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Smith Machine Workouts for Beginners

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Published: 1/16/22

Smith Machine Workouts for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know

So you’ve decided to move towards the weight room at the gym. Congrats! Let’s start getting you familiarized with weights using the Smith machine. This functional piece of equipment targets areas all over the body, so here are some beginner full-body smith machine workouts! 

1 | Modified Squat

Squatting is one of the most efficient exercises you can do, especially for the lower body. The modified smith machine squat is a way to start familiarizing yourself with having weight on your back and shoulders. 

What you’ll need to do is adjust the bar to sit at shoulder height. Don’t worry about adding any weight—just use the bar by itself. Put the bar on your trapezius muscles (the ones on either side of the neck) and hold it there with your hands. Place your feet hip-width distance apart, ever-so-slightly in front of your shoulders to accommodate for the straight vertical movement of the bar. While putting most of your weight in your heels and keeping your chest up, bend your knees until your thighs and shins create a 90-degree angle (you can place a box or chair under your butt at that angle so you know where to stop), making sure that your knees don’t extend out farther than your feet or wobble to the left or right. Then, using all of the muscles in your legs (and not your back!) stand back up and do it again. Here is an example of what the form should look like. 

Squatting on a Smith machine requires very different form than squatting with free weights because free weights require more core stabilization. If you decide to make the transition from a Smith to free weights, make sure you consult a fitness professional or team member at your gym (our team is always happy to answer questions like these) beforehand to make sure your form is correct and you’re moving weight safely. 

Repetitions: 12

2 | Modified Push-Up

Working towards the perfect floor push-up is one of the best exercises for the upper body using  the Smith machine. Push-ups work your chest, shoulders, triceps, abs, and the serratus anterior muscles.

Put your arms out straight from your shoulders and retract them: that is what the bottom of your push up should like (here’s a great example of the form, which can be easily adapted on a Smith). Start the exercise by raising the bar just below shoulder height. Grab the bar a little farther than shoulder-distance apart, step your feet away from the bar at whatever angle feels comfortable, and bend and extend your arms while keeping your head in a neutral position (don’t let it hang down but don’t look straight up). 

While you may barely be leaning forward at all when you start, over time, you can lower the bar and step farther away from it until you’re completely horizontal. This method is also better for your wrists than doing push-ups on the ground! 

Repetitions: 10

3 | Hip Thrusts

Hip thrusts target glutes, core muscles, hamstrings, obliques, and hip flexors. This is one of those ultimate butt exercises that is guaranteed to create strength and lift. 

Hip thrusts on a Smith will require a box or bench behind you. Sit on the floor with the barbell in your hip crease, right where your lower body meets your torso. Put your shoulder blades against the bench or box behind you. Using mostly your glutes and hamstrings, thrust your hips to the sky while maintaining their position; keep the feet and knees pointing straight forward and don’t let them move anywhere. Make sure your back remains perfectly flat throughout; you should be rocking back onto the box or bench behind you.

If it feels too easy with just the bar, add weight to the barbell. Start with 10lbs on each side and work up from there. 

Repetitions: 12

4 | Modified Inverted Row

A perfect inverted row is the gateway pull-ups and, to nobody’s surprise, is extremely difficult (this is what it looks like). Having a Smith machine to work your way towards it is the absolute best way to get there. 

To start easy, set the bar at or just below shoulder level. Grab the bar a little farther than shoulder-width distance apart. Walk your feet out to the other side of the bar so you’re leaning back and holding your body up with your grip on the bar. Now, all you do is pull your body up towards the bar while maintaining a perfectly-stiff body until your chest taps it. Then, slowly release back down and repeat. 

Over time, you can move the bar lower and lower while inching your feet out farther and farther. Eventually, your arms should extend straight down and your body straight out. 

Reps: 10



5 | Weighted Calf Raises

A lot of people tend to overlook their calves, and we just can’t have that in this full-body strength training!

Calf raises are relatively simple: put the bar on your shoulders in the same position you did in the squat. Place your feet hip-width distance apart. Rise onto your toes, keeping the weight toward your big toe to maintain alignment in your ankles. 

If you’re feeling a little extreme, place a weight or a top step under the balls of your feet, like this pro does

Repetitions: 8

Now, once you’ve done one round, repeat it at least two more times. You’ll want to do 3-5 rounds of this to really get your body working through this Smith machine workout routine for beginners. 

If you are new to the gym and would like to start weightlifting, we recommend the smith machine for beginners. Stop in at any of our locations, say hello, and don’t be afraid to ask questions—we are here to help. 

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