Best Smith Machines For Your Home or Garage Gym in 2017!
Updated on March 28th. 2017
The Smith Machine was actually invented by a man who is known as the father of American Fitness, Jack LaLanne. But it was gym executive Rudy Smith who developed it and had it manufactured for commercial gym use in the mid-1950’s.
The Smith Machine looks like a modified power rack. It consists of a barbell that is fixed inside of steel rails. Vertical posts features a series of hooks onto which the barbell can be placed. During the workout these act as a self spotter, allowing you to bail out of the exercise by simply flicking your wrists.
The Smith Machine is a controversial piece of equipment. It has a lot of haters who claim that it should never be used. Then there are those who swear by it as a powerful and effective muscle builder. We’ll delve into the pros and cons of using a Smith Machine shortly. First, though, let’s identify the best Smith Machine for your home gym.
We have identified the top 5 Smith Machines for home use on the market. Our favorite was the Marcy Diamond Elite. We were also mightily impressed with the units offered by Body Solid, Deltech, Powerline PSM 144X and the Yukon Caribou III Smith Machine.
Smith Machine Reviews
The Marcy Diamond Elite is an impressive looking machine. Much more than a Smith Machine, the Marcy Diamond is a complete workout package that includes padded incline bench, preacher curl attachment and high and low pulleys. Yet the features that set the Marcy apart are its ultra glide linear bearings, the dual function leg developer and a press bar with sealed linear bearings.
The Marcy features a low pulley with a foot rest to allow you to perform seated rowing type exercises. Thanks to the linear bearings, all of the pulley systems operate with an independent motion system and are extremely smooth and fluid to operate.
- Smith machine glides up and down freely
- Very sturdy construction
- Comes with high and low pulleys and foot plate for seated rows
- Comes with padded bench and preacher curl attachment
- Olympic plate storage pegs
- The Pulley system is quite difficult to set up
- Slides on carpet
- Tall guys won’t get a full stretch on the arm attachment
The Marcy Diamond Elite is a fantastic addition to any home gym. Far more than a Smith Machine, it will allow you to perform every cable exercise you’ll ever want while providing the safety and isolation of Smith machine training. Reviewers have been impressed with fast delivery and customer service.
The Series 7 by Body Solid is the culmination of years of design, fine tuning and recalibrating to produce the finest Smith based training system possible. The base is built from a 2 inch by 3 inch commercial quality main frame, set to a 7 reversed pitch. This 7 angle is critical as it allows for more natural upper and lower movements that allow for more precise chest and gluteal stimulation on bench presses and squats.
The Series 7 allows you to do more than 50 exercises. The linear ball bearing Smith pulley system allows for 20 cross-member lockout points. This allows you to bail out of a movement at any point safely and simply. The safeties on this machine are strong and durable, giving you confidence when you need it the most.
- Precise 7 angle Smith Machine for specific muscle activation
- Linear ball bearing system
- 20 cross-member lockout points
- Heavy duty 11-gauge 2” x 3” main frame
- Olympic plate storage pegs
- Pulley system is jerky and not very robust
- Assembly instruction mix up dimensions between metric and imperial
The Deltech Smith Machine is a basic, no frills unit that knows what it is supposed to do and does it very well. Constructed of 11 and 14 gauge steel tubing, this machine is as solid as they come. Its got a minimalist footprint, allowing it to sit along your power rack without overcrowding the space. All connections are welded to an American welding society specification.
The mechanics of this machine are fluid and smooth. Precision linear roller bearings ride on steel bars. The built in spotters are extremely heavy duty and there are six inch spacings between lockouts. The unit supports a 700 lb weight capacity.
If you are after a basic Smith Machine that does the business, is built to last a lifetime and warranted to give you peace of mind, then the Deltech is a good choice.
- Very fluid and smooth mechanism
- Supports to to 700 pounds
- Solid construction
- Spacing between lockouts is a little large
- No extras like bench or pulleys
The Valor Athletic Smith Machine is a high tech and extremely functional Smith Machine for the budget conscious hone gym user. This is an extremely sturdy machine that can handle a maximum user weight of one thousand pounds. It features a reverse pitch carriage that delivers an extremely smooth sleeve motion. You are assured of biomechanically correct movement with the vertical carriage. Your safety is also assured with a complete self spotting system on this unit.
The Valor Athletic Smith Machine features case hardened rods and linear bearings to allow for a consistently smooth performance regardless of how much weight you load. This machine has an overall weight of 258 pounds. The unloaded bar weight is 30 pounds.
- Max weight of 1000 pounds
- Good price
- Reverse pitch carriage
- May not suit extra tall people
The Yukon Caribou III is a combination heavy duty multi-gym and Smith Machine. The Smith machine mechanism features oilite bushings which slide over solid chrome rods, providing a piston-like action. A quick turn of the wrist allows you to lock out any time you need to.
The Caribou features dual bar holders and safety rail spotter arms. With the Yukon you get the safety and control of a Smith Machine coupled with the freedom and uni-lateral movement of free weights. The machine comes with a lat pull-down unit, and a chin up bar. It also has an integrated dip station mount.
- Self oiling bushings
- Smooth piston-like bar motion
- Dual bar holders
- Safety rail spotter arms
- Dip Station
- Chin up Bar
- Some users have found that the bar ends are a thicker diameter than an Olympic plate and need to be grinded down so the plates will fit.
- The linear slides are prone to binding and will requires regular lubrication.
Should You Train with A Smith Machine?
The Smith Machine has received plenty of hate over the years. Naysayers will tell you that it’s not functional, it relies on a fixed plane of motion, it doesn’t require stabilizer muscles and that you can hurt yourself while using it.
But, if you are interested in hypertrophy - muscle growth - the Smith Machine is a smart training choice. However, beginners should not use the Smith machine. They need to build a foundation that integrates their neural motor pattern with the natural movement pattern of the exercise. They can only get this from free weights.
For intermediate and advanced trainees, however, the Smith Machine is beneficial. They have already learnt the proper movement patterns of the muscle and know how to make the target muscle fire.
Why Is An Exercise Easier On A Smith Machine?
Most modern Smith Machines have a pulley system set up to the barbell. This, in effect, reduces the weight of the barbell. However, the old fashioned barbells that do not have a pulley system, are actually heavier than a barbell. With these machines you also have the weight of the hooks as well as the weight of the barbell.
A typical Smith Machine barbell is around 15 pounds of weight when the pulley set up is factored in. However, a free weight barbell is a dead weight of 45 pounds. In effect, this means that when you put a 45 pound plate on each side of the bar, with a Smith Machine you’re lifting 105 pounds, compared to 135 pounds with free weights.
Free Weights VS Smith Machine
Many people claim that using free weights is far superior to using a Smith Machine. They generally cite the following reasons:
- Free weights force you to balance and support the weight
- Free weights engage more stabilizer muscles
- Free weights puts you in a real 3-dimensional training environment
However, using a Smith Machine will still build muscle. Former Mr Olympia Dorian Yates did his squats and bench presses exclusively on a Smith Machine. And a lot of modern pro bodybuilders use the Smith Machine and achieve phenomenal results.
The Smith Machine allows you to more specifically target the working muscle group. For example when doing the squat, the Smith Machine takes the load away from the accessory muscles so you can focus on the quadriceps. Another huge benefit of using the Smith Machine is that they provide a safety factor that you cannot get with free weights. The Smith Machine has a built in spotter that allows you to bail out if you get in trouble.
One more plus with the Smith Machine is that it allows you to perform partial reps by locking out half way through a repetition. This is great for building up your strength during the weakest part of the the movement.
While you would never want to exclusively train on a Smith Machine, it provides a valuable adjunct to free weight training that every serious trainer needs.
The Smith Machine is especially good for the following exercises:
- Front squats
- Incline Bench Presses
- Bent Over Rowing
- Decline Press
- Barbell Lunges
A Smith Machine is an excellent adjunct to any home gym. Once you’re already set with a power rack, a quality Smith Machine will allow you to take your training up a notch. The best home gym Smith Machine we came across was the Marcy Diamond Elite, which gives you so much more than simply a Smith Machine. For the budget conscious, you can’t look past the Powerline PSM 144X by Body Solid.