On days when the gym is absolutely packed, open machine can be tough to come by. Sure, you could work in, but trading set after set with strangers—your pace frequently dictated by theirs—is rarely the best recipe for cooking up more muscle. We have a solution. With a little imagination, you can train every bodypart on one piece of equipment: a Smith machine.

Although free weights multiply mass the fastest by enlisting muscle for balance, the restrictions of the Smith machine are also its greatest strengths. Unlike a free barbell, a Smith bar is  perpetually level and its safety catches allow you to easily bail out if the weight becomes too heavy. Put simply, you can focus on the up and down and ignore the rest. 

Whether it’s your lifeline in a crowded gym or just another training tool, the Smith machine can both approximate some free-weight lifts, such as chest presses and bent-over rows, and bring a unique twist to others, like biceps curls and standing calf raises. In this guide, you’ll learn how to best perform the most common Smith exercises as well as some you’ve probably never tried before. There’s at least one move for every major bodypart. Slot them into your regular routines or try our all-Smith workout below. Just beware of singing the Smith machine’s praises too loudly, or it may become the epicenter of future gym traffic jams.

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