Common variants of the resistance mechanism in the Smith machine: Analysis of mechanical loading characteristics and application to strength-oriented and hypertrophy-oriented training

Oggie Arandelovic*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Smith machine is a pervasive weight-training apparatus, used extensively by a wide population of weight trainers, from novices to high-level athletes. The advantages of using a Smith machine over free-weight resistance are disputed, with conflicting findings reported in the literature. In this study, we are interested in practical differences between 3 types of loading mechanisms found in modern Smith machines. In addition to the basic design comprising a constrained weighted barbell, alterations with a counterweight and a viscous resistance component are examined. The approach taken is that of employing a recently proposed representation of force characteristics that may be exhibited by a trainee and a predictive model of thus effected adaptation. A computer simulation is used to predict the effects of the 3 linear Smith machine designs in the framework of different exercise protocols. Our results demonstrate that each resistance component, vertically constrained load, counterweight, and viscous, can be matched with a particular training context, in which it should be preferred. Thus, a number of practical guidelines for weight-training practitioners are recommended. In summary, (a) at low intensities (55-75% of 1 repetition maximum [1RM]) used in strength-endurance training, a viscous resistance containing the Smith machine was found to offer advantages over both a constrained load only and counterweighted designs; (b) at medium intensities (75-85% of 1RM) typically employed in hypertrophy-specific training, the counterweighted Smith machine design was found to offer the best choice in terms of high-force development and total external work performed; finally, (c) at high training intensity (90-100% of 1RM), the optimal prescription was found to be more dependent on the specific athlete's weaknesses, highlighting the need for continual monitoring of the athlete's force production capabilities. To ensure that appropriate adjustments are made to the athlete's training regimen, the practitioner should consider the full set of findings of this article and the accompanying discussion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-363
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research
Volume26
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012

Keywords

  • Computational model
  • Counterweight
  • Viscosity
  • Weight training

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