Pros: Effective; has upper and lower pulleys.
Cons: Have to buy the attachments.
In many of my reviews I have mentioned an exercise called squats. These can be done in a variety of ways. The way I like to do them unless I am in a class is on a Smith Machine. I am reviewing the Weider Pro 355 Smith Machine that sells for about $200. This machine gave me the opportunity to work other parts of my body than just my legs. I also do a very effective exercise on the Smith Machine called lunges.
What is a Squat and a Lunge?
Squats and lunges have long been recognized as two of the most effective ways to tone or build mass on your legs. Squats on a Smith machine work primary my quadriceps (front of thighs). Many people vary their squats with their toes pointed out for overall leg development or their feet forward to emphasize the outer thigh.
When we do lunges in class most of us groan. The reason is because they are so effective they are really hard work. The purpose of lunges is to develop the front of the thighs and the glutes (butt). I find they work my calves and hamstrings (back of my thighs) as well. I will explain how to do these two exercises on the Smith Machine in a moment.
What is a Smith Machine:
I can do squats and lunges with and without weight on my shoulders. I can do them with dumbbells on my shoulders or down by my sides. I can do them without a machine as well. The reason most people like to use Squat Machines even if they have a spotter is because most feel the Smith Machine to be a safer way of doing squats than without a machine.
Still doing squats and lunges can be contraindicated if you have back problems or knee problems. Talk with your doctor and use light weights rather than putting a heavy load of weights on your upper back!
The Weider Pro 355 Smith Machine allows me to do these exercises safely because a bar slides along a fixed track so I dont have to worry about the weight sliding off my shoulder. I also can release the bar anytime I want if need be.
The Weider Pro 355:
The Weider Pro 355 is 42 inches long by 84 inches wide by 86.5 inches high. It is a large machine. You will need considerable room for it and it is by no means portable at 209 pounds.
The unusual features of the Pro 355 are the pulleys. There is a lat tower which is the piece you see coming out from the top of the machine. I could connect a lat bar to the lat tower and do lat pull downs working my back, shoulders and arms. I was able to be creative and do other back exercises using the high pulley such as an exercise called Dickersons. These use a narrow bar which I attached to the pulley. The low pulley is at the bottom of the machine. I could attach a handle and do rows. I could even attach an ankle strap to work my outer and inner thighs (abductor/adductor muscles). Note that none of these attachments is included.
It has a steel frame with a powder coated finish and a spotters platform. I have never met a Smith Machine by anyone that was broken. Essentially there are no mechanisms that can break. The technology is simple and if it starts to squeak or not glide smoothly just put some WD-40 along the track and you should be all set.
Weider is an Icon owned company. Icon warrants the Pro 355 for ninety days. This is not a good warranty but again you dont have to worry about it breaking as you would with many other machines. Id be curious to know if anyone has seen an out of order Smith Machine.
Lets use it:
I want to adjust the bar so it is at the right high for me. This was easy to do. I just twisted the bar, which is integrated in the rack. Once twisted I lifted or lowered the bar depending on what exercise I wanted to do. Lots of exercises can be done with the Pro 355 if you have a bench but that isnt included. I slid the bar to the right height for me to do squats and then placed it on the squat racks that are on each side of the machine.
The Pro 355 uses plates so that will be an additional cost. I put the weight I wanted on the bar on each side of the machine. There was plenty of room for me to get under the bar so I could have it rest on my shoulders. I then raised it and it slid easily along the track. A squat is done by keeping my head up and back straight. I then bent my knees and lowered myself until my thighs were at least parallel to the floor. Make sure your knees are not over your toes. Most of us when teaching tell people that the movement is like sitting on a toilet seat or having your butt reach for a chair behind you. From here I push back up through my feet to the starting position.
I do what are called stationary lunges. I got under the bar again with the bar on the back of my shoulders. I stood up with my legs together. From this position with my head raised I took a step forward with one leg and bent that knee while the other leg is brought almost to the floor. I usually, though not always continue doing my set in this manner. Sometimes I will bring the trailing leg forward and switch sides. I was working out alone but when I work out with my husband though a spotter isnt as necessary as it is without a Smith Machine we still spot each other.
This machine was set up with a lat bar so I was able to do lat pull downs and got the same workout as I would using a separate lat pull down machine,
I like Weiders Pro 355 Squat Machine. The price is right and since it isnt mechanical and doesn't have any kind of technology those of you leery about Icon wont have to worry.
I hope this has helped but please feel free to leave me a comment or question. All my fitness equipment reviews can be found here.