This was worth over-sharing. A great factual explanation as to why the Smith machine is inferior to the free barbell – always.
On the topic of the similarities between Smith and barbell squats, we may need to beat a dead horse. Charles Poliquin, my squat Grandmaster, has this to say on the subject:
“With a Smith machine, the bar is on a track, and this increased stability decreases the requirement of the body’s neutralizer and stabilizer muscle functions. Therefore, the strength developed on such machines has minimal carryover to a three-dimensionally, unstable environment such as occurs during the freestanding squat. This is an especially important fact to those who use weight training to improve sports performance.” (Charles Poliquin)
A huge drawback of the Smith machine is that eliminates the need for your body to build stabilizer muscles, as it does the stabilization for you. We may rag on folks who over-emphasize stabilization training, but the bottom line is if you have no stabilization muscles, what the hell kind of training do you think you are doing? In addition to the stabilization factor, the Smith machine places unnecessarily high levels of stress on the patellar ligament and the anterior cruciate ligament. Some bodybuilders favor the Smith machine because of its focus on the quads, but remember folks: Just because it creates a favorable response with a muscle does not mean it is is healthy for a tendon or joint (like the sumo deadlift high pull, or BTN strict press).
On a more scientific note, researchers have found that use of the Smith machine resulted in vast reductions of power, due to the increased load during the concentric phase and the reduction of the potentiation from the stretch-shortening cycle as well as a decrease in velocity for the eccentric phase. Now say all of that ten times fast.
The long story short is this: stop trying to justify your use of the Smith machine. You say that is is useful to do assisted pullups or to hang rings from? There are literally a thousand other places to hang rings from. It astounds me that gyms will spend thousands of dollars on this piece of equipment so someone can hang a TRX band over it. Get under a real bar, and get a solid coach to guide you on your way.
I guess it comes down to – are you training for appearance or performance? You can train to improve your performance and your appearance will greatly improve. But you can’t train to improve your appearance and expect your performance to get any better.
A hat-tip to the beasts over at Lift Big Eat Big. Awesome.