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Body Smith

Whether you’re short on time or the gym is packed, you can still get a fantastic total-body workout with one single piece of equipment: the Smith machine. 

The Smith machine is basically a barbell on a track housed inside a squat rack. It has a predictable trajectory that goes straight up and down, which makes it great for training solo. The barbell has a hook on either side, and a simple twist of the wrist spins the bar, locking it onto any of several notches along the outside of the track. This means you can set the bar at any starting height, allowing you to transition easily from standing and lying to sitting and more. Smith machines also have safety stops that can be set to any height along the machine, preventing the barbell from descending farther, thereby protecting you from injury and acting as a virtual training partner. 

Because of its versatility, the Smith machine can be used to train every muscle in the body. Check out these seven exercises and try them in a workout next time it’s rush hour at the gym. Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps of each move for a fantastic total-body session, or shorten the rest interval between moves to amp up the intensity and calorie burn.

Smith-Machine Squat

Hits: quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, core

Balance the bar across your shoulders and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Kick your hips back, bending your knees to squat down. When your thighs come parallel to the ground, stand back up to the start, driving through your heels and then pressing your hips forward slightly at the top.

Standing Biceps Curl

Hits: biceps, forearms

Stand directly behind the bar and take a shoulder-width underhand grip. Keeping your shoulders down and back and your elbows pressed against your sides, bend your arms at the elbows to bring the bar up toward your chest. When you’ve gone as high as you can, lower slowly to the start.

Bent-Over Row

Hits: lats, rhomboids, erector spinae, lower traps

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and take a shoulder-width overhand grip on the bar. Keeping your back flat, hinge forward at the hips over the bar until your torso comes to about 45 degrees to the floor. Drive your elbows up and back, squeezing your shoulder blades together and pulling the bar into your abdomen. Lower slowly to the start.

Smith-Machine Triceps Dip

Hits: triceps, shoulders

Set the bar at hip level and sit on it. Place your hands, fingers forward, on the bar on either side of your hips. Straighten your arms and extend your legs in front of you. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your butt toward the floor, keeping your chest lifted and your shoulders down. When your elbows make 90-degree angles, extend your arms and press yourself back to the start.

Hanging Knee Raise

Hits: abs, core, hips

Take a shoulder-width overhand grip on the bar (hooked as high as possible) and extend your legs straight down — or in front of you slightly if the machine is shorter. Bend your knees and lift them as high as you can toward your chest, moving slowly to avoid swinging. Slowly extend back to the start and repeat right away. 

Bench Press

Hits: pectorals, front and lateral deltoids, triceps

Position a flat bench in the center of the machine and take a wider-than-shoulder-width overhand grip on the bar. Bend your elbows, slowly lowering the barbell toward your chest directly over your nipples. When it nearly touches your body, exhale and press the bar back up.

Seated Shoulder Press

Hits: total shoulder, upper pectorals

Position a short bench with a back in the center of the machine and take a slightly-wider-than-shoulder-width overhand grip on the bar. Bend your elbows to lower the bar in front of your head toward your clavicles. When the bar comes level with your nose, extend your arms and press the bar back up to the start.