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Smith Machine Bench Press Benefits: Will You Get Big?
Are there any Smith machine bench press benefits?
I mean, would you (or should you) ever choose to bench press on a Smith machine instead of a normal bench?
In this article, we will discuss whether or not there are any benefits at all.
Maybe the Smith machine is the secret answer to all of your best chest gains.
The only way to know is through experience and research.
Throughout this article, we will go by what others have said and the research out there, as well as some personal opinions.
But, I highly suggest you go out there and see if there any benefits by trying on your own.
First, though, make sure you protect your wrists while bench pressing (free weights or Smith machine).
The Dark Iron Fitness genuine suede wrist wraps are the best way to keep your wrists tight while benching.
Now, let’s get into what you really want to know — are there any Smith machine bench press benefits?
To fully comprehend the pros and potential cons, first, we must discuss bench pressing in general.
The Identity of the Bench Press
Why is it Such a Popular Exercise?
The reality is, the classic barbell bench press is one of, if not, the most popular exercises ever.
One reason for this is because everyone loves chest day.
It’s one of your best glamour muscles and is extremely fun to work.
Building your chest can be done several ways: cables, machines, body weight, and free weights.
But, out of all of those options, using free weights — particularly the bench press — is top tier for chest.
The bench press is also super effective, fairly comfortable, and you get to lay down.
What could be better than that?
Another great thing about the bench press is that it’s one of the classic “spotter” workouts.
What I mean by this is that it promotes working out with friends and having someone spot you.
This allows for you to bench as aggressive as you can and work towards one rep max (1RM) and personal records (PRs).
In my opinion, there is no other workout more fun, social, and beneficial like the bench press.
Is Barbell Bench Press the King?
The bench press can be done in many different ways.
Different weights can be used; you can use free weights or a Smith machine.
Really, the bench press has a lot of versatility to it.
However, is the barbell, flat bench press the king of benching (and chest) movements?
I’d say so…
The workout itself is tried, true, and thoroughly tested.
Many have built impressive chests by only doing bench press.
It works in such a way that you can really press a lot of weight and vary your grip, rep speed, amount of repetitions, pauses, etc.
This versatility and variety help make the bench press king, but let’s discuss these attributes more.
The Versatility of the Bench Press
Flat, Incline, and Decline Bench
With its awesome versatility, the bench press can be done at different angles.
You can do flat bench, incline bench, and decline bench.
Flat bench is the standard and helps to build an overall impressive chest.
Incline bench, which is also quite popular, works the upper portion of your pecs.
And lastly, the decline bench is one of the best ways to hit your lower chest.
You can seriously build some great definition and muscle on the bottom of your pecs if you do decline.
However, decline bench isn’t as popular or as often utilized as the other two variants.
But, in my opinion, the options to do all of these make benching a great movement.
If you can, try to do all three, as they will benefit you immensely.
Related: The Best Weight Bench Under $200
Utilizing Different Grips
As with other exercises that use a barbell, you can utilize many grips.
The bench press lends itself to great adjustments as far as hand placement.
Benefits can be found doing all sorts of different techniques.
For example, close grip allows you to keep your elbows tucked in much easier.
Whereas wide grip will be easier to handle heavier weight, as it creates a smaller range of motion.
A grip somewhere in between gives you the best of both worlds, and many will prefer to grip as such.
Some lifters will also use a “false-grip” which puts the thumb on the same side as your other fingers.
This can be dangerous, but also helps you build power and strength in the chest without relying on your grip to drive the bar up (as your palms are the source of the grip).
To protect your wrists, whether you are attempting a false-grip or not, I suggest getting our genuine suede wrist wraps in order to stay protected.
Changing your grip and pressing heavier weights will put pressure on your wrists, so it’s always smart to protect them.
Experimenting with Rep Range and Momentum
Whether benching using free weights or the Smith machine, you can experiment with rep range and momentum.
One thing about benching that I love is that using different weights and rep ranges can change the dynamic of the workout.
If you follow a 5×5 program and perform your bench pressing this way, you can build some real strength.
The other thing you can mess around with is the momentum of your reps.
For example, instead of relying on the momentum (or bounce) when you lower the bar to your chest to get it back up, you can slow down the repetitions.
When you slow your repetitions down, you force your chest to work harder to push the weight back up.
The same thing can be done with pause reps, where you leave the bar down at your chest for a certain count of seconds.
What these pause reps do is put your chest under tension for a longer period of time.
Using Barbell and Dumbbells
When bench pressing, another way to be versatile is by using barbell and dumbbells.
The barbell is often touted and seen as king, naturally, but dumbbells are amazing.
Bench pressing unilaterally, or with one arm at a time, allows you to keep your chest even.
Think about it; lifting with a barbell has both arms pressing up one bar holding all of the weight.
When you’re weaker on one side, your other side will compensate to help push the weight up.
This is why using dumbbells is really a true test of strength.
You may not be pressing as heavy, but I assure you the benefits of dumbbells are incredible.
Adding in Resistance Accessories
The bench press is also great because you can add different kinds of resistance.
I’m talking about heavy chains, resistance bands, and things like fat grips.
The heavy chains on each side of the barbell will make the weight harder to control.
When you lift, the chains will sway and cause you to activate more stabilization.
If you use resistance bands, you create more tension resistance when trying to get the weight back up.
Essentially, pushing the barbell up against the resistance bands will slow down the concentric portion of the press.
Lastly, accessories like fat grips make the bar wider and harder to hold.
You may not think of this as something that drastic (nor beneficial) but it actually is.
Changing the width of the barbell makes the lift extremely harder and causes you to use more strength.
Using a Smith Machine for Bench Press
What are some Smith Machine Bench Press Benefits?
Now, what about the Smith machine bench press benefits?
Are there any at all?
I’ll go ahead and say this outright, I prefer free weights to the Smith machine.
However, I am not one of those purists who hate on machines or refuses to use them.
In actuality, the Smith machine is quite beneficial in many ways and can help a lot of people.
I believe that the Smith machine’s biggest benefits for bench pressing are as follows:
- Initial Resistance
Let me explain…
Do you agree with my four main Smith machine bench press benefits?
My conclusion on these comes from personal use and from what others have told me.
As we all know, the Smith machine has several notches where you can lock the bar in.
In my opinion, this allows for a generous amount of safety.
If you struggle at any point within the rep, you have a lot of chances to lock the barbell.
Also, the Smith machine will come with safety catches that you can put in a preset location under the bar.
So, if worst comes to worst, you can safely leave the bar and crawl under it if you get stuck.
As far as autonomy — think about all the times you wanted to bench with free weights.
Most of the time, if you were alone, you wouldn’t dare lift as heavy as you can.
But, along with the safety of the Smith machine, there is a heightened allowance for autonomous lifting.
Next, I would claim control as being one of the Smith machine bench press benefits.
Since the Smith machine is on a “track” and moves uniformly up and down, it gives you a precise control over the bar.
Lastly, for those who have used a Smith machine, you know that there is some initial resistance to it.
Even without weights, you can feel the slow (albeit smooth) motion on both the concentric and eccentric portions of the press.
A lot of people don’t like this feeling while benching, but I see it as a great way to warm up beforehand.
These are my four biggest benefits of using the Smith machine to bench press, what are yours (if any)?
Related: Why I Love the Smith Machine
Is the Smith Machine Bench Press Really Safer?
In my opinion, yes, the Smith machine may be the safest way to perform the bench press movement.
Will it be for everyone? Usually, no.
Can it help a lot of people? I believe so.
If you are someone who works out alone or goes to the gym at odd hours, I’d suggest benching on the Smith machine for the sake of lifting heavy.
Maybe you are lifting reasonable weight that isn’t too challenging — in that case, stick to the free weights.
But, if you are in a situation where you could need a spotter, and don’t have one, then use the Smith machine.
The safety teeth on the Smith machine and ease of locking the barbell could literally save your life in some scenarios.
Should the Smith Machine Be Your Last Resort for Bench Press?
So, should you be choosing to do the Smith machine for bench press?
Well, as I stated earlier, the Smith machine can be beneficial for certain reasons, but it isn’t my preferred choice.
I’d say, if you can bench without the Smith machine and have the option to do so, then definitely go that route.
But, for some, especially those who are inexperienced, alone, or possibly have injuries — the Smith machine could actually be a good first option for bench press.
You need to weigh the pros and cons for you to really judge how to approach bench pressing.
Yet, let me continue to discuss which ways I think benching should be done and for what reasons.
How to Bench, in Which Way, at What Time
The Best Ways to Bench Overall
You may be wondering, then, what are the optimal ways to perform the bench press.
Well, in my honest opinion, these are the most effective ways to do your bench pressing from best to worst:
Heavy Dumbbells -> Heavy Barbell -> Moderate Barbell -> Moderate Dumbbells -> Heavy Smith Machine -> Moderate Smith Machine
This flow chart is intended for the average lifter who isn’t really a beginner, nor are they a pro.
Just an average, everyday lifter, who knows what they are doing and can bench comfortably on all platforms.
From how I’ve trained and seen people train, this progression is what is most effective, leads to great progressive overload, and can render you optimal benefits.
However, this can all change due to who you are, where you are, and when.
With that in mind, Smith machine bench press benefits can vary from person to person.
When to Bench Certain Ways and Why
If you are with a spotter you trust — I highly suggest benching as heavy as possible with a barbell or dumbbells.
When you are alone, it is much better to either bench press with light-moderate dumbbells, light-moderate barbell or as much as you can on a Smith machine.
Like I said, each format has its own benefits and downsides, regardless of being the most optimal to build your chest muscles.
Even though I think heavy dumbbells are the way to go, I would be stupid to think that’s the best way to bench in all situations.
If I’m tired, alone, and just got off a long work shift — I see no problem hitting the Smith machine.
It would give me added safety and peace of mind, allowing me to lift smarter and most likely better.
For a lot of people, those will be some of the best Smith machine bench press benefits.
Keep an open mind about your benching because it’s terrible to be so reliant on one way when it can end up as detrimental in certain situations.
Final Thoughts: Are Smith Machine Bench Press Benefits Worth It?
Smith Machine Bench Press Benefits — Weighing Your Options
With the different bench pressing options out there, always choose what is right for you.
Remember these three words: Time, Place, and Situation.
Ask yourself, should I be benching heavy with free weights at 2 AM in the gym when I am alone?
Hmm, probably not!
Then also ask yourself if you should be relying on the Smith machine when you have two workout buddies with you and a bunch of empty free weight benches.
But, also, there are times when options are limited to no fault of your own.
For example, certain gyms, such as Planet Fitness, do not have any free weight benches.
You literally have to do your bench pressing on a Smith machine.
Does that mean you shouldn’t do barbell bench? No!
Rack those weights, get your ass on that Smith machine bench, and get to pressing.
Also, if there are other exercises you’d like to do instead of the bench press, there are plenty of movements you can do on the Smith machine.
Smith Machine Bench Press Benefits — Doing What is Best For You
Lastly, remember, if you have injuries or are unsure about your abilities, then go light.
Whether that means light dumbbells or just using an empty barbell — practice form and safety over ego.
Some people who have certain elbow, shoulder, collar injuries, etc. will find comfort from the Smith machine.
Don’t follow what others do simply because they do them.
Do what you need to do because it is what is best… for you.
I promise, no matter how you bench press, you will see results if you lift safely and properly.
Our Dark Iron Fitness genuine suede wrist wraps can help with that, as well.
I hope this article has explained some of the Smith machine bench press benefits (and downsides), as well as bench pressing in general.
If you really want to build a strong, aesthetic, and balanced chest — all styles of benching should be done.
As well as other exercises, such as push-ups, dips, weighted dips, chest flys, etc.
All I hope is that you do bench press, no matter which platform you use!
Related: How to Do Chest Dips at Home