There are so many different types of weight lifting machines that it can be hard to know where to start.
Do you need a power rack? What about a smith machine? Maybe a squat rack? Would you be better off with an all-in-one gym?
To help make your shopping a little simpler, we’re going to take a look at one of the most versatile pieces of weight lifting equipment for your home gym – the Smith Machine.
We’ll break down the ins and outs of this piece of equipment, as well as review 5 of the best options for everyone, no matter your weight lifting experience.
Smith Machines to Review:
What is a Smith Machine?
If you’ve ever used a machine at the gym for squats or crunches that has the bar secured to the machine and attached to cables or pulleys, then you’re already familiar with a Smith Machine.
How do these machines compare to squat racks or power racks?
Squat racks will usually only be shoulder height and are basically just designed for squats and bench presses.
The shape of the rack limits the variety of exercises you’re able to do with a squat rack.
A power rack is similar to a Smith machine in that it provides a full cage in which to do your lifting.
Pegs or straps are used to catch the bar if it is dropped, enabling you to do lifts at higher weights safely without the need for a spotter.
Smith machines take the power rack to the next level. Instead of using pegs or straps to catch the bar, the bar is secured to cables and pulleys.
While this doesn’t impact the amount of weight you can lift, it does provide an extra level of security.
Benefits of Training With A Smith Machine?
- Safety – You don’t need a spotter if you’re working with a smith machine. Depending on the model, there are hooks or pegs every few inches and all you need to do is twist the bar to secure it in place.
- Convenience – If you don’t have a local gym or just don’t have time to exercise outside of your home, a Smith machine can give you a lot of different exercise options in the comfort of your own home.
- Fixed Plane of Motion – You don’t need to worry about injuries that can occur if you lose control of the bar. The plane of motion of your bar and weights is fixed. This can also be beneficial for targeting specific muscle groups, or enabling individuals with injuries (such as back injuries) to continue exercising without straining injured areas.
*Note: If you have experienced an injury, be sure to consult with your doctor before resuming any exercise or weight lifting regimen.
- Better Confidence – A Smith Machine can give you the confidence to try lifting at higher weights than you might otherwise try. You can also work on your form without worrying that you’re going to drop your weights or injure yourself.
- Versatility – While a basic smith machine doesn’t have a lot of accessories, you can find them incorporated into a full home gym, giving you a lot of different exercise options.
How to Choose A Smith Machine
Before you commit to your Smith Machine purchase, there are a few variables you need to consider, including:
- Weight being lifted – How much weight are you lifting now? How much are you planning on lifting in the future? Your Smith Machine will have a maximum weight limit that you should not exceed, so make sure it fits both your current and future needs.
- Available space – How much room do you have in your home gym for a new piece of equipment? Be aware of both the power rack’s footprint (the amount of space it takes up on the floor) and it’s height to see if it will fit in your home.
- Budget – How much disposable income do you have to invest in a Smith Machine for your home gym?
Let’s look at these considerations in a little more depth.
How Much Weight Can A Smith Machine Hold?
The answer to this question will depend on both the size of the Smith Machine itself and the quality of the material that it is made from.
The maximum weight for a Smith Machine should be outlined in the machine’s assembly/instruction, to be sure to read over the accompanying paperwork before you start loading weights onto the bar.
While it will vary depending on the brand and model, in general Smith Machines can handle between 300 and 2,000 lbs
Keep in mind that your machine’s maximum weight limit will be significantly lower than the equipment’s failure rate, but this is designed for your safety so don’t overload your Smith Machine.
How Much Space Do I Need for a Smith Machine?
Purchasing a Smith Machine is useless if you don’t have enough space to set it up.
You need to have enough floor space for to set it up, and enough vertical clearance to accommodate the upper bars of the machine.
Let’s take a look at the size requirements of the 5 machines that we’ll be reviewing in just a moment.
|Deltech Fitness||81″||49 ¼”||49″|
|Valor Fitness BE-11||80″||54″||53″|
|Marcy 5276 Combo||86″||79″||95″|
You need to make sure you have enough space to assemble your machine, as well as enough space to move and store your weights and bars.
If you don’t have enough space indoors, you do still have options. Setting up your machine outdoors, in a garage, a carport or another sheltered area will give you the space you need, though working out in extreme hot or cold temperatures isn’t always the most comfortable option.
What Does It Take to Assemble and Anchor a Smith Machine?
Unless you’re paying extra for professional assembly, it’s up to you to put together your new Smith machine.
The trick here is to follow the assembly instructions that come with your machine.
The tools you need will vary depending on the particulars of the machine you’ve ordered, but you probably have all the tools you need in your garage or tool box.
If you’ve got a socket set, an adjustable wrench and a set of allen wrenches, you’re all set. If you need any specialized tools, they may actually be included with your Smith Machine’s hardware, so you don’t need to worry about getting stuck without a tool in the middle of assembly.
Bringing a friend along may make assembly easier, especially for some larger machines.
Most Smith Machines are designed to be free-standing – the fixed plane of motion prevents the machine from tilting or torquing during lifting.
If you choose to anchor your machine to the concrete floor, you will need two additional tools – a power drill or impact drill, and a concrete drill bit.
An impact wrench will make screwing the bolts into the concrete easier, but it’s not necessary if you’ve got a good socket wrench and some elbow grease.
What Exercises Can I Do With A Smith Machine?
In spite of what the naysayers might say, Smith machines are good for more than just bench presses and squats.
Once the machine is fully assembled, what kind of exercises can you use it for?
The fixed plane of motion allows for much more targeted exercise, such as:
- Bench Press – Standard, incline, and decline presses
- Bicep curls
- Bent over rows
- Tricep dips
- Pull ups
- Hanging knee raises
- Seated shoulder presses
- Muscle ups
- Leg raises
- Toe to bars
- Calf raises
The fixed plane of motion that we’ve been talking about since the first section is one of the Smith Machine’s greatest benefits – it allows for more specific targeting of muscle groups for hypertrophy.
If specific muscle gains are your goal, a Smith Machine might be a better option than a power rack or squat rack.
Top Smith Machines Review
And now on to the part that we know you’ve all been waiting for – the reviews!
You have a good idea of what to look for in a Smith Machine, so now we can take a closer look at what makes these particular machines stand out.
Valor Fitness BE-11
If you need a machine with a smaller footprint but a higher maximum weight, the Valor Fitness BE-11 might just fit the bill.
This machine has a maximum weight of 1000 lbs, but the frame itself is much lighter than the Deltech we’ve already reviewed.
The BE-11 only weighs 51 lbs when fully assembled, which is ideal if you need to be able to move your set up but don’t have a ton of upper body strength or a buddy to help you move it around.
This machine doesn’t have a pull up bar at the top of the rig, so it doesn’t offer the option of overhead exercises, but that doesn’t detract from its versatility.
The bar glides on linear bearings and the latch bar and support are made from solid steel, so you don’t need to worry about it breaking if you’re doing heavy lifting – as long as you don’t exceed the maximum weight of 1,000 lbs.
The rear of the machine also features 4 storage posts designed to fit Olympic plates. It also comes with an Olympic bar, so keep that in mind when ordering plates.
Like the previously reviewed machine, you’re just paying for the Smith Machine itself – you will need to have or purchase a weight bench.
Get The Valor Fitness BE-11 on Amazon.com
If you need a Smith Machine on a budget, the Powerline PSM144X is a dream come true.
This 168 lb beast of a machine uses patented Super-Glide bearings to keep everything moving smoothly.
We’re unsure of the maximum weight rating for this machine, but we’ve seen used with weights upwards of 300 pounds with no difficulty.
Unlike some other Smith Machines, this model includes spotter extensions to increase your safety during solo workouts.
It doesn’t have a chin up bar, though – the cross bar at the top of the machine isn’t round or comfortable for pull ups or any other overhead exercises.
This machine is designed specifically to be used for lifting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a thorough workout from this budget machine.
It still has everything you need – just in a smaller package.
The machine is designed for use with standard plates – those with 1 inch holes instead of the 2 inch holes found in Olympic plates – but there is an adaptor kit available to make the rig work with the larger Olympic plates.
Get The PowerLine PSM144X on Amazon.com
For versatility that doesn’t break the bank, the Caribou III is a great option.
This machine is lightweight, but that doesn’t compromise it’s efficiency.
This machine come equipped with a standard bar designed to fit plates with 1 inch holes, but there is an optional Olympic plate adaptor kit that is included in the cost of the machine to accommodate the larger plates.
Again, we’re unsure what the maximum weight limit of this machine is, but we’ve seen it used with weights of up to 450 pounds with no problem at all.
The only problem we’ve come across with this machine is that the stock self-oiling bearings tend to bind during heavy use, but adding a little bit of lubricant to the poles keeps them moving freely.
This particular machine also has a chin up bar and an integrated dip station mount, to increase the type of exercises you can complete with the machine.
While it isn’t the least expensive smith machine on this list, it is a great option for someone who has a little extra money to spend and wants to get some bang for their buck.
Marcy 5276 Combo
This is the Rolls Royce of Smith Machines, without the expensive car price.
For the same price as some of the other stand alone machines on this list, you can get a complete home gym for strength training.
Not only do you get a smith machine with this setup, you get an independent motion pulley
cable for crossover exercises, and a vertical butterfly for chest and back strength training.
The included bench also comes equipped with a duel function leg developer for lower body exercises as well, making this a whole body exercise solution.
You’ve also got a chin up bar, tricep dip attachments and a number of other accessories.
This machine is a beast, so if you can get free shipping, do it! It weighs a whopping 332 pounds assembled, before weights are added.
It also has the largest footprint of all of the machines we’ve reviewed but for all the accessories it comes with, it’s not surprising.
If you want a smith machine for weight lifting but don’t want to limit your home exercise regimen, this is definitely the machine for you.
Get The Marcy 5276 Combo on Amazon.com
This heavy duty machine is simple, designed to hold one bar and up to 700 lbs in overall weight. It doesn’t take up a ton of space, but don’t let it’s size fool you – this is one hefty machine.
The overall weight of the assembled machine is 182 lbs before it’s loaded with weights, making it easy to balance for overhead exercises like pull ups and leg raises.
If you’re worried about tilting it, there are weight bars on the rear of the machine that serve two purposes – they give you additional plate storage and act as a counterbalance for overhead exercises.
The frame itself is made of solid steel, and the bar slides smoothly on Precision Linear Roller Bearings.
The machine doesn’t come with a bench, so you’ll need to use your own bench or purchase one to use during your workouts.
This machine comes equipped with an Olympic bar, so keep that in mind when you’re ordering plates, if you don’t already have compatible ones in your home gym.
While this is one of the more expensive Smith Machines on the market, the old saying rings true here – you get what you pay for – and as an added bonus, Deltech offers free shipping in the continental US, so you don’t need to worry about paying shipping on this beastly machine. In spite of its price, this is one of the highest rated machines on the market today.
Get The Deltech Fitness on Amazon.com
Wrapping It Up
Smith Machines are a great option for all types of in home exercise, whether you’re training to be a competitive bodybuilder or just working on improving your overall tone.
Shop around for the best deal and you’re sure to find something that fits in your budget.
Keep in mind that you get what you pay for, and that goes double for exercise equipment. You might find a deal that seems too good to be true, and end up stuck with a machine that breaks down or is unusable in a few month’s time.
If you’re in this thing for the long haul, take the time and money to invest in a high quality Smith Machine – you’ll be set for years to come.