A Look at the Smith Machine

By Micky McKay Dip PT – MuscleTalk Moderator, Personal Trainer with fitness121.co.uk

The Smith machine is a much maligned piece of apparatus, loved and loathed by many, but, in my opinion, a great piece of arsenal for the trainer who trains on his own.

Man using a Smith Machine on his own

How many lone pieces of equipment allow you to train almost all bodyparts? Some of the ‘experts’ say it puts a lot of pressure on the joints because of the alignment of the machinery. After 20 years of using it, I must say I personally have had no problems whatsoever. For safety, it is a great piece of equipment as it has several locking stations for the bar to fit in in case you encounter any problems.

Here is a list of exercises that can be performed on the Smith machine


  • Flat Bench Press
  • Incline Bench Press
  • Decline Bench Press


  • Bent Over Rows – overhand
  • Bent Over Rows – underhand
  • Pull-ups
  • Partial deadlifts


  • Press to Front
  • Press to Rear
  • Upright Rows


  • Close Grip Bench Press


  • Squats – Front
  • Squats – Rear
  • Lunges


  • Stiff Leg Deadlift


  • Standing Calf Raise

So, as you can see, almost the whole body can be trained from this one piece of equipment. A lot of the exercises are compound movements which will result in heavier poundages being used than with isolation movements; so, in turn, will yield greater results. These are the basic exercises I tend to use when training on the Smith machine.

Smith machine squats with a bad back

I also find training legs of great benefit for anyone with back problems. If you are one of these people try this method: take the bar on your back as normal, then take a step forward, it will feel strange at first but, go down into a regular squat and your back will now be nice and straight but with little pressure on your back due to the different alignment of the body due to stepping forward. This has helped many of my clients in the past.


The key to building a great physique, as we know, is being consistent in training and eating and keeping the body guessing. The smith machine has a place in your bodybuilding routine whether you train on your own or with a partner. If you’re a seasoned trainer or new to training and looking for a change it just may be right it front of you at your gym!