Weight training is arguably the best form of exercise. Building muscle improves your metabolism, protects you from injury in daily life, supports good posture, and maintains bone density. It can even enhance your mood and provide a fun, efficient method of weight loss that doesn’t require staring into space on a treadmill for hours on end.
Getting Started At The Gym
Getting started, however, can be a bit intimidating. Weight rooms don’t always appear to be the most welcoming places in the world, even when they are. Walking into one for the first time and not knowing about the equipment can make it look like a strange factory on another planet.
Fortunately, there’s an easy fix for this. Becoming knowledgeable about fitness equipment, learning to use proper form, and going into the gym with a plan will make jumping into that room and building your strength feel like no big deal.
Creating space for yourself in the gym is a mental hurdle that will change your life for the better. One way to inch away from cardio and towards weights is by trying out the weight machines your gym provides!
Today, we’ll be talking about the Smith machine – a dynamic tool that will get you started and hopefully act as a gateway to the big, beautiful world of weights!
What Are Smith Machines?
Unlike a regular bench press, smith machines have a barbell that is fixed onto rails so that it can only move straight up and down (though some are slightly angled). The rails have slots where you can hook the barbell. The slots allow you to set the bar at a wide range of heights and stop the downward movement whenever you feel the need to take a break. Smith machines are located near a weight rack so that you can easily add plates and adjust the weight throughout your workout.
What Is A Smith Machine Good For?
They Introduce You To Weight Lifting and Strength Training
You can use Smith machines as an introduction to the big lifts, which include squats, deadlifts, bench press, barbell row, and overhead press. These are the most powerful lifts in your arsenal because they’re compound lifts, meaning they force you to engage the most muscles and get the most bang for your buck. The “big 5” serve as a perfect foundation for your lifting journey.
Using a Smith machine to start working on strengthening these muscle groups comes with a caveat. You absolutely must practice with correct form. Ask the team at your gym for tips, or check out some YouTube videos. Because of their fixed path, the form used on Smith machines is specific to Smith machines, and you should consult a team member, fitness professional, or revisit YouTube if you decide to take these lifts to the free weights, which require a lot more core stabilization.
Not taking the time to understand the difference in form with different pieces of gym equipment can lead to injury but—like we said—there are plenty of people and tools out there to show you the way!
They’re Super Adaptable
Smiths can enable you to target muscles all over the body. That means you don’t have to waste any time moving equipment (some of which is probably already occupied), setting up a circuit with a variety of weights. Like almost anything in the gym, they can be used to do a whole lot more than you’d think.
When you’re performing these lifts, having the slots to rest your barbell on is amazing for self-spotting. That way, you don’t have to walk up to a stranger and ask them to stand over you to perform a lift safely. If you can’t pick the weight up, you can shift it onto the closest slot, leave it right where it is, and get out of the way to reset.
Getting Into The Small Muscles
Because the barbell is on a fixed path, Smith machines also provide a perfect tool for movements that don’t require a huge range of motion. That means that these exercises are almost exactly the same on Smiths as they are using any other type of weight. Examples of this include shoulder shrugs and weighted calf raises.
Smith Machines Allow For Modification
They’re perfect for working toward inverted rows, which is the gateway to a pull-up. They’re also awesome when working on push-ups; you can start them up high at an angle and work your way down until you’re horizontal (plus, doing push-ups on a bar is much easier on your wrists than they are on the floor).
When walking into the gym to try out the Smith machine for the first time, think back to this article and remember: space in the gym belongs to you just as much as it does to anyone else.
So stop by any of our locations, throw those headphones in, know that nobody is paying attention to you, and have fun!