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Smith Machines rock

Gym equipment
(Image credit: Unknown)

Smith machines are those giant racks with a barbell fixed to a set of rails, and they inspire mixed reactions among gym-goers. Some trainers will tell you they let you lift more weight without needing a spotter, while functional training advocates will point out that they require less stabilisation and make proper form impossible on exercises like the squat. But while squats might be out, if you're looking to spice up your workout - or if the Smith's the only bit of free kit in the gym - there's still plenty you can use it for...

1. Inverted rows (opens in new tab)

It's difficult to get enough horizontal pulling into your workout, but these are a great alternative to bent-over barbell rows. Set the bar at roughly chest height, lie horizontally underneath and pull your chest towards it. Start with your feet on the ground and when you find that's too easy, put them on a bench or gym ball.

2. Shoulder press (opens in new tab)

Exercises such as the squat incorporate a slight arc, so carrying them out with proper form requires a barbell, but the classic shoulder press is a safe one for the Smith machine. Keep the bar in front of your face and stand up straight as you push it up.

3. Shrug (opens in new tab)

As with the shoulder press, the limited range of motion means it's difficult to go wrong with a shrug - and you don't have to worry about hauling the weight off the ground before you can do them. If you've never done them before, they're exactly like they sound. Just 'shrug' your shoulders upwards to work those difficult-to-hit trapezius muscles.

4. Incline bench press (opens in new tab)

You're better off doing your normal bench press routine with free weights and a spotter, but if your gym hasn't got an incline bench - and many haven't - this is a great way to target your upper chest.

5. Pull-up (opens in new tab)

Many gyms have weird, angled pull-up handles that make normal pull-ups tough and close-grip variations impossible. If this sounds familiar, you can put the Smith machine's bar at its highest setting and do pull-ups on that instead.

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