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How to Use Smith Machine Bench Press for Beginners

How to Use Smith Machine Bench Press for Beginners

Is the Smith Machine Bench Press Ideal for Weight Training?

Imagine you are ready to crush your bench press but suddenly realize you need a spotter. Don't be perturbed. Regardless of your fitness level, you can attain a comprehensive workout at home with a full range of exercises. The Smith machine bench press serves as an excellent alternative to having a spotter, allowing for a safe and effective workout with optimal results. This all-in-one workout equipment features a variety of fitness exercises to sculpt the body and strength training for all major muscle groups.

Nevertheless, the truth is that anybody who is a beginner should seriously consider using the smith machine. Because it enables to strengthens the core, arms, thighs, and legs including bench press which is a great exercise for building chest muscle. Major Lutie Fitness also offers excellent customer service and support, helping customers to find the right equipment for their needs and providing guidance on how to use it safely and effectively.

Is Smith Machine Bench Press Effective?

Yes, because strength training is an essential component of any fitness program, regardless of your goals or fitness level. Fitness enthusiasts should aim to include it in their workouts at least two to three times per week. Here are some of the key reasons why strength training is important for fitness enthusiasts:

Is Smith Machine Bench Press Effective?
  • Strength training helps to increase muscle mass which not only improves appearance but also boosts metabolism.

  • You'll burn more calories even when you're at rest, which can help with weight loss or weight management.

  • Strength training improves performance in other areas of fitness such as weightlifting.

  • Regular strength training can help to improve bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, especially in women.

  • It enhances overall health including reducing the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, improving balance and coordination, and reducing stress and anxiety.

Smith Machine

Smith machines or Smith cages were invented by Jack LaLanne. He was a specialist in nutrition fitness, and exercise. In his own gym, he developed the first rack with a guidance system. In the late 1950s, the first model was used in Rudy Smith's gym by gym owner ‚ÄúRudy Smith‚ÄĚ who later named them after himself.

Smith Machine

This is a resistance machine designed for strength training purposes. You can safely and efficiently achieve a full-body workout because it has adjustable bar catches, safety stoppers, and "Ultra-Glide" linear bearings. Users can build muscle in no time.

Steel rails hold the barbell in a fixed position. The barbell is attached to a pulley system, its movement is unilateral which allows it to move vertically up and down. The user can adjust the height of the bar to suit their needs, and can then perform a variety of weight training exercises using the machine.

Function

This workout equipment can be used for variations of a squat to grow muscle and strength in the lower body. For the chest muscles just place the flat bench underneath the bar of the smith machine. Lie down with your chest facing upwards directly underneath the bar. Keep in mind beginners should not attach weights. Once you have perfected your technique then start adding smith machine bar weight to create more resistance and make exercise harder.

Technique Behind Building Your Chest with Smith Machine Bench Press

For bench press on smith machine grab the bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, twist the bar forward to release it from the grips slowly bring it down to the chest, and push upwards to complete one rep.

During this exercise on bench press smith machine chest muscles are the core muscle, as you know that the barbell is unilateral or moves in a straight line. There is no requirement to engage your stabilizer muscles.

Furthermore, the Smith Machine comes equipped with support grips on the sidebars that allow you to safely train to the point of muscular failure. In case you are unable to lift the barbell, you can rotate the bar backward and securely rest it on the support grips, thereby preventing any accidents or injuries.

When performing barbell bench presses in the traditional manner, it is difficult to train until the point of failure without the assistance of a spotter. This is because, in the absence of a spotter, there is a risk of getting trapped under the weight of the barbell and being unable to lift it back up.

After learning flat bench press on smith machine with the correct form on the smith machine you will be able to learn how to push the bar upwards and downwards to the chest in a controlled manner. You will get even better results in long run.

One strategy to consider is starting your chest workout with incline bench presses on Smith machine. This exercise variation will target your chest muscles from a different angle compared to the traditional flat bench press with a weighted barbell, which can help activate different muscle fibers and provide a more well-rounded workout for your chest.

Advantages of Smith Machine:

  • Provides a fixed range of motion and reduces the risk of injury during exercises like squats and bench presses.

  • Equipped with safety catches that can prevent accidents and injuries during weightlifting.

  • Can use for a variety of exercises, such as lunges, military presses, and calf raises.

  • Allows for easy adjustments to the weight being lifted with the help of a simple lock and release mechanism.

  • Enables beginners to learn proper lifting form and technique.

Disadvantages of Smith Machine:
  • Limits the range of motion and may not engage stabilizing muscles as effectively as free weights.

  • This can lead to muscular imbalances due to the fixed range of motion, which may not be suitable for advanced lifters.

  • This may lead to an overreliance on the equipment and may not translate well to functional movements outside of the gym.

  • May not provide the same level of muscle activation and strength gains as free-weight exercises.

  • Can be expensive to purchase and maintain compared to other gym equipment

Types of Smith Machines

  • Standard Smith machine: it has a vertical bar that slides up and down within two steel rails and is fixed to a horizontal barbell.

  • Half-rack Smith machine: it has a half-cage rack to provide additional support and stability during exercises.

  • Functional trainer Smith machine: it combines a Smith machine with a cable machine, allowing for a wider range of exercises.

  • Multi-station Smith machine: it combines the Smith machine with other workout stations such as a pulley system, dip and pull-up bars, and a bench press station.

  • Folding Smith machine: Designed to be more compact and foldable for easier storage in smaller spaces.

  • Counterbalance Smith machine: Uses a counterweight to offset the weight of the barbell and reduce the resistance felt by the user, making it ideal for beginners or those recovering from injuries.

Smith Machine VS Free Weight Bench Press: Which is Better?

The primary difference between a Smith machine and a regular bench press lies in their setup and mechanics. A Smith machine utilizes a fixed barbell attached to vertical guide rails, providing more stability and control over the bar path. This can be beneficial for beginners or those with limited mobility or balance but may limit natural movement patterns and reduce muscle activation compared to a free-weight bench press.

On the other hand, a regular bench press with free weights allows for a greater range of motion and can recruit more muscles for stabilizing and balancing the weight. However, it requires more control and attention to form, and may not be as suitable for those with injuries or limitations.

Bench Press

The bench press is a popular exercise for bodybuilders, CrossFit training, general fitness, powerlifters, and weightlifter program. It performs for upper body strength and mass and is often used by athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts. This weightlifting exercise primarily targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps muscles.

Bench Press

The exercise can be performed with various grip widths and barbell weights to target different muscle groups. It involves lying on a bench with your feet flat on the ground and lifting a barbell off a rack to lower it towards your chest and then pushing it back up to the starting position.

Function

Of course, as the name suggests, bench presses are done using a weight bench which is typically a flat bench. It is usually a barbell exercise, while there are variations done with kettlebells and dumbbells. However, variations of movements are performed with angled benches such as decline benches.

Bench presses are great for building killer pecs. Keep in mind while doing this powerful exercise chest is the main mover. During press movement, your shoulders will get some action, especially when benching front delts will get more attention. If they are performed correctly your core will get a significant amount of love.

The triceps are a secondary mover in bench presses generally it depends on your grip. You may also feel some burn in your biceps. However, it's important to note that the biceps are not the primary muscle group being worked on during this exercise. So, if you feel some fatigue or soreness in your biceps, it's normal and nothing to worry about.

Technique Behind Traditional Bench Press

Executing an exercise accurately and efficiently demands comprehensive knowledge of the movement. It is imperative to acknowledge that improper bench press form may hinder your progress. So, if you find yourself stuck in a rut and struggling to make gains, it is essential to scrutinize and perfect your form to optimize results.

It advises finding a bench with a rack and using a gym buddy for supervision. Sit on the middle to lower half of the bench placing your feet firmly on the ground. To make sure your body is in the right position for a bench press, it's important to make sure specific parts of your body are touching the bench.

Your chest should be out and up, and there should be some space between your shoulder blades. Your upper back and shoulders should be touching the bench, and your lower back(lumbar spine) should be arched up off the bench. Your glutes should also be touching the bench, so make sure your feet are in a good position. And don't forget to keep your head touching the bench too.

It is suggested that grasping the bar at a comfortable width and engaging the core before lifting the barbell off the rest stops. The movement involves lowering the barbell towards the chest in a controlled manner, then pressing it back up while maintaining proper form.

Protip: The more you bring the elbows out, the greater the pressure on the shoulders. To avoid this keep your elbows on your side and bring the barbell to the center of your chest.

Advantages

  • Helps to build upper body strength and mass, particularly in the chest, shoulders, and triceps

  • Can improve overall pushing strength and power

  • Can be modified with different bench press grip widths, barbell weights, and angles to target different areas of the chest and triceps

  • Requires minimal equipment and can be performed in most gyms

  • Can also improve core strength and stability when performed with proper form

  • It also enhances your endurance for daily activities.

  • Maintaining healthy bones is crucial for physical activity.

  • The bench press is a demanding exercise that burns calories.

  • Mental health benefits and fights obesity.

Disadvantages

  • May cause strain on the shoulders, particularly if performed with improper form or too heavy of a weight.

  • Can put excess pressure on the wrists and elbows if the grip is too narrow or the form is incorrect.

  • This may lead to muscle imbalances if overemphasized in a workout routine without incorporating other exercises to target different muscle groups.

  • Can be difficult to perform for those with limited mobility or shoulder injuries.

  • May not be as effective for building overall functional strength compared to compound exercises such as squats or deadlifts.

Types of Bench Press

  • Flat bench press: Exercise performed lying flat on a bench with the barbell held above the chest.

  • Incline bench press: Performed on an angled bench with the head higher than the feet to target the upper chest.

  • Decline bench press: it performs on a downward angled bench with the feet higher than the head to target the lower chest.

  • Close grip bench press: it performs with the hands placed closer together on the barbell to target the triceps.

  • Wide grip bench press: it performs with the hands placed wider apart on the barbell to target the chest and shoulders.

  • Dumbbell bench press: it performs with dumbbells instead of a barbell, allowing for a greater range of motion and increased stabilizer muscle activation.

 

Comparison Between a Bench Press and a Smith Machine Bench Press

Ultimately, both exercises can be effective for building upper body strength and should be chosen based on individual goals and abilities. Compared to the Smith machine bench press, the traditional barbell bench press is more effective in activating muscles, particularly the smaller muscle groups that aid in stabilizing your body during heavy lifting.

Smith machine bench presses are ideal for isolating and strengthening specific muscles such as the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Therefore, if your goal is to improve strength in these particular muscle groups, choosing the Smith machine over barbell bench presses would be more appropriate.

Muscle Activation During the Smith Machine Bench Press

Muscle activation refers to the level of electrical activity that occurs within a muscle during a particular movement or exercise. The greater the muscle activation, the more effectively the muscle is being utilized to perform the movement.

Muscle Activation During the Smith Machine Bench Press

The Smith machine bench press can be effective in activating muscles such as the chest, shoulders, and triceps, as it allows for the isolation of those muscles and a fixed movement pattern. However, studies have shown that the traditional barbell bench press is generally better than the Smith machine bench press when it comes to overall muscle activation.

Especially for targeting smaller muscle groups that help stabilize the body when moving heavy weights. The free-weight nature of the barbell bench press requires more muscle recruitment to maintain stability and balance during the movement, leading to greater overall muscle activation.

Factors Affecting Muscle Activation During the Smith Machine Bench Press

There are several factors that affect muscle activation while using the smith machine bench press. As smith machine is restricted in movements.

Range of motion: Limitations in the range of motion. For example, if the range of motion is too limited, it can limit the activation of certain muscle groups.

Grip width: The width of the grip used during the exercise can affect the activation of different muscle groups. A wider grip may target the chest more, while a closer grip may target the triceps more.

Foot placement: The placement of the feet during the exercise can affect the activation of the legs and core muscles. Placing the feet closer together may increase the activation of the core muscles, while a wider stance may increase the activation of the leg muscles.

Bar path: The path of the bar during the exercise can affect the activation of different muscle groups. For example, if the bar path is too straight, it can limit the activation of the chest muscles.

Resistance: The amount of resistance used during the exercise can affect the activation of the muscles. Using a heavier weight can increase muscle activation while using a lighter weight can decrease muscle activation.

Safety Considerations when Using a Smith Machine Bench Press

Prioritizing safety is essential when weightlifting, regardless of whether it is for general fitness, sports training, or competition. Improper weightlifting techniques can result in severe injuries or even fatalities. To lift weights safely, it is crucial to adhere to these fundamental guidelines.

Safety Considerations when Using a Smith Machine Bench Press

Safety Features of a Smith Machine

These safety features make Smith machines an excellent choice for lifters who are training alone or without a spotter.

  • The safety features of a Smith machine typically include adjustable safety catches, which are designed to prevent the barbell from falling on the lifter.

  • The lifter can set the catches at a height that ensures the barbell will not descend beyond a certain point, minimizing the risk of injury.

  • Smith machines often have a built-in bar stop feature that can be engaged in case the lifter cannot complete the movement.

  • The bar stop allows the lifter to quickly and safely unload the weight. These safety features make Smith machines an excellent choice for lifters who are training alone or without a spotter.

Common Injuries Associated with Improper Use of a Smith Machine

It's important to use proper form, start with lighter weights, and gradually increase the weight to prevent injuries. Additionally, having a spotter or using safety bars can also help prevent injuries Improper use of a smith machine can lead to various knee and lower back injuries, including

  • Shoulder injuries such as rotator cuff tears and strains.

  • Elbow injuries like tendinitis, wrist injuries, and back injuries.

  • Such as herniated discs, knee injuries like ligament sprains, and even fractures from dropping heavy weights on the body.

Training Tips for a Smith Machine Bench Press

Throughout the entire exercise, ensure that you maintain a lifted chest and pinned shoulder blades to the bench. If needed, carefully lock the bar on the rack once you have completed your reps.

  • Ensure proper warm-up before starting the exercise to prevent injury and increase performance.

  • Adjust the bar height to the appropriate level before starting the exercise.

  • Maintain a stable and balanced position on the bench.

  • Grip the bar with the appropriate width and ensure that your wrists are straight.

  • Engage your core and keep your feet flat on the ground.

  • Lower the bar towards your chest in a controlled manner, stopping just short of touching your chest.

  • Focus on maintaining good form throughout the exercise, keeping your elbows tucked in, and avoiding excessive arching of the back.

  • Exhale and push the bar back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms.

  • Increase weight gradually as you become more comfortable with the exercise and ensure that you can complete each repetition with proper form.

  • Cool down after the exercise to aid in muscle recovery and prevent soreness.

Incorporating Variety in Your Workout

To choose the right weight for the smith machine, remember that the weight you choose may vary depending on the specific exercise you're doing. It's always best to consult with a fitness professional if you're unsure about how much weight to use or if you're new to using the smith machine.

  • Start by determining your one-rep max (1RM) for the exercise you plan to do.

  • Choose a weight that is 60-80% of your maximum capacity to perform multiple reps without risking injury.

  • Start with a lighter weight than you think you can handle, and gradually increase it as you become more comfortable with the exercise.

  • Pay attention to your body and modify the weight as necessary.

Conclusion

Both the bench press and smith machine bench press are efficient for weight training. Choosing one of them is always a personal preference. It's always a good idea to consult with a fitness professional to ensure you're using the proper form and to avoid injury.

Smith machines help to increase stability and safety during weight training sessions for heavy weight lifters. With consistent practice and progression, the smith machine bench press can be an effective addition to any strength training routine.

Major Lutie Fitness is a top provider of home gym equipment, such as weight sets, cardio machines, resistance bands, and more. Their equipment is designed to be user-friendly, versatile, and space-efficient, making it perfect for those with limited space. Overall, ML Fitness is an excellent choice for those looking to create a home gym setup that is both effective and convenient.

READ MORE: Smith Machine: Everything You Need to Know Before Making a Purchase

 

 

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