Can you deadlift with a smith machine? Deadlift benefits of the smith machine

Deadlifts are one of the most powerful exercises you can do, and they should be a component of every training programme, no matter what your fitness goals are (with exception to those who have some certain limitations like a back injury). So, what if your gym doesn’t have barbells (as Planet Fitness knows all too well)? Can you deadlift with a smith machine?

Can you deadlift with a smith machine
Can you deadlift with a smith machine

We’re going to answer all of your questions regarding utilising the smith machine for deadlifts so you can make your own decision. We’ve got you covered on everything from how to do a proper smith machine deadlift to the advantages and alternate exercises.

Do you know how to deadlift on a smith machine?

Do you know how to deadlift on a smith machine?

Who you ask will determine the answer to this question. This topic has sparked a lot of debate, and with good cause. This is because, due to the bar path and bar positioning, the dynamics of the lift are different when utilising a Smith machine for deadlifts. Bench press and squats are the same way.

While the mechanics are different, there are specific strategies and things to keep in mind that will allow you to do a conventional deadlift with a Smith machine that is as near to a free barbell deadlift as feasible.

To answer the question, yes, you CAN safely and effectively perform a conventional deadlift with a Smith machine…you just need to know what you’re doing, which we’ll teach you below.

It should be mentioned that if you have access to a barbell, you should utilise it to complete regular deadlifts, whether you are a novice or not. When it comes to deadlifts, it clearly outperforms a Smith machine. However, let’s face it: when it comes to equipment, you’re not always going to have a lot of choices. You won’t be able to train at every gym because they won’t have the necessary equipment, so you’ll have to make due with what you have.

Barbell deadlift vs smith machine deadlift

Barbell deadlift vs smith machine deadlift

The Smith machine deadlift differs from a barbell deadlift in two ways: it has a set bar route and the plates do not touch the floor. So, let’s talk about these two issues.

You have no choice but to follow the Smith machine’s fixed bar path because it is set in stone. For a deadlift, the optimal bar path is straight up and down (in line with the middle of your foot from top to bottom). You can accomplish this with a barbell since you can control the course of the bar. Smith machines, on the other hand, come with a range of angled bar routes.

Some are straight up and down (excellent for deadlifts), while the Smith machine with a slanted bar route (usually 7-12 inclination angle) is found in most commercial gyms. This has some drawbacks because it conflicts with the form of a deadlift and might induce excessive hip extension if done to full lockout. This doesn’t rule out using an angled Smith machine; just be careful not to overextend your hips at the top and put too much strain on your low back on the way down.

You’ll see that the smith machine doesn’t allow the plates to rest on the ground. As a result, the starting position will be elevated. You’re pulling the weights off the floor with free weights, which makes it more systematically challenging.

To do this, you’ll need a lot more strength. Essentially, you’d be limiting your range of motion (knee flexion and extension), which would prevent you from developing your legs. As a result, a simple cure is to stand on a low platform or some plates so that the bar is closer to your lower shins. We’ll make a note of this in the instructions below once again.

On a smith machine, how to do a conventional deadlift

On a smith machine, how to do a conventional deadlift

The smith machine deadlift, believe it or not, may be an effective and safe deadlift workout when executed correctly. However, there are a few things you should know before jumping on the smith machine and starting deadlifts. You can make the workout more effective and lower the risk of injury if you understand the right technique, necessary steps, and potential dangers.

The following are step-by-step instructions:

  1. Set the Smith machine bar to the lowest position, which is the safety catches.
    Place the weights where your feet will go behind the bar (this will be on the side where the angle is closest to your face). The shin-to-bar distance should be between 0.5 and 1 inch, and the space between them should be hip-width apart.
  2. Place both feet firmly on the weights or elevation box, then grip the bar just outside of your shins as tightly as possible. Bring your hips down and sit low enough so that your shins are perpendicular to the floor (while keeping your spine straight).
  3. To keep your shoulders from rounding, keep your chest high and your head straight ahead.
  4. You’ll start pulling up from here.
  5. By pressing with your heels and stretching your knees, you’ll explode up with the bar.
  6. When the bar hits your knees, thrust your hips forwards (extend your hips) and clench your glutes while keeping your spine straight.
  7. Don’t lock out completely; instead, stop when your hips are in a neutral position. Keep everything tight and engaged by squeezing your glutes. This is one repetition.
  8. Lower the bar by flexing (bending) at the knees while shooting your hips back and allowing the bar to slowly fall down.
  9. Pause when the bar reaches the bottom and then repeat for the desired reps (unless you are just doing 1 rep sets). A deadlift is always performed from a standing position. So, at the bottom, you may make any necessary adjustments to your posture, ensuring that your spine is straight, your shoulder blades are retracted, and you’re ready to go for the next rep.

Common mistakes to avoid when using a smith machine for deadlifts

Common mistakes to avoid when using a smith machine for deadlifts
  • When executing a deadlift on an angled smith machine, standing facing the wrong way is a common and deadly mistake. Excessive hip extension occurs as a result of this, which might result in a lower back injury.
  • Because it puts too much tension on the back, arching the back will almost certainly result in injury. Any deadlift requires maintaining a neutral spine, which can be accomplished by keeping your head in a static posture during the movements.
  • Foot positioning is incorrect. Your feet should be apart by shoulder or hip width.
  • Your spine might be injured by rounded shoulders. Maintain good form and a neutral spine by pulling your shoulder blades behind you.
  • The bar is too far away from the shins. The bar should be no more than an inch away from your shins to avoid the bar contacting your shins and causing your back to curve.
  • The bar is being jerked. As the weight increases, this is a natural movement, but it will result in harm. Tighten your core and propel yourself forwards with your heels.

Deadlift benefits of the smith machine

Deadlift benefits of the smith machine

To be honest, there aren’t many advantages to using a Smith machine versus a barbell for deadlifting. The primary advantage is that you can use a Smith machine instead of a barbell if you don’t have one.

However, utilising a Smith machine with a straight bar path has an advantage for beginners in that it will keep your bar path as it should be, teaching you good mechanics. This will allow you to perfect your form and properly target your muscles. However, you should eventually progress to a free barbell deadlift.

When compared to a barbell deadlift, the Smith machine deadlift has a lot of advantages, many of which are the same as barbell deadlifts. Your quads and entire posterior chain, as well as your forearms and grip, may all be strengthened. It’s also beneficial for strengthening bones, burning calories, and increasing general brute strength. You know, all the regular deadlift advantages.

Smith machine deadlift disadvantages

Smith machine deadlift disadvantages

You are restricted in the following ways: The biomechanics of the deadlift on the Smith Machine are all wrong since you’re working on a fixed plane of motion, and you’re putting your body at danger of injury.

Reduced range of motion (ROM): Look at where the bar reaches on your shins; it’s about knee level. Your range of motion is limited unless you use an elevation box or weights, so you’re not getting the most out of this workout.

Using fewer muscular groups: Because of the stability aspect, a standard deadlift targets many muscles. Because of its constant position, the smith machine eliminates the need to manage the bar, reducing the utilisation of many muscles and, as a result, the deadlift’s effectiveness.

Deadlift muscles by smith machine worked

Deadlift muscles by smith machine worked

When you pull weight from the floor to a lockout, multiple muscles are activated.

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Calves
  • Erector spinae
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Abdominals
  • Forearms

The quadriceps and hamstrings are targeted when bringing the barbell from the floor knees. The back muscles, glutes, and hamstrings are targeted when you bring the barbell from your knees to lock out.

Can you deadlift with a smith machine: Review

Can you deadlift with a smith machine: Review

This is not something I would suggest. For efficient overall growth, I feel that all healthy individuals who are free of injuries or pathophysiological difficulties should avoid utilising the Smith machine.

Despite the fact that the barbell and the smith machine provide the same agonist kinesiology, barbell free weight core engagement is considerably superior than the supported instrument. For the majority of your exercises, the barbell should always be prefered over any supported apparatus.


It’s possible that you’ll only have access to a Smith machine for deadlifts at some point.

That’s fine because you now know how to perform a smith machine deadlift effectively and safely. While it isn’t the finest solution, it is one that will undoubtedly yield results.

And this article will help you answer the following questions about:

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Field John

If you are an avid believer in health and fitness and want to do something for your team, I can help. As the founder of Field Goals Fitness, I lead a collective of health and fitness professionals dedicated to helping Australians lead a more active and healthier lifestyle. With a warm, friendly, and supportive approach that gets results, I enjoy helping individuals & organisations achieve sustainable success with their health and fitness goals. Certifying as a Personal Trainer in 2009, was a turning point in my life. I had spent 14 years in the corporate world in Business Development roles and decided to take all that I had learnt in sales and marketing and start my own business.

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