This question is bound to have a polarizing effect on readers.

On one hand you will have “purists” who believe the only equipment really needed besides weight would be a squat rack and a bench.

On the other hand you will have those who believe using machines are the only “safe” way to exercise.


The truth is, like most things in the gym, they have their place and being dogmatic one way or another can cause one to miss out on some benefits they don’t see yet.

The Bench press

The Bench press is a staple of many exercise routines and is one of the most popular lifts in a gym. You will see many people that incorporate the bench press in their strength program.

This is for good reason. 

The bench press is a compound exercise that uses chest, triceps, deltoids, shoulders, and even legs as they are used for stability.

4 ways to accomplish the bench press in a gym

There are basically 4 ways people accomplish the bench press in a gym.

– There is the chest press machine:  The user either lies down or sits upright and the machine provides resistance to be pushed.

– Three others are Smith Machine bench press, dumbbell bench press, and the barbell bench press:  The user lies down on a bench with all of these.  With these gravity and weight provide the resistance.

There are different uses for each

To say one should or should not do one or the other should not really be the discussion. However, which is best to use should be.

If you are an able bodied person – skip the machine press, leave it for the physical therapists.  This leaves the Smith Machine and free weights.

smith machine bench press_2Let’s look at the Smith Machine and how it can be used in the gym

According to Wikipedia “The Smith machine is a piece of equipment used in weight training. It consists of a barbell that is fixed within steel rails, allowing only vertical or near-vertical movement. A Smith machine often includes a weight rack in the base to help stabilize it. Some Smith machines have the barbell counterbalanced. The machine can be used for a wide variety of exercises..”

The biggest draw the Smith Machine has is its safety

One of the nice things about a Smith Machine is that it can be racked at any time during a repetition which greatly increases the safety.

The user does not have to worry about dropping the weight on themselves, nor do they have to worry about balancing a barbell or allowing it to get out of control.

The Smith Machine takes care of that for them.

In this regard it is good for a beginner to learn the movement of the bench press.

Because the motion is in a fixed plane it can allow a beginner to focus on the muscle without worrying about balance and having the disturbing thought in the back of their head “am I going to drop this on me?”

It can also be less stressing on your joints as typical free weight movements.

Look out for Part 2 where I discuss the disadvantages of using a Smith Machine. 

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