Smith Machine VS. Barbell
It's a common question, but one that doesn't have an easy answer. The debate between gym enthusiasts continues to this day! While both can be used to pack on the muscle, the fact is, there are pros and cons to both barbells and smith machines, so it really depends on what your personal goals are. In this article, we will give a breakdown of the two types of equipment and compare them in order to help make your decision easier!
COMPOUND AND ISOLATED EXERCISES
When it comes to compound and isolated exercises, barbells and smith machines can both be effective. The barbell has an edge with compound exercises due to the barbell's ability to move through more planes of motion. Stabilisation muscle groups are often activated through barbell movements, making barbell exercises great for functional training that transfers over to real-life activities. Machines can still be effective at doing these types of lifts but they often lack the barbell's ability to move through the full range of motion.
On top of that, barbells can help improve balance and coordination because they require you to control the weight on both sides (unilateral training). This is also very beneficial when performing functional exercises.
Machines excel at targeted muscle exercises. While using those stabilising and assisting muscle groups such as your core or upper back with the barbell is beneficial, it can result in incomplete development of the desired area when performing isolated exercises. With machines, on the other hand, this is less likely to happen because there are no free weights to worry about and the bar in a machine is always moving in a predetermined pattern. So if you have a specific muscle group you want to focus on, in a lot of cases barbells probably won't be as effective as machines.
A smith machine offers many safety benefits to those looking to lift using one. First and foremost, it safely stabilises the built-in bar which significantly reduces the risk of injury. This also allows you to use heavier weights than you would be able to with free weights, so you can really target your specific muscles.
Smith machines also come with a range of safety attachments and options such as safety bars and locks, particularly handy for those who are at the beginning of their lifting journey.
When it comes to using a barbell, there's a little more risk involved compared to a Smith machine, although it is still very safe in most cases, especially when proper technique and form are used. The most obvious safety drawback is that there are no built-in safety mechanisms. This is a double edged sword, as mentioned previously, the freedom that comes with the barbell can help with unilateral training, but it also means the bar can become too unstable or slip out of place, which could result in injury. Of course, when lifting heavier weights, it is always advisable to have a spotter, which would help minimise some of these risks.