This exercise provided courtesy of Mike Clausen, founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body training gym, voted best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006.
The Smith machine press is an excellent exercise for isolate your chest muscles, particularly if you are having trouble stabilizing your bench press or doing bench presses using only your chest muscles.
Lie on your back on a flat bench with the barbell on the Smith machine rack over your upper body. The barbell should be at a level corresponding to the distance from your elbow to your hand when your elbows are bent at right angles at your sides. Take the barbell in an easy, open-handed grip with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart and your palms facing toward your feet (see Photo 1).
- From the starting position, and with the barbell still on the rack, contract your shoulder blades together and downward to raise your chest toward the bar. Engage your abdominals by pulling them in toward your spine to create a muscular "weight belt". You will use this technique to keep your back flat throughout the exercise—do not, at any time, permit your back to arch.
- Lift the bar off the rack and, keeping it steady, bend and lower your elbows to the side until they are at the level of your back. The bar should not touch or bounce off of your chest at any point (see Photos 2 and 3).
- Keeping your head and neck in line with your spine and your back flat on the bench by engaging your abs, slowly press the bar directly toward the ceiling. At the top of the motion, your chest should be fully flexed (see Photo 4).