If you were to visit your neighborhood commercial gym, it’s likely you would find an odd machine with an attached barbell tucked in the corner, possibly doubling as a towel rack. This machine is called the Smith Machine.
The Smith machine is a piece of weightlifting equipment designed to allow the user to perform squats and other exercises that would normally require free weights.
We often ask, “Did a guy named Mr. Smith invent the Smith Machine”? In fact, he did.
The Smith Machine was co-invented by Rudy Smith, who was a bodybuilding champion. He was using barbells for bodybuilding when he realized it was too difficult to squat with them. The barbells would slide out of his hands and the plates would often fall off. This inspired him to design a machine that would allow him to do squats without having these problems. With the help of his friend, this would become the real deal.
In the 1950’s there was a prominent fitness guru, Francois Henri "Jack" LaLanne, commonly known as Jack LaLanne. He popularized fitness with his nationally syndicated TV programs. His shows promoted healthy diets and exercises. Jack is the designer and inventor of several popular exercise machines used today, such as the leg extension and Smith Machine.
Rudy and Jack together discussed the idea of a weightlifting device that could let him squat safely without the need for a spotter. Quickly brainstorming their ideas on napkins, the duo drew a squat machine that attaches a barbell to two parallel vertical poles.
Rudy then went ahead and designed the machine and later hired Paul Martin, a machinist to improve the design. Rudy then installed the new improved Smith Machine in a gym that he was managing, Vic Tanny’s gym in Los Angeles, later distributing them across multiple fitness centers in the USA. Somehow the name stuck and remained being called, The Smith Machine. Now you know the rest of the story.