Why You Should Think Twice Before Using The Smith Machine At The Gym

The Smith machine can be found at most gyms. It is similar to a traditional squat rack except the barbell is fixed on the rack. This allows people to maintain good form while lifting heavy weights and keeps the user safer because the barbell is easier to re-rack solo. However, a lot of fitness professionals caution against this machine. Here's why.

Matt Korman, CSCS, director of strength and conditioning at Charlotte Christian School in Charlotte, North Carolina, thinks athletes should avoid the Smith machine at the gym. "There are very few people, if any, that I would recommend utilize a Smith machine in their training," he told Stack.

The biggest issue fitness professionals have with the Smith machine is that it can put the body in unnatural positions and lead to injury. Although the fixed bar feature can make it safer to deal with heavy weights, it also does not allow your body to move naturally during reps. "In a Barbell Back Squat, the torso and knees need to come forward to keep the weight over the midfoot," Korman said. "This is a natural mechanism the body has for maintaining balance during movement." The Smith machine does not allow the torso to move while you are squatting, which results in poor form.

The Smith machine is safe when used correctly

Other fitness professionals think the Smith machine is a perfectly good piece of gym equipment that can offer many benefits when used correctly. "You can use it to overhead press, deadlift, do hips thrusts, side bends for the core, pull-ups if you lock it in a high position, and even lie on the floor and push it up [with your feet] to use it for a leg press," Noam Tamir, certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner and head trainer at TS Fitness in New York City, told Runner's World. "I like it to improve your push-up. Most people can't do a proper push-up, and this simulates doing a push-up against a wall if you have it in a low position — you can progress, moving the bar lower and lower over time."

As long as you are able to maintain proper form, there is no reason to completely avoid the Smith machine. It may be helpful to have a personal trainer spot you while using it so that they can let you know if your form is suffering because of the machine's limited range of motion.