The World’s Best Coat Rack

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I am off to Vegas with the girlfriend this weekend. No we are not eloping, and no we are definitely NOT going to see Celine Dion while we’re there. Sadly this will be the first time on a plane for me (I’m 30) and I heard through the grapevine that they’re taking bets in Vegas on whether or not I wet myself on take off. Needless to say, I figured that since I am going to be gone for a week, I should write a quick blog post before I leave.

The Smith Machine (pictured below) is often touted as being “safer” than their power rack counterparts. To this I say….HOGWASH.

Smith Machine

A friend of mine e-mailed me a few days ago saying that the company that he works for was thinking about purchasing a Smith Machine rather than a power rack for safety reasons. He wrote me and asked if I could write a bullet point rationale on why this is flawed thinking. Below is what I wrote, which is a mix of thoughts from my good friend Eric Cressey and myself.

The World’s Best Coat Rack

1. The Smith Machine offers less transfer to the real-world events than free weight exercises. The body isn’t meant to move in a fixed plane of motion. Rather, it’s meant to move in “free space” where the muscles must act in a synergistic fashion to stabilize the body. The Smith Machine is a sure fire way to promote what is called Pattern Overload Syndrome, where the same tendons/ligaments are stressed repeatedly (in a fixed plane)…..resulting in a plethora of postural issues and kinetic chain dysfunction, as well as tendonitis (acute inflammation of soft tissue) and tendonosis (chronic degeneration of soft tissue).

2. Depending on the movement, the shearing forces on the knees and lumbar spine are increased by the fixed line of motion. In short, the Smith Machine is atrocious for the lower back and knees. If anything it serves as a crutch that puts the body in a biomechanical disadvantage and more often than not, promotes injury rather than preventing it.

3. The lifter conforms to the machine, and not vice versa. Human motion is dependent on subtle adjustments to joint angle positioning; the body will always want to compensate in the most advantageous position possible. Fix the feet and fix the bar (which the Smith Machine forces), and the only ways to get this compensation are inappropriate knee tracking and, more dangerously, loss of the neutral spine position (a big no no). Watch most people squat in the smith machine and you will see rounded backs ALL the time. This is “safer”?????? Um no.

4. Smith machines are generally more expensive. I suspect that you could get a regular coat rack for about $2K cheaper – and it would take up less space. You could get two quality racks for the price of ONE Smith Machine.

So no, I have to disagree that you can do everything in a Smith Machine that you can in a power rack. If you want to promote horrible compensation patterns and a ton (literally) more stress on the knees and lumbar spine, then go right ahead…..the smith machine should be your choice.

Tony Gentilcore

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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