The Smith machine is a piece of gym equipment that is designed to increase the safety and efficiency of using a barbell with weights. These are ideal for the home gym where you maybe exercising alone and therefore safety is a big concern.
A Smith machine is a metal frame that allows the barbell to be lifted in a vertical movement but only allows straight up and down motion. This helps guide your movement and also helps prevent you from dropping the bar if you start to fatigue.
As an additional safety device, many Smith machines also have adjustable safety stops built into them, which prevents the barbell being lowered beyond a certain point. This will prevent injury if you accidentally drop the bar.
The Smith machine can be used for any exercise with a vertical lift such as bench presses, overhead lifts and squats. It is not suitable for lifts where an arc is made such as bicep curls.
The machine was originally invented in America by Jack La Lanne, the renowned fitness and nutritional expert who is sometimes referred to as the 'godfather of fitness'. In the 1950's it was spotted by bodybuilder Rudy Smith who made improvements to the design and installed them in a gym he was managing. By the end of the 50's the machines were being manufactured and distributed.
An alternative to a Smith machine is the power cage. This is useful if you are going to be doing plenty of barbell work without a spotter. The power cage is generally a heavy metal frame that has a number of hooks where the barbell can be placed. Unlike a Smith machine it does not restrict movement to just a vertical motion. You can also perform exercises that require an arc motion, using this equipment.
If you are setting up a home gym, a Smith machine is worthy of consideration. It allows you to exercise safely and minimize the risk of injury.