The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness
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The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness

Itís no secret that when people contradict themselves, it has the effect of making the flaws in their actions or statements seem glaringly obvious. But what about when WE ourselves get caught contradicting ourselves by someone else?

By: Nick Tumminello Added: January 6th, 2014
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  1. #1
    Wannabebig Member
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    Bench Press - Smith machine or free?

    I was just wondering if people had an opinion on which is a better option - the 'smith' machine (assisted bench press), or doing bench press with free weight.

    I find as I train alone most times I go for the smith machine for obvious safety reasons.

    Thanks.

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  3. #2
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    If you're concerned about safety, use dumbbells instead.
    teh ownz joo all 4 free! if joo don't like it, you is teh GHEY!
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  4. #3
    Genetic Experiment GeneticallyGifted's Avatar
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    There is no substitute for free weights. Smith machine has nothing on free weights and I'm pretty sure the concensus will be unanimous. Get the dumbbells or stay with the free. They can't even be compared.
    Last edited by GeneticallyGifted; 05-01-2002 at 03:48 PM.
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  5. #4
    Player Hater PowerManDL's Avatar
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    If you want a stronger bench press, then use free weights.

    If you're only concerned about muscle mass, it doesn't matter.
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  6. #5
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    free weights, all the way baby

    Smith machine teaches you bad habits, IMO

    THAT SAID, safety is important. I would assume though you're working out alone, you're not ALONE alone. i.e. in a gym with other people. Just ask for a spot, if it's an issue. Myself, I find that the 'safety net' of having the smith machine makes me wuss out whereas the slight fear of dropping a barbell on my chest can make me push harder on that last rep.

    if you have a smith machine at home, well, I'm jealous. What can I say.

    I can second what CueBall said. DB press is a staple part of my workout.

    Another idea: If you want to split the difference between smith/regular bench, you could try putting a bench into a squat rack, and using the stops to prevent the bar from going too low... but then you might not be inclined to take the bar low enough on your chest with each rep because it would bottom out on the stops.

    With no spotter but in a populated gym area, unless you're doing a truly sick weight on bench, if worst comes to worst you can either call for help or dump the weight off if you get stuck.

    Cal

  7. #6
    Trying to figure this out JohnCollins's Avatar
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    Well, I do have a smith machine at home (Sorry, Callaghan!) and I am glad I got it for squats and lunges, but I don't do any presses on it anymore. It's amazing how much more difficult using the dumbbells is, and I figure that--along with the nearly unanimous opinion of the pretty darn knowledgable folks on this board--makes the dumbbells better. I do martial arts, too, and I think the "stabilizers" I'm working as I try to lift a heavier dumbbell and watch it wave around on the way up also must be pretty beneficial.

    I got it for safety reasons, and although many would say a power cage is just as good for squats, I do like it. But with rubber mats on the floor if dumbbells give you trouble, you just toss them to the outside, no problems. I don't bench with a barbell. A lot of folks like the feel of the bar better than the dumbbells, but it seems to me (nothing scientific) most of the really big guys do the dumbbells instead of the bar.

    You don't hear of people getting stuck under a bar very often, but it does happen occasionally and folks are injured. It's happened to some buddies of mine. So you probably should use the smith if you are lifting enough weight and going to failure without a spotter. Russian roulette isn't any smarter if there are 500 chambers instead of six, it's still a dumb game to play.

    In case you do have a smith machine at home, there are lots of other non-press type things they're great for. I do back extensions off the edge of the bench by hooking my heels under the smith bar. You can do kind of a "reverse pushup" by pulling your chest up to the smith bar. I saw a triceps exercise in a magazine this month that looks interesting. See it here:

    http://www.mensfitness.com/magazines...tid=240&Objid={664BB991-D653-43D2-A90E-7CC2E809B83B}&curpage=2&curCatID=184&SuperCID=184&CID=B&SubCID=A

    Anyway, I don't think smith machines are the work of the devil, like some folks do, but I really prefer dumbbell presses, flat, incline or decline, to the smith presses. If you're contemplating getting a smith machine do get the lat pulldown and low pulley you can usually get with them. Those are terrific and give you an excuse to buy all the "toys" that attach to the ends of them. Never get bored again!

    John Collins

  8. #7
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    I agree with PowerManDL. I think that the Smith Machine gets a worse rap than it deserves. I still think that free weights are supreme, but if you can't find a spotter, don't hesitate to use the smith machine. I'm not a big fan of using nothing but dumbells because I feel that barbells give you a mechanical advantage which allow the pecs to be stressed more. Atleast that's what my insticts tell me.

  9. #8
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    Originally posted by JohnCollins
    Well, I do have a smith machine at home (Sorry, Callaghan!) ....If you're contemplating getting a smith machine do get the lat pulldown and low pulley you can usually get with them. Those are terrific and give you an excuse to buy all the "toys" that attach to the ends of them. Never get bored again!
    Damn well-equipped bastard.

    Hm, waitaminute; that sounded kinda gay.

    Damn you, guy with good gym equipment at home!

    Ah, much better.

    Cal

    P.S. I don't think Smith machines are the work of the devil. I hear they are the work of some guy named Smith. And I've even been known to use 'em on occasion... I just think freeweight is usually better if t all feasible...

  10. #9
    Baby Seal Clubber ElPietro's Avatar
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    I would use a power rack before I used a smith machine. Just set the pins so they will stop the bar before it kills you and you are even safer than in a smith machine.
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  11. #10
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    stay clear of benching on smith machine. use dumbbells or power rack.

    if you absolutely want to use a machine for benching, use hammer srength

  12. #11
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    Man created machines to make work easier ... and nothing that's truly worth having comes easy. Stick to the frees, you'll be glad you did.

  13. #12
    Banned Reinier's Avatar
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    ive done all 3, bb bench smith bench db bench.

    db is most difficult, seems tho that im more likely to fail on tris than pecs in these.

    bb was pretty cool but you need a spot or a rack. i usually dont have either. feels like theres more stress on the pecs.

  14. #13
    Canadian Kid fevan's Avatar
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    I all ways work out form home, what exactly is a smith machine? would it be similar one of the home gyms that uses cables?

    If so thats what i perfer, and have made greater gains with it. After the first month on the machine i went back to the bar and bd and i was up an extra 30lbs.
    Deal with it.

  15. #14
    Trying to figure this out JohnCollins's Avatar
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    Fevan,

    This is a Smith Machine. (see attached pic)

    The bar you grab is actually a sleeve over the bar the plates go on which can rotate, and there are hooks which engage the slots you see on the uprights. The bar is on a carriage which rides up and down on the chrome rods you see in the picture. If you fail, you can simply rotate your wrists and the hooks will engage the slots, locking the bar. It's also easy to step under the bar when locked up high for squats. The little spring thingies you see at the bottom of the rods also catch in the slots and will stop the bar from falling if you fail. You move them up and down to where you want them.

    Without a spotter, this is safer than pressing by yourself. However, the argument is that since you don't have to balance the thing you don't recruit all the muscles you need to stabilize the bar. You can usually press more weight on this thing than you could with a free barbell, and you can probably press more with a free barbell than you can with dumbbells because those are even harder to balance. That's why free weights are considered better.

    A power cage does provide as much safety, and one of these days I might trade my smith in for a power cage, but starting weight training at 46, I don't regret getting the smith. It gave me a lot of confidence starting out. You really would have to be a complete moron to hurt yourself on the thing when properly used. I only use it for squats and lunges now.

    John Collins
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    Last edited by JohnCollins; 05-02-2002 at 08:02 PM.

  16. #15
    Super Piddles captain piddles's Avatar
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    I think they have their place in training, I try to mix it up, if I had to choose, I would go free weight all the way, in the 4-5 years Ive been lifting I have only had access to a smith machine in this last year,I like it but not as much as the old barbell, get your bulk with the bar then hop on the smith to really pump the chest, freeweights are allmost religous to me, the clank of the plates, the smell of the metal, its primal, when your facing 95% of your max slowly lowering to your chest and feeling like your unshure if your gonna be able to stop it, and pressing it with everything you go to get it back up, dats hardcore

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