I’ve changed my training methods quite a bit over the past 15 years, but any good strength coach should. I got into lifting mainly by doing bodybuilding, following whatever I could out of the latest muscle magazine, as I’m sure many of you who are my age did. I used the Smith Machine quite a bit when I was younger mainly because you could add more plates, so I could look cool at the gym. Once I got into powerlifting and opened my own facility, I thought that free weights were all you needed. And of course, you can get plenty big and strong with just a barbell and dumbbells. However, now that I’ve been a coach for more than 15 years, I now know that everything can have a purpose. I actually love using machines now, and I incorporate many bodybuilding methods into my programs when training for powerlifting, or strongman. I recently added an elitefts Smith Machine to my facility and would like to share my favorite exercises with it.

Kaz Press

The Kaz Press many of you may recognize as a JM Press. The main difference is that it is in a Smith Machine with a fixed range of motion. This exercise machine is also very easy on the elbows. I cannot perform normal JM presses due to elbow pain, but with these, I have none. Keep these nice and controlled on the eccentric, and go down almost to your neck, or as far as your elbows allow. A good cue I picked up for these is that the bar path should be coming down to chop your head off. Sounds a little scary, but this is right where the bar path should be. If they worked for Kaz, one of the strongest men of all time, they will work for you.

Seated Overhead Press

One of the reasons I love machines is that you can generally work around your injuries. The argument is always that they don’t engage the stabilizing muscles. This is true, but you may not always want to use these smaller muscles. I have worked many times with someone who is unable to do an overhead press due to shoulder pain yet is able to train on a machine pain-free. The Smith Machine press is a great way to really hit the front delts. With the set bar path, you can push forward into the bar, much like a scrape on the rack press. This pushing forward through the movement greatly recruits the front delts. If you want a big overhead press and bench, then add this one in.

A funny story about this exercise is that it’s Zydrunas Savickas’s favorite accessory lift for a big overhead press. Many of you may be familiar with the Z press exercise, which in my opinion is another great press variation. In an interview, Big Z was asked how he came up with the exercise, and his response was that he actually hates it and has no idea how it’s named after him. Big Z went on to say how the Smith machine press is how he built such a monster press. Once again, you can’t argue with the strongest presser in the world. Add these to your accessory press day or following your strongman press.

Bent-over Row

The set bar path again makes bent-over rows perfect for really hitting your lats. I still love old-school barbell rows, but with these, you can have a better contraction. Make sure that you stay low, keep your back flat, and don’t turn it into a partial deadlift. As you row, keep pulling the bar into you as though you are trying to keep it close to hit the lats even more.

Split Squat

This is another version of this exercise that the Smith Machine can be used to do pain-free with an injury. Lunges can generally cause knee pain for certain people. Try this variation, and use a wide-enough stance so that you have no pain in your knee. Again, you’ll be removing the balance here and can focus just on the muscles you want to work. Stop shy of coming up all the way, to keep tension through the entire set.


This is a great way to get people to do a proper push-up. Simply raise the bar up to a point where they can maintain neutral spines and are able to touch their chests to the bar. If you are too advanced to do this at the end of a bench/chest workout, start at the bottom and do as many as you can. Once you fail to raise the bar up, keep going to failure, and repeat. This is a great way in which to get a huge pump at the end of a training session. You can also use the Smith Machine for tricep extensions and inverted rows in the same way.

There you go—five great uses for the most hated piece of equipment in the gym. Any favorites of yours? Please drop them in the comments and let me know what you think.