Are you looking to supercharge your chest workouts while maximizing safety and control? Look no further than the Smith Machine Bench Press—an incredibly effective and versatile exercise that has been gaining popularity in gyms around the world.
The Smith Machine Bench Press is a popular exercise in the gym that can help you lift heavier weights without a spotter.
This blog post will provide you with all the information you need about this smith machine bench press. You will also learn how it compares to traditional bench presses, why it might be the perfect addition to your workout routine, and how to execute it like a pro.
- What is the Smith Machine Bench Press
- Smith Machine Bench Press Muscles Worked
- Primary Muscles Worked
- Secondary Muscles Worked
- Stabilizing Muscles
- How To Do Smith Machine Bench Press
- Proper Technique and Form
- 5 Best Variations of the Smith Machine Bench Press
- 1. Smith Machine Incline Press
- 2. Smith Machine Decline Bench Press
- 3. Smith Machine Hex Press
- 4. Close-grip Smith Machine Bench Press
- 5. Reverse Grip Smith machine Bench Press
- What are the Benefits Of Smith Machine Bench Press?
- What are the risks of the Smith Machine Bench Press?
What is the Smith Machine Bench Press
Smith Machine Bench Press is a variation of the traditional bench press exercise that is done with a special type of weightlifting equipment called a Smith Machine.
A Smith machine is a piece of gym equipment that has a barbell fixed between vertical steel rails that allows only vertical or near-vertical movement. This setup provides an added level of stability compared to traditional free weight bench presses, which makes it easier to focus on the target muscle groups without worrying about balancing the barbell. It also provides a great safety option, especially when you’re lifting without a gym buddy or spotter.
The Smith machine is a popular choice among bodybuilders and powerlifters who aim to enhance their pressing power by overloading the bench press. It lets you lift heavier weights without having to balance or stabilize the bar. This helps you get stronger and make your chest muscles bigger.
The Smith Machine Bench Press works the primary chest muscles as well as the anterior deltoids, and triceps brachii.
- Close Grip Bench Press – This variation involves placing your hands closer together on the bar, which places more emphasis on the triceps muscles.
- Wide Grip Bench Press – Emphasizes chest by using a wider overhand grip outside shoulder width to increase range of motion.
- Smith Incline Bench Press – Works the upper chest more by elevating the bench to 30-45 degrees. Places more emphasis on shoulders.
- Decline Smith Bench Press – Targets lower chest by declining bench to 30-45 degrees. Also hits triceps hard in stretched position.
- Reverse Grip Smith Machine Bench Press: This variation involves using an underhand (supinated) grip on the bar, which places more emphasis on the tricep and upper chest muscles.
- Paused Bench Press – Involves pausing for 1-3 seconds with bar touching chest to increase time under tension. Builds strength out of the bottom.
Smith Machine Bench Press Muscles Worked
The Smith Machine Bench Press is a compound exercise that works multiple muscle groups at once.
Primary Muscles Worked
- Pectoralis Major: These are the large chest muscles that are responsible for the “pushing” motion in the bench press. The pectoralis major has two heads—the clavicular head (upper chest) and the sternal head (lower chest)—and both are worked during the Smith Machine Bench Press.
Secondary Muscles Worked
- Triceps Brachii: They are engaged when you extend your elbows to press the barbell upward.
- Anterior Deltoids: These are the front portions of your shoulder muscles, and they assist in the upward pushing motion.
- Serratus Anterior: This muscle is situated more laterally on your rib cage and helps with the scapular motion (shoulder blade movement). Though not as directly targeted as the pectorals or triceps, it still plays a supporting role.
- Latissimus Dorsi: Although not the main focus, the lats help stabilize the motion during the bench press.
- Rhomboids and Scapular Stabilizers: These muscles help to stabilize your shoulder blades and are engaged more isometrically to maintain proper form.
- Core Muscles: Your abdominal and lower back muscles are also involved in maintaining a stable and rigid torso during the exercise.
How To Do Smith Machine Bench Press
It is important to do the Smith Machine Bench Press correctly to get the most out of it. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you master this effective exercise:
- Set Up the Bench: Position a flat bench under the Smith machine bar so that when you lie on it, the bar lines up with your lower chest area.
- Adjust the Bar: Set the bar at a height where you can easily reach it while lying down, but high enough that it clears your chest when lowered.
- Load the Weight: Add the appropriate weight plates to the Smith machine bar. Always secure the weights with collars or clips.
- Warm-Up: Perform a light warm-up to prepare your muscles for the exercise. This could be a series of dynamic stretches or some light sets of bench press.
- Position Yourself: Lie flat on the flat bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Your head, shoulders, and buttocks should make contact with the bench throughout the exercise.
- Hand Placement: Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your palms should be facing away from you.
- Disengage Safety: Lift the bar slightly to disengage the safety locks, and rotate the bar to free it from its resting position.
- Starting Position: Start with your arms fully extended, holding the bar above your lower chest. Keep your eyes focused on a point directly above you.
- Lower the Bar: Inhale as you slowly lower the bar to your chest. Keep your arms at a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement.
- Press Up: Exhale as you press the bar back to the starting position.
- Engage Safety: After completing your set, carefully rotate the bar back into the locked position.
Proper Technique and Form
- Set up the bench directly underneath the barbell so the bar path is perfectly vertical.
- Plant your feet firmly on the ground about hip-width apart to create a stable base. Engage your core.
- Use a shoulder-width grip or slightly wider. Do not grip the bar too narrowly.
- Unrack the bar with control and keep your elbows tucked in close to your sides. Avoid flaring elbows out.
- Keep your head, shoulders, and buttocks in contact with the bench at all times.
- Inhale as you slowly lower the bar to the middle of your chest in a controlled manner. Do not bounce or slam the bar down.
- Make sure to touch your chest, then pause briefly before pressing the bar back up.
- Your elbows should be slightly tucked in, not flared out, to better engage the chest, shoulder and triceps.
- Use a full range of motion on every rep. Control the bar both downward and upward.
- If using heavy weights, do not arch your back excessively or lift your hips off the bench.
- After completing your set, carefully rotate the bar back into the safety hooks.
5 Best Variations of the Smith Machine Bench Press
The Smith machine bench press can be done in different ways to suit your fitness level.
If you are new to performing the Smith machine bench press, you may want to apply a few modifications to make the exercise easier. One way to counter this problem is to adjust the incline of the bench so that it is completely flat. Another is to use a lighter weight.
If you are looking for a more advanced variation to stimulate different muscle fibers in the chest and triceps, then try close grip Smith bench press, decline Smith bench press, and paused Smith bench presses. You can make it more difficult by using heavier weights on the bar. But be sure to focus on proper form while progressively overloading.
1. Smith Machine Incline Press
Looking to build a bigger, stronger, and more defined upper chest? If so, you’re not alone. The upper chest is one of the most coveted and admired muscle groups, and for good reason.
An incline smith machine bench press will work the upper part of your chest more than a flat or decline bench press. If you want to increase the stimulation of the upper chest, you should aim for an angle of at least 30 degrees. The study found that the most activity for the upper part of the pectoralis major muscle was occurred when the bench was angled at 30 degrees.
The Smith machine helps you focus more on the upper chest muscles by reducing the need for stabilizing muscles. The presence of safety catches on the Smith machine allows for independent lifting without the need for a spotter.
How To Do Smith Machine Incline Press
- Adjust the bench to an inclined position.
- Position yourself on the bench with your feet flat on the floor for stability.
- Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Unrack the barbell by lifting it off the safety catches and hold it directly above your chest.
- Lower the barbell slowly and under control until it touches your upper chest.
- Push the barbell back up along the same path until your arms are fully extended, but avoid locking out your elbows.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Avoid excessive arching of the lower back.
- Always prioritize proper form over heavy lifting.
- Keep your shoulders retracted and your back firmly pressed against the bench.
2. Smith Machine Decline Bench Press
The lower chest is one of the harder areas to train because of the lack of variations available and the limited motion range. That is why it is so important to include these best lower chest exercises into your routine.
If you’re looking for one more effective lower chest exercise, try the smith machine decline bench press. It eliminates some of the need for shoulders stability during the exercise, allowing the lifter to better isolate the lower chest muscles.
Research indicates that the correct angle for the decline bench press should be 15–30 degrees declined from flat in order to target the lower chest.
How To Do Smith Machine Decline Bench Press
- Lie flat on a decline bench inside the smith machine and set your hands just outside of shoulder width.
- Lower the bar in a straight line to the base of the sternum (breastbone) and touch the chest.
- Push the bar back up in a straight line by pressing yourself into the bench.
- Hold this position for a count and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
- Exhale while you exert.
- Perform them before triceps in any workout.
- Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements
- For heavyweights, use a spotter.
3. Smith Machine Hex Press
If you’re looking for a way to get more creative with your inner chest workout, why not try the Smith machine Hex press?
The Smith machine hex press allows for greater range of motion and more emphasis on the inner chest muscles compared to a traditional bench press. It gives effective engagement and excellent weight distribution.
However, it is challenging to organize and requires a lot of attention and detail to perform this workout.
How To Do Smith Machine Hex Press
- Set up a Smith machine with the bar at waist height.
- Lie on a bench with your feet flat on the ground, and position yourself underneath the bar.
- Grip the bar with the V-Bar handle and slowly lift it off the rack.
- Press them straight out in front of your chest.
- Lower the weights under control. Then repeat the desired number of reps.
- Focus on powerful contractions and slow eccentric.
- Perform press in a controlled manner.
- Focus on mind-muscle connection
4. Close-grip Smith Machine Bench Press
The Close-Grip Smith Machine Bench Press is a variation of the standard Smith Machine Bench Press, focused primarily on targeting the triceps and the inner pectoral muscles.
The close grip is easier on the wrists and shoulders for some people, which can be helpful for people with joint issues.
How to Do
- Place a flat bench underneath the Smith Machine.
- Lie down on the flat bench with your back flat and your feet firmly planted on the floor for support.
- Using a close and pronated grip (palms facing forward) that is around shoulder width, unlock the bar from the rack and hold it straight over you with your arms locked.
- Inhale and lower the bar in a controlled manner to your mid-chest.
- Exhale as you push the bar back to the starting position, focusing on squeezing your triceps and inner chest.
- Avoid locking out your elbows at the top of the movement.
- Use a full range of motion to engage the muscles effectively.
- Use a weight that is challenging but not too heavy.
5. Reverse Grip Smith machine Bench Press
The Reverse Grip Smith Machine Bench Press is a less-common but highly effective variation of the standard Smith Machine Bench Press. In this exercise, instead of holding the barbell with your palms facing away from you, you should grip it so that your palms are facing towards you.
This grip variation places a greater emphasis on the upper pectoral muscles, which are often harder to target. It also targets the upper chest, front delts, and triceps muscles.
How To Do Reverse Grip Smith machine Bench Press
- Lie down flat on the bench, feet firmly on the ground.
- Grip the bar with a reverse grip, palms facing towards you, and hands spaced at about shoulder-width apart.
- Lift the bar slightly to disengage the safety and rotate it to free it from the resting hooks.
- Inhale and lower the bar towards your upper chest in a controlled motion.
- Exhale and push the bar back to the starting position, concentrating on your upper chest and triceps.
- Keep your shoulder blades pulled together and down.
- May need to reduce the weight compared to a standard grip.
- Use controlled motion and full range of motion.
What are the Benefits Of Smith Machine Bench Press?
Here are some reasons why you might want to do a Smith machine bench press:
- Stability and Control: The Smith machine guides the barbell on a fixed vertical track that offers better stability and control compared to free weights.
- Isolation of Target Muscles: The controlled motion allows for better isolation of target muscles like the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
- Safety: The Smith machine comes with built-in safety mechanisms, like adjustable safety stops and hooks, that can catch the bar if you lose control. This feature can be particularly helpful for those who lift heavy weights without a spotter.
- Beginner-Friendly: The guided motion of the Smith machine makes it easier for beginners to learn the mechanics of the bench press without the instability that comes with free weights.
- Versatility: The Smith machine can be used for a variety of bench press variations, including close-grip, reverse grip, and incline bench presses, giving you more ways to target different muscle groups.
- Lower Back Support: Because the barbell’s motion is controlled, there is often less risk of arching the back excessively, which can be beneficial for those with lower back concerns.
- Focused Workouts: With a Smith machine, you can perform burnout sets or drop sets more quickly and safely, allowing for a more focused and time-efficient workout.
What are the risks of the Smith Machine Bench Press?
While the Smith Machine Bench Press offers many benefits, it’s also important to be aware of potential risks and drawbacks. If you use the Smith machine for bench pressing incorrectly or without understanding the exercise mechanics, you can have problems.
- Reduced Activation of Stabilizer Muscles: The guided path of the barbell on the Smith machine doesn’t require the same activation of stabilizing muscles as a free-weight bench press. This can lead to a less comprehensive training effect.
- Risk of Poor Form: The Smith machine can give a false sense of security, leading some users to neglect proper form. Incorrect body alignment can still occur, potentially causing strains or other injuries.
- Inconsistent Natural Bar Path: A barbell naturally moves in a slightly curved path during a free-weight bench press, but the Smith machine forces a strict vertical path. This unnatural movement could put additional stress on your shoulder, wrist, and elbow joints.
- Overemphasis on Target Muscles: Because the Smith machine allows you to isolate specific muscles, you might neglect other muscles that play a supporting role in a balanced strength training program.
- Safety Stop Limitations: Although Smith machines have safety stops, they aren’t foolproof. Setting them incorrectly, or neglecting to set them at all, could result in a failed lift and potential injury.
- Equipment Misuse: Some users may not be familiar with how to properly set up and use a Smith machine, leading to an increased risk of injury.
The Smith machine bench press can be a very effective exercise for building pressing power in the chest, shoulders, and triceps when performed with proper form. The stabilized bar path allows you to lift heavier loads than a free bench press safely while reducing strain on the joints.
Be sure to use a full range of motion and control the bar on both the downward and upward motions. Avoid bouncing the bar or relying on momentum.
The Smith machine enables you to focus intently on the target muscles throughout the press. To keep your muscles working harder, make the exercise harder by lifting heavier weights over time.
Manish brings over 10 years of hands-on experience in weight lifting and fat loss to fitness coaching. He specializes in gym-based training and has a lot of knowledge about exercise, lifting technique, biomechanics, and more.
Through “Fit Life Regime,” he generously shares the insights he’s gained over a decade in the field. His goal is to equip others with the knowledge to start their own fitness journey.