Is Ego Lifting Holding You Back From the Benefits of the Smith Machine?

A tale as old as time.

Well, not quite. But since its birth in the 1950s, the Smith machine has garnered the reputation of being the black sheep of the fitness equipment family.

If you’re unfamiliar with this piece of equipment, the Smith machine is like a squat rack – except it holds the barbell in place on a vertical plane. But why has the Smith machine garnered such a bad rap over the years? The most common arguments are that:

  • It lacks forward/backward mobility, limiting your range of motion
  • “It makes lifting easier” (not full-body because you don’t use stabilization)
  • It isn’t as effective for building muscle and strength

What these haters don’t cover? The massive benefits of this machine and how it can help you on your fitness journey. The Smith isn’t just a useful tool for beginners learning the mechanics of lifting. A lot of pro athletes – like Canadian three-time Classic Physique Mr. Olympia Chris Bumstead – love it for its muscle-isolating abilities.

In this article, we’ll not only debunk common misconceptions about Smith machines but we’ll also prove how they can be beneficial for your home workout routine.


Common Criticisms of Smith Machines

Before we explain the benefits of adding a Smith machine to your fitness routine, let’s first address some common misconceptions.

Critique #1: The Locked Bar Path Limits Range of Motion

The argument against the locked bar path is that the limited range of motion can put extra strain on your joints and cause injury. But we can make this argument for any piece of equipment, free weight or machine. Bad form in any exercise can result in injury. And the Smith machine’s locked bar path is incredibly useful for beginners learning the mechanics of a lift, like bench presses or squats.

And there are products on the market designed to address these concerns. For example, the Hoist 7-Degree Smith Machine features a – you guessed it – 7-degree angle during exercises. This helps to mimic your body’s natural movement and prevent pesky injuries.


Critique #2: Smith’s Decrease Your Body’s Activation of Stabilizer Muscles

Surprise! There are Smith machines on the market with forward/backward motion that require stabilizer engagement, like this Hoist MiSmith Dual Action Machine.

But even machines that stabilize the load for you are beneficial. Removing the need to recruit extra muscles during a lift allows for isolation and focus on a single muscle (or group).


Critique #3: Smith Machines Aren’t as Effective for Building Muscle and Strength

This one couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, a 2020 study showed that free-weight and Smith machine weightlifting were equally effective for building muscle mass and strength.[1]

And since you’re not recruiting secondary stabilizers with the Smith, you’re activating the main muscles during a lift instead. Which results in increased strength over time in that exercise.


5 Benefits of Incorporating the Smith Machine Into Your Workout Routine

1. Safety, Safety, Safety!

Our #1 reason for being such strong believers in the Smith machine is the safety benefits it offers to all athletes. This piece of fitness equipment is not only effective, but it’s like having a personal spotter in your home gym 24/7. Smith’s offer:

    • Stability during lifts
    • A fail-safe mechanism if you need to bail from under the bar
    • And multiple slots/posts for you to hook the barbell onto at any point during a lift

These key features allow you to safely train solo and help prevent injuries that could occur from failing a lift without a spotter.


2. Beginner Friendly

Smith machines offer beginner athletes a nice introduction to most major lifts. The fixed bar path allows you to focus on correct posture and form during exercises like squats, bench presses, lunges, and rows. This helps you to learn the mind-muscle connection needed to properly execute a lift which reduces the risk of future injuries.


3. Adds Workout Versatility

When building your home gym, you often have limited space. And to maximize every square inch, you want one weight machine that can do the job of many. For example, you can use your Smith with other equipment in your gym, like resistance bands and benches, to add variety to your routine.
Not to mention, you can do almost any variation of squats under the sun – like split squats, sissy squats, and front squats – which might not be as safe with a barbell and a rack.


4. Progressive Overload

Smith machines allow you to incorporate progressive overload into your training routine. This is where you gradually increase the weight of exercises over time and help your CNS become accustomed to heavier loads. The multiple rack positions and built-in safety features allow you to add on weight without fear of failure, unlike with free weights and a power rack.


5. Rehabilitation

Smith Machines can be helpful for rehabbing an injury or recovering after surgery because they offer a controlled and stable environment to perform exercises. During rehab, it’s important to gradually increase strength and range of motion while minimizing the risk of re-injury or setbacks.


Other Resources

If you want a deeper dive into the world of Smith machines, along with a list of highly effective exercises, you can find that here.


Final Thoughts on Having a Smith Machine for Your Home Gym

At the end of the day, it all comes down to what’s best for you on your fitness journey. But for us, the pros of investing in a Smith machine for your home gym outweigh the cons.

It allows you to perform a wide range of exercises safely and effectively, without the need for a spotter. By incorporating the Smith into your workout routine, you can add variety, and most importantly, help prevent injuries that can derail your progress.

At Fitness Town, safety is, and will always be our number one priority. And it’s hard to work towards your goals when you’re recovering from an ego-lifting-induced injury.

Remember, the ultimate goal of any fitness journey is to stay healthy and injury-free, and a Smith machine can help you do that





[1] Schwanbeck, Shane & Cornish, Stephen & Barss, Trevor & Chilibeck, Philip. (2020). Effects of Training With Free Weights Versus Machines on Muscle Mass, Strength, Free Testosterone, and Free Cortisol Levels. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 34. 1. 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003349.

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