A little achy from hitting barbell and dumbbell workouts hard lately? Don’t worry; you’re not falling apart. Free weights can be taxiing on the joints. Looking for a way to keep the rhythm going, without ruining your entire workout? Well, you might want to check out the Smith machine — basically a free weight mechanical spotter. The Smith machine can add a little freshness to an otherwise stale (and achy) routine and can introduce a whole new crop of exercises to hit an array of muscle groups.
What Smith machine exercises should you incorporate into your next gym session? Check out these four perfect exercises:
Shoulders and Traps
Place either a flat bench or one with back support underneath the Smith. Situate the barbell at a height where when seated on the bench, your arms are nearly fully extended to reach the barbell.
Once at the correct height, sit slightly behind the barbell so that there is an imaginary line from the tip of your nose to the barbell. Keeping your feet stationary, grasp the barbell with the palms facing forward, unlock the barbell from its position and lift up so that your arms are fully extended. This is the starting position.
Slowly begin to lower the barbell until it is level with your chin, while inhaling. From there, lift the barbell back to the starting position using your shoulders while exhaling.
Shoot for three sets of 7-10, using a weight that is challenging (not agonizing), for you.
Set the barbell attached to the Smith to a height about two inches below your knee caps.
With a slight bend in your knees and torso leaned forward so that your back is straight (almost parallel to the floor), grab the barbell (palms in or out) and unlock it from the smith machine rack. Let the barbell hang directly in front of you, so arms hang extended perpendicular to the floor and your torso. This is your starting position.
Keep the torso stationary and lift the barbell as you breathe out, keeping the elbows close to the body and not adding any force with the forearm, other than holding the weights. On the top contracted position, squeeze the back muscles and hold for a second.
Slowly lower the weight again to the starting position as you inhale.
Use a comfortable weight, as you’ll be doing three sets of 12-15.
Place a flat bench underneath the Smith. Position the barbell at a height set so when lying down, the barbell will be slightly lower than if your arms were fully extended. Once the weight has been loaded (start light if it’s your first time using the Smith), lie down on the flat bench. With hands facing away your body (pronated grip) and slightly wider than shoulder width, unlock the bar from the rack and hold it straight over you with your arms locked. This will be your starting position.
As you breathe in, come down slowly until you feel the bar on your middle chest. After a brief pause, bring the bar back to the starting position as you breathe out and push the bar using your chest muscles. Lock your arms briefly in the contracted position and then start coming down slowly again.
Unsure of how long it should take to go up and down? Take at least twice as long to go down than to come up.
Three sets of 8-10.
Ready for a leg burnout? Place a flat bench or foot stool behind the Smith. Position the bar behind the neck and plant the back foot on the bench. Lunge down until the front leg forms a 90-degree angle and the top of the leg is nearly parallel to the floor. Exhale up to the starting position, pausing briefly each time you come up.
This one is a doozy! Start light the first time you perform this exercise, as it certainly creeps up on you!
Three sets of 8-10.
As with any new workout, start off light. If you feel confident (and not overly sore) after each gym session, add weight in 2- to 5-pound increments. If that added weight changes your posture or form during the exercise, keep the previous weight and simply add more reps. Ready to get going and conquer your goals? Head on over to The Gym of New Jersey. JERSEY STRONG!