Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Smith Machine - A waste of valuable gym space?

Over the years I've omitted certain exercises, machines, or movements for various reasons.  The main reason I've taken a stance in avoiding certain "gym things" is safety and movement efficiency.  A VERY close second reason would be the BENEFIT of an exercise. Some exercises are extremely beneficial, but not everybody has the stability and mobility to perform them effectively, which could lead to injury.

If a client can't move efficiently, such as not being able to perform a squat or lunge properly. Or if they can't perform a  push up or row variation with proper body alignment and shoulder function, we'll mainly work on activating certain muscles and working up to the full range of motion with the above movements.

I didn't always train that way, I used to just run clients though various exercises and machines at the gym and try to make them sweaty and sore.  Yes, I was a moron.

Of all the exercises  I see people performing at the gym with major movement dysfunction, the Smith Machine would rank #1.

Some of the problems I see with the Smith Machine:

-A fixed plane of motion.  The bar slides up and down a guided path and for most exercises such as squats and bench press, and our most of the time this can lead to shoulder, knee, and lower back issues.  Our bodies should operate on a more "functional path".  This guided path takes the lower back out of the equation during squats and places more sheer force on the patella.  During the bench press, the fixed path can take all of the shoulder stabilization out of the exercise, which would be avoiding one of the benefits of the exercise- on purpose.
This causes pain in MY shoulders...... 

-False sense of resistance.  Whether you are providing more force with your right or left arm (or leg), the bar will still travel in an even path.  Using free weights such as an Olympic Bar or Dumbbells, it is extremely noticeable which limb is providing more force.

-Its a trainer-no brainer.   A lot of trainers who are uneducated or just don't feel like taking time to teach an actually "free weight" movement will just stick they clients on the Smith Machine because "it's easy".

-Misrepresentation of the actual load lifted.  If you push the bar in a forward / backward motion while moving the bar upward, you are using the guide track to help with the resistance.  There are some gym goers who bench two 45lb. plates on each side and claim to bench 225lbs.  Once they step outside of fairly tail land and get on a real bench,  they'll get a 225lb. bar to the chest that doesn't budge.

When I see all of the money gyms waste on these machines, it amazes me.  You could get 2 or 3 power/squat racks for the price of one Smith Machine- but you need employees that are capable of teaching certain exercises out of those racks, which is hard to find now a days.
This dude is also using a "sissy pad" - awfulness! 
The Smith Machine does have some uses in my book.  It's a great place to strap the TRX or a great place to anchor resistance bands.  For certain cases, such as bodybuilding, it is adequate for movements solely designed for hypertrophy.  

Most people just want to get leaner, get in better physical condition, and move more efficiently and pain free, the Smith Machine is far from the  best tool for accomplishing those things.

The last thing regarding the Smith, that I find pretty humorous is listening to a personal trainer brag about how they are an expert at functional training and then seeing their clients perform 1/4 rep squats using that damn machine.

Next time you're in the gym head to the squat rack or dumbbell area, let your body do the work instead of some lame ass machine.....


philip said...

Its really a good post.keep it up.thanks for sharing.

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Anonymous said...

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Damon Brobst CSCS said...

Anonymous-Thanks for your intelligent insight!