Smith Machine Incline Press

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Smith Machine Incline Press

The movement in the Smith machine incline press is the same as in the basic exercise (Smith machine bench press), but the bench is set at an incline of around 30 to 45-degrees. As in the case of the incline press with free weight (barbell, dumbbells), the pectoral muscle remains in demand, but the work is shifted to the upper (clavicular) fibers and the shoulders.

The advantage of a Smith machine incline press is that you do not have to balance the weight, which reduces the need for a partner. Furthermore, the Smith machine has supports where you can place the bar if you get tired. On the other hand, the Smith machine incline press involves a potentially dangerous, unnatural linear trajectory rather than a slightly circular arc, as it does with free weights (barbells and dumbbells) and with most good machines. This might bother some people’s shoulders.

Exercise Instructions

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Position an adjustable exercise bench beneath the bar of a Smith machine and tilt the backrest to an angle of 30 to 45 degrees. Lie back on the incline bench so that the bar lines up with the top (or even midpoint) of your chest. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip (palms turned forward) spaced slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Position your feet firmly on the floor. Release the safety hooks and hold the bar above your chest with arms extended.

Smith machine incline press

Smith machine incline press

ACTION (MOVEMENT): Lower the bar slowly and under control to the midpoint of your chest, just above the nipple line. Let the bar slightly touch your chest, and hold for one second. Press the bar up to full arm extension, stopping just short of elbow lockout.

Replacement Exercises (Substitutes)

To add variety to your chest workout routine, replace the Smith machine incline press with a different exercise that works the same muscles. You can perform this exercise using a barbell, using a pair of dumbbells, or on any incline press machine. Ideally, the modification or alternative exercise will still work the same type of motion or movement pattern (pressing movement) but in a slightly different manner. This will ensure that your body still gains strength in a certain move, but the exercise is different enough to spur huge gains.

Muscles Engaged in the Smith machine incline press

The primary muscles involved in the Smith machine bench press are the pectoralis major (clavicular fibers), triceps and anterior deltoid (front shoulder).

Main muscles: pectoralis major (clavicular area), triceps, deltoids (anterior)
Secondary muscles: deltoids (medial), coracobrachialis, serratus anterior, subscapularis
Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, biceps, deltoids (posterior)

Smith Machine Incline Press Additional Tips & Key Points

  • Keep your elbows perpendicular to and away from your body.
  • Stabilise by ensuring that your shoulders, head, and hips remain in contact with the bench at all times.
  • Do not bounce the bar off your chest or arch your back – this reduces the amount of chest work and risks injury to the chest muscles.
  • Avoid dropping the weight quickly.
  • After the desired number of reps, rerack the bar.

Closing Thoughts

The main advantage of the multi-power (Smith) machine is that it allows you to take the weight from above, stop at any time in the set (by twisting the bar to lock the machine) and vary the incline of the bench used. The main disadvantage is that there isn’t a need to balance the bar with the Smith machine and that will lead to underdevelopment in your muscles or lack of development of stabilizing muscles (you are not working and strengthening your muscles responsible for stabilization). Because the Smith machine takes a one-size-fits-all approach, there is additional strain placed on joints, tendons and ligaments to accommodate the straight vertical path. Over time, this can create discomfort or even injury. The second disadvantage is dragging an incline exercise bench under the Smith machine and finding the right position because you have to make sure that the bench is centered in the machine so as not to favor either side.

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