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Smith Machines

Find out if a Smith weight machine is right for you

If you're looking to develop several different muscle groups across your body, then the use or purchase of a Smith machine might be just for you. Smith machines are used for weight training; they consist of a barbell that rests on the user's shoulders or chest, and a weight rack in the base to help stabilize the unit. Some machines counterbalance the weight, offering a more unique and adjustable workout.

Smith machines usually provide two main exercises: the bench press and the squat. Together, these two critical exercises activate muscles in your shoulders, calves, thighs, arms and chest. By finding a challenging but not overly difficult weight, users can maximize their muscle growth.

The Smith weight machine, named after bodybuilder Rudy Smith, was first invented by American exercise guru Jack La Lanne in the 1950s. Smith took La Lanne's design and added new features to it before marketing the machine to a wider audience. Today, Smith machines can be found in most gyms.

Advantages of Smith Machines

Beyond their unique basic design and the opportunities to work out multiple muscle groups, the Smith machine is also a safe way to perform squats and bench presses. On each vertical post there are several slots where the barbell can be rested. This means that, unlike regular weight benches, the user can abort a lift without the help of a spotter, minimizing the number of serious injuries. In addition, the barbell is secured, meaning it cannot fall to the ground like a typical barbell, causing injury.

Disadvantages of Smith Machines

Critics of the Smith machine say "no pain, no gain." Why? Because the same factors that make this machine safe are those that make it less than optimal for muscle development. Because the Smith machine essentially works on rails, it does not help to promote muscle stabilization, as is the case with free weights like dumbbells and barbells. In addition, they're not very affordable; premium machines, like the Cybex Smith machine can cost between $1,000 and $1,500. This makes Smith machines less than ideal for the home gym, which is a shame given their impressive safety features. If you can acquire a used Smith machine at a reasonable price, that may be the way to go – just make sure it's still safe to use.

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