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The Best Smith Machines for Safe, Strong Workouts

Discover what to look for in this large piece of fitness equipment and which brands can bring the muscle to your at-home training.

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Training with free weights, like a barbell and weight plates, can be great for building that muscular frame you've always wanted, and to train safely, it's always helpful to have a spotter in case you fail a rep and can't ditch the weight properly. Unfortunately, at-home training doesn't lend itself to this two-person setup — you can't just ask a passing athlete for a spot like you would in a traditional gym. You're often working out alone, and unless you have a roommate or spouse readily available, you may be left spotter-less more often than not.

For those that want to train safely while still reaping the benefits of barbell exercises, smith machines can be a great piece of fitness equipment to consider for a home gym setup. Smith machines place the barbell on a rail system that stabilizes the weight through movement, and the bar can be racked safely at multiple points, so you never run the risk of getting pinned. Additionally, many of today's smith machines offer multiple attachments and systems that expand beyond barbell training, allowing you to build out an entire routine on just one machine.

Before we outline the best smith machines on the market today, it's important to think about what you're actually searching for. Unlike a set of adjustable dumbbells or an indoor bike, smith machines can be quite the investment — both in price and allotted space. There are a few other factors to consider before making your decision, too, so let's get those ironed out first and foremost

What to Consider When Choosing a Smith Machine

Footprint and Storage

Smith machines can easily take up a lot of space, especially when you add on different attachments and weight plate storage. You also need to accommodate for the barbell sleeves, as well as some free space around the structure so you aren't cramped when changing weights or just navigating through your setup. The machines included in this roundup vary in terms of required space, so make sure to take some measurements before making any decisions.

Along with a wider footprint comes increased weight, too. Many smith machines can be hundreds of pounds before adding plates, which makes them best suited for ground-level storage — unless you want a quick open ceiling concept. Also, this heavier framing means your smith machine will most likely be stored in one spot, so if you need fitness equipment that's more maneuverable, this might not be the ideal pick for you.

Included Features and Modalities

Not every smith machine will feature the same exercise opportunities. While some are basic and solely allow barbell movements like the bench press and barbell squat, other smith machines pack in all the bells and whistles with pull-up bars, cable machines, jammer racks and more. Some smith machines can double as a power rack, too, which can create a dual-barbell setup for free weight training if you ever want to train with a partner or work on your stabilizing muscles.

Think through your training goals and see what's included in the rig you choose. If your desired exercises aren't included in the setup, see if they're available as add-ons. Just know, though, that some additional upgrades can really jack up the price, making this home gym investment a heavier hit on your wallet.

Durability and Available Warranties

Smith machines are one of the more expensive pieces of fitness equipment you can add to your at-home training setup, and purchasing this gargantuan structure is not something most athletes want to sign up for twice. To make sure you don't have to drop thousands of dollars multiple times to achieve a proper workout, look for smith machines constructed from high-quality materials. Steel is a common frame material that's revered for its durability, and most premium smith machines (like the ones in this list) feature steel construction. If your smith machine features a cable system, look for aircraft-grade quality, as these can be less prone to rips and snaps.

With all the moving parts enclosed in a smith machine, durable materials can occasionally fail, though. Thankfully, many brands offer warranties that cover replacement parts to help alleviate any fears you may have about investing in this all-in-one structure. Warranties vary in terms of coverage and length, so be sure to read up and choose the one you're most comfortable with.

Smith Machines vs. Free Weight Training

Search "smith machine" and you're probably going to run into strength training purists that despise this piece of fitness equipment. Smith machines get a bad reputation because of the stabilizing components that take strain off some muscles that would otherwise be engaged during a traditional free weight movement. Additionally, smith machines allow for one plane of motion, and some can find this lack of mobility uncomfortable, or a negative influence on their form.

Naysayers aside, though, smith machines can be a great tool for a number of reasons. For one, the added safety components allow you to rack the weight at any time — a luxury not found in free weight training. The stabilized modality can also be fantastic for athletes coming back from injury, or those that are just getting used to barbell training that might have weaker stabilizing muscles. Ultimately, smith machines are tools, and just like any well-rounded routine, there are multiple tools for the job. Don't believe the slander — you can get plenty of muscle-boosting power out of a smith machine.

Marcy Pro Smith Machine Home Gym Training System Cage

Marcy Pro Smith Machine Home Gym Training System Cage

  • Dual overhead cable pulley system for crossover exercises and other movements
  • 600-pound weight capacity for a plethora of max effort lifts

  • Top J-hook can sit too low for taller athletes
  • No add-on modalities available for an expanded training structure

Sleek and well-built, this smith machine from Marcy Pro packs plenty of workout potential in a structure that takes up less than 50 square feet. Everything from weight rack, dip station, removable weight bench and more comes in this cost-effective build, which makes the lack of add-on modalities more reasonable.

Highlights within the Marcy Pro Machine include dual overhead pulleys that allow for cable crossovers as well as pulldown exercises, and the overall height of 85 inches should fit comfortably in rooms with 8-foot ceilings. The one thing to note, though, is the top J-hook might be too short for athletes over 6-feet tall. This can compromise squat form on liftoffs, but for all other modalities, there’s more than enough space.

Force USA G20 All-In-One Trainer

Force USA G20 All-In-One Trainer

  • Features two 289-pound weight stacks at the sides for intense functional cable training
  • Smith machine barbell can hold up to 794 pounds

  • Despite the versatility, the high cost is a lot to swallow
  • Weight stacks feature 10-pound increments, which may be too much for some

Want one machine to rule them all? The G20 combines the effectiveness of a smith machine, the functional training of a cable machine and the raw power of barbell training in one behemoth of a structure. Two weight stacks feature magnetic pegs for seamless weight changes, and there are three — yes, three — pull-up bars for a variety of grips and movements.

The smith machine modality of the Force USA G20 is one of the most durable on this list, capable of holding a staggering 794 pounds. Combine that with the base model’s other workout components and this is one easy way to turn your empty space into a training Mecca. If you can stomach the cost, the G20 is your ticket for an all-in-one fitness experience.

Valor Fitness BE-11 Smith Machine Squat Rack

Valor Fitness BE-11 Smith Machine

  • Additional BE-11 Counter Balance can be purchased for increased safety
  • Includes four Olympic plate storage pegs for convenient weight placement when not in use

  • Assembly instructions aren't the clearest, making initial construction a bit tedious
  • No add-ons available, making this best for barbell-centric movements only

Alright, a fitness machine that costs over $1,000 might not seem like the most budget-friendly purchase, but as explained earlier, your smith machine should be constructed from durable materials to preserve its performance potential — and save you from replacing the product down the road. The Valor Fitness BE-11 Smith Machine is constructed from high-quality, 12-gauge steel for maximum support and stability as you chase down your desired physique.

We also appreciate the convenient Olympic plate storage pegs at the side, which are sure to clean up any training area and leave your weight plates neatly stacked before a session. While this smith machine doesn’t have the add-ons or other modalities like others in this roundup, if you’re just looking for an effective barbell system that allows for solo training days, the BE-11 is well worth the expense.

Force USA G3 All-In-One Trainer

Force USA G3 All-In-One Trainer

  • Versatile exercise features pack in over 75 movements into a tightly-contained machine
  • Assembly is easy to follow and can be completed by just one person

  • Stored weights can wobble off pegs mid-use if not secured with collars
  • 2:1 pulley ratio can be confusing for some

Like the G20, the G3 is also an impressive rig due to its plethora of training modalities built into the frame. Unlike the G20, though, the Force USA G3 fits conveniently in under 32 square feet of space, allowing for better storage capabilities that won’t consume a room or garage corner.

The G3 also allows for both smith machine and freeweight training thanks to included J-hooks and squat safety bars. If you are storing plates on the included pegs, though, be sure to secure them with collars before working out. When you rack a bar or get into some intense sets, the plates can begin to wobble and potentially fall to the ground if not locked in. Additionally, we also want to point out the 2:1 pulley ratio. This means the added weight is reduced when pulled, so 100 pounds of weight will feature 50 pounds of resistance.

Titan Fitness Smith Machine

Titan Fitness Smith Machine

  • Eight-position safety catch allows you to rack the barbell easily regardless of where your sticking point occurs
  • Six plate storage pegs allow for a clean silhouette and easier storage

  • No pull-up bar limits this build to barbell workouts only
  • Barbell does not feature center knurling, which could create a less secure squat position

Sure, when a smith machine packs in a bunch of bells and whistles, it can make it a lot more convenient for training purposes. But not everyone needs intricate exercises — a barbell is just the right amount of power. This simple yet sturdy rig from Titan Fitness allows for all your favorite barbell exercises with convenient safety built-in thanks to its eight-position safety catch.

The Titan Fitness Smith Machine is also a favorite of ours thanks to the six additional storage pegs for plate security. The one big callout, however, is the barbell’s lack of a center knurling patch. Those more accustomed to a squat bar may find this less secure, as that added patch can help control the bar across the shoulders. Bar security isn’t as vital when using a smith machine, but it can be helpful, especially if you plan on transitioning to free weight training down the road.

Force USA G10 All-In-One Trainer

Force USA G10 All-In-One Trainer

  • Half rack design boasts 60 adjustment points to fine-tune your rack and catch placements
  • Pulley ratio can be adjusted between 2:1 and 4:1 for more athletes across varying exercises

  • Upgrade kit can be expensive to get the most out of this rig
  • Assembly isn't overly difficult but may require an extra set of hands

Like we said before, smith machines can be a great way to ease back into barbell training due to the decreased strain the structure places on your stabilizing muscles. In the Force USA G10, you’re conveniently able to combine smith machine exercises with free weight barbell training through the included squat safety bars and J-hooks. Plus, this impressive structure includes 18 attachments and over 375 exercise opportunities for a well-rounded workout regimen.

Both the smith machine and the G10 unit itself are built with high-octane performance in mind, boasting weight ranges of 772 pounds and 992 pounds, respectively. While the Upgrade Kit can be a bit of an added expense — which includes a pair of jammer arms, vertical leg press plate, core trainer, TV mount, additional storage and more — the G10 is a great way to get the best of both worlds when it comes to barbell training.

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