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The Smith machine is, without a doubt, one of the most popular choices among those who lift weights, especially when training the chest, back, or legs. Why? It is versatile, quite simple to use, and the ease of re-racking the bar is a plus for beginners or those without a spotter.
Although it is a commonly used machine, the weight of the bar remains a mystery to many, as it varies depending on the manufacturer, design, counterweight, and more.
How Much Does A Smith Machine Bar Weigh?
The weight of a Smith machine bar can be up to 45 lb if the manufacturer uses a 7ft Olympic one. The perceived weight of the bar depends largely on the presence of a counterweight, but the angle also plays an important role.
Therefore, the perceived weight of most Smith Machine Bars is usually about 15 lb, but there are brands that produce commercial Smith Machines with a perceived weight of 6 lb.
The decision of the manufacturers to make the bar lighter is to offer a good experience to everyone, including beginners or those who might struggle with the full weight of a bar.
These machines with lighter bars are usually made for commercial gyms, where beginners and women are more likely to train.
However, there will always be a minimum weight of the bar, which will ensure that it will not rise at the slightest touch, as this will cause the machine to deteriorate much faster.
- Marcy Smith Cage
How To Measure The Weight Of A Smith Machine Bar
The History Of The Smith Machine
Benefits Of Using The Smith Machine
- Suitable for beginners: Some Smith machine bars can have a perceived weight of 6 lb due to the counterweight and angle. This is great if you are struggling to get enough reps with a free-weight bar that can weigh up to 45 lb.
- Variety: The Smith Machine can be used to work a lot of muscle groups, such as the chest, back, traps, legs, glutes, forearms, and more.
- No spotters required: A spotter can always be useful, but if don’t have one, working on the Smith machine might be a better idea, because you can re-rack the weight much easier.
- Hypertrophy: The fixed plane of motion and the constant tension offered by a Smith Machine bar are the main reasons why you could use it to build muscle.
- Prevents staleness: The variety of exercises offered by a Smith machine is excellent to avoid monotony.
Smith Machine Exercises
Choose the inclination of the bench, between 0 and 45 degrees. Place the bench under the bar and sit on the bench. Lower the bar to your chest and push it back up.
This time, the back of the bench should be set at almost 90 degrees. Lower the bar to your upper chest and push it back up. Keep your shoulders back and down.
Although this exercise is more popular with a free-weight bar, you can also do it using the Smith machine. Place the bar at mid-thigh level. Unrack the bar and bend the upper body at an angle of about 45 degrees, while keeping the back straight. Pull the bar towards the navel, lower it in a controlled manner, and keep the abdominal muscles tight.
Put the barbell at mid-thigh level. Place your feet around shoulder-width apart. With your hands outside your legs, unrack the barbell and pull it up, keeping your arms straight, then lower it in a controlled manner. Imagine that your hands are hooks and you pull the weight with your traps.
This is a more unconventional exercise to do using the Smith machine, but if the gym is full and you don’t have a free bench, it can work very well. Place the bar just above knee level and turn so that the bar is behind you.
Grab it with your fingers facing you and your palms down. Using your heels to maintain balance, bend your elbows to go down, then push back up. If it’s too easy, you can elevate your legs using a box or some 45 lb plates.
Smith Machine vs Free-Weight Bar
Both the Smith machine and the free-weight bar have advantages and disadvantages. However, a Smith is more likely to be used for accessory work or by beginners who might struggle with a normal bar.
The fixed plane of motion of a Smith machine can be used as a tool for better muscle activation, in combination with constant muscle tension, but the necessary balance does not come close to that required for free-weight training.
When performing a free-weight exercise, such as squats, it is not just the legs that are involved in the movement. To stabilize the weight, you need to recruit other muscle groups so that your body acts as a unit.
For this reason, the weights you use for the Smith machine are slightly different from those you use for free-weight training. The fact that the Smith machine provides assistance and does not require weight balancing allows you to lift more.
In conclusion, free-weight training is slightly superior to using a Smith machine because it recruits more muscle groups to stabilize the weight.
This does not change the fact that the Smith machine is excellent, as it can be used for accessory work or for better muscle activation. In addition, beginners or those struggling with a free-weight bar could start with the Smith machine to learn how to execute an exercise and gain strength.
Why Is The Weight Of A Smith Machine Bar Important?
First of all, it facilitates the transition between exercises. For example, if you decide to switch from bench press to Smith machine press for a day, the weight of the bar is important to know how much you should add for your warm-up and working sets. Otherwise, it’s just a guessing game.
Another reason is that it makes it easier to track progress. If you use the Smith machine for accessory work quite often, knowing the weight of the bar will allow you to write down your working sets accurately.
It’s true that you could write “barbell + 45 lb on each side,” but that’s pretty annoying. Moreover, this becomes a problem when you switch gyms and use another machine.
Is using a Smith machine cheating?
Although a Smith machine does not require weight balancing as free-weight training does, using it does not mean cheating. The intensity of your workouts depends on you, not the machine you use.
Why do bodybuilders use the Smith machine?
They use it for constant muscle tension. They often perform “cheat reps” at the end of a set, and a Smith machine bar is perfect for this technique, especially if you don’t have a spotter.
Why can I lift heavier on a Smith machine?
When lifting on a Smith machine, it is no longer necessary to balance the weight. Therefore, you will always lift more using a Smith machine compared to free-weight training.
Another detail is the weight of the bar. Some machines have bars that are counter-weighted. What might look like a 45 lb barbell might actually be much lighter, so you will be able to add more plates on the sides.
When should you use a Smith machine?
Smith machine exercises are great as accessory work after performing free-weight exercises. You can also use the Smith machine at the beginning of a workout to better activate certain muscle groups.