Previously on The Active Times we recruited NASM certified personal trainer Kelvin Gary to help explain why you should never perform squat or chest and shoulder press exercises using the Smith Machine.
He says that it can hinder weight lifting performance and lead to injury by eliminating the use of stabilizer muscles, forcing a fixed plane of motion and hiding potential movement pattern issues by restricting your body’s natural kinetic chain.
So, if you shouldn’t squat in the Smith Machine, then what can you use this multi-purpose piece of gym equipment for? Well, there’s actually plenty you can do with it, and despite the disadvantages discussed above, it can be used as part of a safe and effective workout.
Instead of using the Smith Machine for traditional movements like presses and squats, try incorporating it into your workout with the following five bodyweight exercises.
1. Inverted Row
Set the Smith Machine bar close to the ground, leaving enough space so that you can lie underneath it and outstretch your arms completely in order to reach and grab it. Grab the bar and keep your arms completely straight and your heels on the floor. At this point your upper body should be hanging above the ground slightly. Make sure your body is in a straight line from your head to your heels. Keep your core tight and your neck straight as you contract your shoulder blades and use your arms to pull your chest up towards the bar. Once you’ve completed the motion, slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat the movement for 5-15 reps depending on your level of fitness.
2. Inclined Push-Up
For this exercise you can experiment with using the bar at different heights. The lower you set the bar, the more challenging the exercise will be. Once you’ve selected a height and set the bar, stand facing the bar and place your hands on it a little wider than shoulder-width distance apart. Extend your feet out behind you so that your body forms an angle with the ground and you can keep a straight line from your head to your heels. Keep your core tight and your neck straight as you slowly bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the bar, mimicking the movement of a traditional push-up. Push yourself back up to the starting position and repeat the movement for 5-15 reps depending on your level of fitness.
3. Triceps Dip
Set the bar to a height just above your knees. Face your backside towards the bar and stand close enough so that the backs of your legs are just touching it. Squat down slightly (almost as if you were about to sit on the bar) and with your palms facing behind you, grip the bar with your hands a little wider than hip-width distance apart. Extend your feet out in front of you so that your knees form 90-degree angles and your quads are parallel to the ground. Keep your core tight and your spine straight as you bend your elbows and slowly lower yourself down. (Make sure to keep your hips stable and let the entire motion come from your arms.) Straighten your arms to slowly push yourself back up, squeezing your triceps muscles (the backs of your arms) as you finish the movement. Repeat for 5-15 reps depending on your level of fitness.
4. Decline Push-Up
You can also experiment with using the bar at different heights for this exercise, except this time the higher you place the bar, the more difficult the exercise will be. Set yourself up on the ground in push-up position so that your feet are just underneath the bar. Keep your forefoot facing down as you slowly raise it up and then let it rest on top of the bar. Do the same with the other so that both feet rest on top of the bar. Keep your core tight as and your neck straight as you slowly bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the floor. Push yourself back up to the starting position and repeat the movement for 5-15 reps depending on your level of fitness. (Note: you can perform this exercise with your feet elevated on any type of stable surface.)
5. Lateral Duck Under
Set the bar to hip height. (You can set it higher or lower, depending on your abilities, but the lower you set it the more challenging the exercise will be.) Start standing with your right hip next to the bar, keep your back flat and push your hips back as you squat down and take a lateral step with your right leg and duck under the bar. Step your left leg in towards your right and stand up completely to finish one rep. Repeat the same sequence to the left and repeat, alternating left and right for 5-15 reps depending on your level of fitness.