Smith Machine Better Than Barbells?

The Giant Killer

By Two-Time 212 Olympia Champion Shaun Clarida

Sponsored by MUTANT

Q: I see on your videos that you use a Smith machine for some basic movements like squats, stiff-leg deadlifts, and barbell rows. Can you explain why these are better options for you than the barbell versions?

A: Barbells are excellent tools, but once you get to a certain level of strength, I do feel there is a higher risk of tearing a muscle using them. For instance, in almost every case I know of when someone has torn his pec, he was doing either the flat or incline barbell press, most of the time it was on a flat bench. An injury like that would obviously be devastating for me. But more so for me, the Smith machine is safer for me because I train by myself. If I had a training partner, I would still do the incline barbell press, but definitely not the flat bench. The Smith machine version of it is much safer for me personally. Also, I’ve always liked the Smith machine because I don’t have to utilize my stabilizers. I just find the right path and go up and down. I do believe dumbbells are good for building those stabilizer muscles and I still use them for pressing, especially inclines on chest day. You might have seen me with the 200s! But being over 40 now and training by myself, the Smith machine allows me to be more stable and safer. If I can’t get the last rep, I can just rack it quickly. If you’re in that position by yourself with a heavy barbell over your neck, you’re screwed! I’ve always been a big fan of the Smith machine. To those who say it’s not effective, I’ve gotten significantly bigger and denser over the last few years, and I’ve done a lot of work on the Smith machine.

Leg Training: Give It All You’ve Got

Q: You posted that every bodybuilder has a love/hate relationship with leg training. How would you describe that in your case? What do you love, what do you hate?

A: I love when it’s done! But seriously, I still get anxiety before leg days. I think if you really train hard and push your limits, you will have anxiety starting the day before. Then you wake up that morning thinking about it. You get that first meal in, and you’re driving to the gym thinking about what you’re going to do in the workout, visualizing the weights, the reps, the whole thing. Once I get a few sets into the workout, maybe doing some leg extensions or squats, my mind switches to another mode. At that point it’s all about effort and intensity and seeing how hard I can go. I’m already looking forward to the aftermath of the workout where I have to crawl out of the gym because I blasted my legs so well. My legs will still be throbbing the next morning getting out of bed. Legs are the biggest body part, so you have to throw everything at it. Like yesterday, I squatted, then I did leg presses, and I finished with Bulgarian squats. With legs, you really do have to give it everything you’ve got if you want them to grow and improve. Sometimes it can be scary or intimidating to get under a bar or a leg press sled loaded up with hundreds of pounds, but I always say, “It’s me or the machine, and the machine isn’t going to win today.” I never get under that weight and think about how it might hurt me. You just have to get under it and get your reps, then walk away and be done with it.

Don’t Listen to Haters

Q: Just curious, the night you turned pro at the 2012 Nationals, someone told you that your career was over. You would never be big enough to do well as a pro, you would never win a pro show, you were wasting your time and should quit. Did that person ever admit later on just how wrong he was?

A: No, he didn’t. But the last time I saw him, he told me how proud he was of me and congratulated me on all my success; but he has never said he was wrong. It was tough at that time years ago when he said that. I was on this high after just earning my pro card, and then he just took the wind right out of my sails. It didn’t bother me for long, because I knew I was going to get to where I wanted to get to regardless of whether people believed in me and supported my dream. I could have easily listened to what he said and took it to heart and given up that very night. But I said, hey, I got this far. I turned pro. Who’s to say I can’t be a good pro, win a pro show, get to the Olympia, and maybe even win that? I knew I was going to need to add a lot more size to make those crazy dreams a reality, so I put my head down and did the work. People love to tell you what you won’t ever be able to do. It’s up to you whether you listen to them and accept their predictions. Here I am now with two Olympia titles and multiple pro wins, one of them in an Open show at only 174 pounds against guys who were 260-280 pounds. It’s a good thing I didn’t listen to that guy and quit or none of that would have happened!

People love to tell you what you won’t ever be able to do. It’s up to you whether you listen to them and accept their predictions.

Instagram @shaunclarida

YouTube: Shaun Clarida

Shaun’s MUTANT® Stack



BCAA 9.7







For more information, visit

©2023 Advanced Research Media. Long Island Web Design