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Bodypart Workouts

Master the One-Arm Smith-Machine Bench Press

Increase size and strength with this one-arm move.

The Start

1. Place a flat bench centered inside a Smith machine and make sure the safeties are properly in place.

2. Lie face-up on the bench inside the machine with your back completely supported and your feet firmly on the floor. Your body should be centered in the unit even though you’re working just one side at a time. 

3. Move your body up or back on the bench so that the bar hits your lower chest when it’s in the down position. 

4. Grasp the bar with both hands using a wide, overhand grip and rotate the bar to unrack it and hold it directly above you. 

5. Remove one hand from the bar. This is your starting position.


1. Bend your arm and slowly lower the bar toward your lower chest. Your elbow should be pointing down and out to your side. 

2. When the bar reaches chest level, forcefully extend your arm, pressing the bar back to the starting position. 

3. Squeeze your chest hard at the top, forcing as much blood into your chest as possible before beginning the next rep. 

4. Once you’ve completed all your designated reps with one arm, switch hands and perform the same number of reps on the other side.

In Your Routine

• One-arm moves like the Smith press help determine muscular imbalances, increase core activity that helps increase strength on all other moves, and is a shock technique that’s certain to spark growth. We seldom reach failure one limb at a time. 

• The one-arm Smith-machine bench press is a compound move for chest and is best done toward the beginning of the routine. 

• When both sides have been worked in unilateral fashion, you can follow this with standard presses or incline dumbbell presses to fully exhaust the chest. You can also precede this move with machine flyes or dumbbell flyes when following a pre-exhaust routine for the pecs. 

• Whether you have a spotter or not, make sure the safeties are set on the machine so that you can remain safe upon failure. * Perform 3–4 sets of 10–15 reps.

Best Alternatives 

Chest Press Machine: The chest press machine is an excellent alternative to the one-arm Smith press. Anytime you’re able to use one limb at a time it allows you to determine muscular imbalances between sides. As you strengthen each side individually, you automatically help your overall strength when you return to using both limbs simultaneously. It’s easier to incorporate intensity techniques like drop sets on the pin-loaded chest press than on the Smith version, especially if you train alone. Your free hand can also be used to self-spot for forced reps or even to help with self-imposed negative reps. 

One-Arm Dumbbell Press: The dumbbell version of this move is slightly more difficult. The mere fact that you’re working with a dumbbell, you automatically incorporate more stabilizer activity, and when you add to the fact that only one limb is being utilized, you recruit those stabilizers even more so. You also call into play more core musculature to balance the entire body during each repetition. You’ll notice that unlike pulling exercises in which you’re actually stronger during one-arm versions due to body english and torque, you probably won’t be able to press as much with one arm as you can when both arms are simultaneously worked. For that reason, start out lighter than normal to get a feel for the exercise.