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Smith Machine Bench Press E-mail
Bodybuilding - Exercises
Written by Lynn Glenn   

The Smith Machine Bench Press is the same as a regular bench press esmith_machine_bench_pressxcept you're using a machine. The Smith Press is actually a multipurpose machine used for a variety of exercises, not just the Bench Press. You can move the bench around, or take it out so it can be used for shoulder press, squats etc.

The Smith Machine Bench Press is a very popular machine used in gyms to work the pectoral muscles (chest). One of the reasons the Smith Machine is a popular for working the chest is because having a quick adjustment to the bench, the machine can be used to hit all parts of the chest (upper, middle and lower). The Smith Machine is also a favorite chest exercise for many because the Smith Machine has built in safety guards that can be used to serve as your own spotter. This will enable you to push yourself further than you might otherwise by adding heavier weight or going for additional reps.

Chest Muscle Physiology Summary

The chest muscle originates from the collarbone to Humerus and pulls or pushes the upper arm across the front of the torso.

Smith Machine Bench Press Summary 

  • Main Muscle(s) Worked: Chest; Pectoralis Major, Sternal
  • Other Muscles (Secondary) Worked: Shoulders, Triceps
  • Equipment: Smith Machine, Flat Bench
  • Mechanics Type: Compound (When two or more joint movements are involved).
  • Force: Push (Concentric contraction of the target muscle when movement is away from center of body).
  • Utility: Basic (A principal exercise that can place greater absolute intensity on muscles exercised relative to auxiliary exercises. Basic exercises tend to be gravity dependent, have an inclusion or shift of resistance through multiple muscle group throughout the range of motion (e.g. bench press: front deltoid to pectoralis major to triceps) and have a natural transfer of torsion force to compression force (e.g., lockout on squat, bench press, etc.) or tension force (e.g. extension of arm curl) to the bone(s) and joint(s) during full range of motion.

Target Muscles Used for Smith Machine Bench Press

  • Pectoralis Major, Sternal

Synergist Muscles Worked When Performing Smith Machine Bench Press

  • Pectoralis Major, Clavicular
  • Deltoid, Anterior(shoulders)
  • Triceps Brachii

Stabilizers Worked When Performing Smith Machine Bench Press

  • Biceps Brachii, Short Head

Antagonist Stabilizers Worked When Performing Smith Machine Bench Press 

  • None

Proper Exercise Technique When Performing Smith Machine Bench Press

  • Lie down on a properly positioned flat bench. Bench should be positioned so when the bar comes down and touches the chest it rests across the middle of the chest (nipples)
  • Plant feet flat on floor, back and butt firmly against the bench.
  • Grab the bar with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Unlock the bar from the hooks, hold in place and push towards the ceiling.
  • Inhale and lower the bar to the middle of the chest.
  • Exhale while driving weight straight up over chest until elbows are almost locked.
  • Squeeze the chest.
  • Slowly lower weight back down to middle chest and repeat.

Tips for Performing Smith Machine Bench Press

  • Practice proper form and control. Starting with this exercise, or any exercise you have not performed before, use light weight until you have the full range of movement with proper extension and contraction completed. This is important for the muscles full development.
  • Come to a complete stop. The bar should always come to a complete stop when it touches your chest. It is very important that you don't compromise your workout bouncing or jerking the weight up using momentum. Using momentum will take the emphasis off the chest muscles.
  • Use proper grip width. Recommended grip width is when elbows are same height/plane as shoulders, subtle deviations can by be used (i.e. 1" closer or wider). This keeps the exercise focused on the targeted muscle.
  • Keep butt planted. Keep your butt planted on the bench and limit the arch in your back throughout the lift. Proper form not weight is the key to this exercise.
  • Do not lock elbows. Do not lock your elbows at the top of the movement to avoid injury and stress.
  • Use weight that allows smooth and controlled motion. This will avoid cheating which in turn will take the emphasis off the chest.

Common Mistakes While Performing Smith Machine Bench Press 

  • Movement performed too fast. If movement is performed too fast, it will not allow full usage of all muscle fibers.
  • Grip to wide. To wide of a grip will decrease the range of motion through the shoulder when elbow is extended and through the elbow when shoulder is in transverse extension or adduction. This decreases the relative involvement of secondary muscles and limits the weight which can be lifted.
  • Using too much weight. A mistake for many lifters is trying to lift too much weight. Make sure to use correct weight that will allow you to use proper form and full range of motion. Do not lift weight by helping with the hips or arching your back. Improper form (cheating) will not allow all the chest's muscle fibers to be used.
  • Not coming to a complete stop. You should always come to a complete stop when bar touches the chest. It is very important that you do not compromise your workout by using momentum to lift the weight. Using momentum will take the emphases off the chest's muscles therefore defeating the purpose of this exercise.
  • Locking the elbows. Locking the elbows at the top of this movement not only takes the stress off the muscles worked, but also can cause injury and elbow stress.
  • Limiting the range of motion. Many lifters do not go all the way down or do not squeeze at the top of the movement. If full range of motion is not use, less muscle fiber will be worked and less growth will occur.

Exercise Variations for the Smith Machine Bench Press

A variation of a specific exercise is intended to work different subgroups of muscles, or work the same muscles in slightly different ways. There are many exercise variations to this strength exercise. Some of the variations use for the Smith Machine Bench Press includes:

  • Bench Press Machines. There are several bench press machines out there (i.e. Lever Chest Press, Lever Bench Press, Hammer Strength etc.) that you can substitute the Smith Machine for. These machines also work the chest with a compound movement that targets the Pectoralis Major, Sternal muscle. Bench Press Machines are safe and will allow you to push heavy weight without the need of a spotter.
  • Barbell Bench Press. The Barbell Bench Press is a compound movement that targets the Pectoralis Major, Sternal. The Barbell Bench Press is a great variation exercise to the Smith Machine Press because as a free weight barbell exercise utilizes more muscle stabilizers required to balance and control the weight during exercise execution.
  • Dumbbell Bench Press. Dumbbell Bench Press has the same movements as detailed above but with dumbbells. Dumbbells recruit additional muscle when training, because you need to stabilize the motion by yourself. Arms work independently of one another which can allow a deeper stretch at bottom of movement.
  • Cable Bench Press. Cable Bench Press is another compound movement exercise that targets Pectoralis Major, Sternal. This exercise is unique because it allows you to start with a wider grip and deeper stretch at the bottom of the movement and a closer grip for the squeeze at the top. The other pluses, your arms work independently of each other and on the negative part of the movement you can hold the tension for more muscle development.

Additional Exercises to Compliment Smith Machine Bench Press 

  • Incline Dumbbell Fly. The Incline Dumbbell Fly is a great complimentary exercise to the Smith Machine Bench Press because (1) it targets the upper part of the chest rather than the middle chest and (2) as a free weight exercise the movement utilizes more muscles to balance and control the weight.
  • Decline Barbell Bench Press. The Decline Barbell Bench Press is a compound movement exercise that is a great complimentary exercise to the Smith Machine Press because (1) it targets the lower chest as opposed to the middle chest and (2) as a free weight exercise it utilizes more muscle stabilizers required to balance and control the weight during exercise execution.
  • Dumbbell Pullover. The Dumbbell Pullover is an advanced movement that when performed properly will hit the chest at a different angles and employ muscle fibers not normally recruited standard chest building movements like the Smith Machine Bench Press.
  • Dips. Dips work the lower and upper chest muscles. Dips are a push-up exercise done in a standing position with a wider grip bar used than when working the triceps. Dips can be completed with using your own body weight or adding a weight belt or dumbbell at the ankles. Even though the triceps, biceps and shoulders get involved in this workout, following the right technique assures that the chest muscles get targeted.
  • Cable Crossovers. Cable crossover is an isolation movement directly targeting the Pectoralis Major, Sternal. Correct form using a hugging type of movement is essential when performing this exercise. Cable Crossovers has a great negative movement that employs more muscle fibers when returning to starting position. Like with most fly exercises it's a lighter weighted isolation movement and should be performed after the heavier compound chest lifting exercises.

Bottom Line on the Smith Machine Bench Press

The Smith Machine Bench Press is a great chest building exercise to add to a chest workout. Because the Smith Machine Bench Press has a controlled movement with safety locks, heavier weight be use without utilizing a spotter. This should and can be use to add variety to your workout routine.

About Lynn Glenn 

Lynn Glenn
Lynn Glenn
Lynn Glenn is a 61 year old natural athlete who started training at the ripe young age of 48. Lynn Glenn is also an avid weightlifter who enjoys writing about hot topics in the areas of health, and fitness and developing further knowledge in the areas of disease prevention, nutritionanti aging and personal training. Lynn Glenn lives and trains in Southern California, and serves as a tremendous inspiration for many "mature" weightlifters in the gym that are trying to look better, feel better, and beat father time!  To contact Lynn, visit Lynn at

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