prefer sticking to free weights? Share your opinions and other Smith machine benefits that you’ve experienced in the comments below!


  1. Schwanbeck S, Chilibeck PD, Binsted G. A comparison of free weight squat to Smith machine squat using electromyography. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Dec;23(9):2588-91. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b1b181. PMID: 19855308.
  2. Schick, Evan E; Coburn, Jared W; Brown, Lee E; Judelson, Daniel A; Khamoui, Andy V; Tran, Tai; Uribe, Brandon P; Reyes, Christian. A Comparison Of Muscle Activation Between A Smith Machine And Free Weight Bench Press. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24():p 1, January 2010. | DOI: 10.1097/01.JSC.0000367207.18161.d7
  3. Sheppard, J. M., Doyle, T. L. A., & Taylor, K-L. (2008). A methodological and performance comparision of smith-machine and free weight jump squats. Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning, 16(2), 5-9.
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