Weight and Resistance Training - Newbie Question About Smith Machine

03-01-2008, 11:21 AM
Hi everyone, I have only recently begun to do some beginners "real" weight lifting. Right now I am only doing BW squats, low weight DB stiff-legged dumbells, lunges etc. and an UPB workout with Ab workouts each day and HIIT cardio on alternate days.
I am following Krista's beginner program ( adding in a few more sets and also exercises).
Luckily we have a lot of weight training equipment in our basement since my husband bought it all about 10 years ago.
I finally realized by reading 3fatchicks that I needed to get off the leg press and leg extension machines and do the squats, etc.
Sorry for this long ramble to get to my point but I have flu and am a bit light headed and dizzy.
My husband is talking about turning our basment into a full exercise gym.
I have only been using dumbells ( and to be honest I find them kind of scary on the last reps when I am doing things like chest presses and shoulder press and really going for that new extra rep) but I am really scared of the barbell, also because of a recurrent left shoulder weakness.
I tried putting the barbell on my shoulders and felt it hurt ( I know I need to look up Krista's and others' recommendations of how to exactly place it on the shoulders) and so my husband thinks we should ( eventually) get a Smith machine which he feels is a lot safer when you use barbells.
Since I am such a newbie I wanted to ask first if this is a good idea?
And what is the difference between a Smith machine and a squat cage?
He says once we got a Smith machine I could do all my presses on it and feel safe about the weights not crashing down on me.
Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks

03-01-2008, 11:45 AM
I'm sure our resident personal trainers may have a better answer but...

I am a chicken about certain things and I really love the smith machine.

You can do squats, lunges, chest presses, etc and feel relatively safe that if something fails, then it won't come crashing down on you.

One thing to note is that it is a perfectly linear movement so muscles that you would normally use to stabilize the bar to move it linearly may not be worked. When I was exercising in a gym, I was willing to give up working those muscles for my own mental comfort.

So I think you do lose something but I don't think it is a lot.

03-01-2008, 03:26 PM
I use a smith machine for a very few exercises. I have a lot of objections to them.

Be very wary of home smith machines- they are usually lousy. If you can spend over $1500, you can get a decent one, but below that the counter weight and movement is generally awful. Your best bet would be to find a used commercial cybex- the movement on them is great.

That being said, my main objection to a smith machine is what nelie stated: your stabilizer muscles don't get used because that is what the machine is doing for you. Unless you are interested in pure bodybuilding, using dumbbells and forcing your core to work is really the best way to go.

A smith machine has a fixed bar that runs up and down in a track, and can be hooked or racked at fixed points.

A power cage is used with a free bar. You set safety rails at the height you need- just above your chest if you are doing chest presses, or at about waist height if you are doing squats, so that you can dump the bar if you get in trouble without getting squished.


03-02-2008, 09:50 AM
My 2 cents: what Mel said! Skip the Smith machine and get a decent power cage instead. Smith machines aren't necessary for safety, and can be very hard on the joints, including shoulders.

I think Krista has more on this on her site; check out the section on home gyms.

If that's not enough, I'd lay odds that a power cage has better resale value, again because it's a more functional and versatile piece of equipment. (And, Smith machines have a bad rep in many lifting circles, so all else being equal you have a smaller pool of potential buyers.)

One more comment: I'm a big fan of YTWL (YouTube has vid demonstrations) for strengthening the muscles around the shoulder joint.

good luck, and welcome to the world of weightlifting!


03-02-2008, 02:15 PM
I never touch the smith machine. I find it messes up my lifts because it's not necessarily linear in the right direction for me (does that make sense). It has me doing squats in such way that does not translate to good form for a real squat.

03-03-2008, 05:59 PM
Thanks guys--I am going to go for a power squat cage when the time is right.
I did check Krista again and somehow I had missed the part where she writes not to use a Smith.
Kim what is YTWL?

03-03-2008, 07:20 PM
YTWL: Lay face down on a bench set to 30 degrees, more if you have long arms and your hands will hit parts of the bench. Feet on the floor, or one knee on the seat of the bench if this is more comfie. Arms should be swinging free, head is off the end of the bench.

The basic idea is to make a Y, a T, a W, and an L with your arms. (Remember the village people? same idea.) Grab a *light* weight in each hand, thumbs pointed up. Raise your arms as if you were making a "Y" with your body. Lower. Now get a lighter weight, because you chose one that's too heavy initially. Make 9 more "Y"s.

T: raise your arms straight out to the sides, again with thumbs pointed to the ceiling. Repeat x 10

W: arms slightly bent in down position, bring elbows up in a standard reverse fly.

For the L, get even lighter weights, or drop the ones you're using. Bring upper arms parallel to the floor and perpendicular to the rest of your body, lower arms pointed down. Now "roll" the lower arms up (keeping upper arms stationary) so that your hands are on the same plane as your ears. Lower & upper arms should make "Ls" throughout.

Aww, heck: look here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xck3d8LidME)!


03-03-2008, 09:18 PM
I like this one (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjIHVuV673k&feature=related) done on the ball. :)

03-04-2008, 03:02 PM
Thanks Kim and Pat. The videos are great and I just got a ball.
I am hoping that exercise will help with the weakness/soreness in my left shoulder/neck/arm area.
When is the best time to do YWTL?
Before an UBWL session? Or after?
Is it a warm up? Or can it be done on any day/any time?

03-04-2008, 04:01 PM
Hi kaw and pat,

Thanks a lot for the video links! Pat, i am especially glad about the ball link because i saw the YWTL in the NRWL book , and i do my workouts at home but i do not have a bench to lie on like that. i do have a ball, so I will use that instead. It seems the perfect solution.


03-04-2008, 05:12 PM
My thought exactly, rabbit! Though my gym has a couple of incline benches, they're often in use, whereas I can usually get access to a ball.....