Smith machines are a somewhat misunderstood piece of gym equipment – but they can be beneficial to your workout regime and help you manage heavier weights at home without the risk of free weights (if you’ve ever been stuck under a barbell, you know!).
Home fitness equipment comes in a massive range of prices and quality, and it’s essential you go for a professionally made bit of kit if you decide to invest in a Smith machine.
Badly made, flimsy Smith machines can cause harm, malfunction, or just start falling apart, so performance is king.
The issue here is that if a Smith machine fails when you’re using it and lifting heavy plates, it can be extremely hazardous – especially if you’re re-racking and the lockouts send the bar falling toward your neck.
In this guide, we’ve sourced the four best Smith machines you can buy for a home workout and included some safety advice to ensure you get a brilliant set from this uniquely versatile workout tool.
If your gains have no time to wait, let’s jump straight to our first place Smith machine:
As an all-in-one weight and resistance training rig, this home gym has pretty much everything you’d ask for, with options to workout different muscle groups and a back pad to protect your spine.
The Four Best Home Gyms With a Smith Machine
Let’s get stuck into our reviews of the top four machines on our list, with pros and cons to help you make an informed choice about the right workout station for you.
The utility bench is removable, so you can switch it out and use the gym as a squat rack or clip it back into place for exercises like a bench press.
When assembled, the cage is 84.5 inches tall, so it will fit into most living spaces (although measure first!), and the padded seat is adjustable, so you can change the angle as required.
You get safety stops on the Smith bar along with bar catches, and the wider profile cage is designed to improve safety. You can pick up a barbell pad if you need some support for your back or traps, although it’s sold separately.
- Smith machine included: yes
- Rated 4.5 stars after 112 reviews
- Highly competitive price
- Includes Olympic spring clips
- Supports up to 300 lb bar weight
- Max user weight (including weights) is 600 lb
- Takes a lot of effort to assemble
- Requires floor pads for a wooden floor
The bar on this Smith machine is about 20 lb lighter than a standard workout bar, so we’d recommend adding the same weight to your lifts to make sure you’re not skimming!
The bench is adjustable with a back pad, and you can use it for various core and upper body exercises such as tricep extensions, shoulder presses, sit-ups, and dumbbell presses.
You get a pull-up bar with multiple grip points and can utilize this to harness resistance bands, plus the double pulley system you can use for a wide range of workouts or training regimes.
There are bar holders and posts to store your plates away tidily and wheels on the bottom of the rig – it is heavy but can be moved into or out of a corner.
- Smith machine included: yes
- Rated four stars after 669 reviews
- Consists of a utility bench, squat rack, and power tower
- High-density foam backrest
- Cable pulleys with tubular steel
- Adjustable dip station
- The rack holes are pretty low for taller users
- Requires a high ceiling space
This home gym with Smith machine comes with a 20 lb bar, and all the parts are made from rigid steel attached with bolts, so it’s sturdy enough for serious weights.
The third home gym with a Smith machine combines a squat rack, cable crossover, and weight cage, with a maximum weight limit (user plus plates) of 1,400 lb, ideal for heavier lifters.
A commercial steel frame with two mm thick steel is tough and solid, reinforced with tabs to prevent movement and enhance stability during your workout.
The dip bar, cables, and pull-up bars all have a 400 lb user limit, and the safety bar can hold 600 lb, so it is a universally heavy-duty workout station.
You get lots included in the package, including j-hooks, landmine attachment, cable bar, safety pins, t-bar, and lots more besides. The cable crossovers are coated in nylon with 11 possible height adjustments and anti-slip handles.
- Smith machine included: yes
- Rated 4.5 stars after 45 reviews
- Full package with a cable bar, dip bars, lat bar, and landmine
- 12-year after-sales service
- Made from commercial-grade steel
- Adjustable resistance pulleys
- You’ll find it easier to assemble if you have an electric ratchet
- The safety bars could be sturdier
This home gym is a solid piece of equipment for the price, and although it takes some effort to assemble, it comes with a 12-year after-sales guarantee.
Last but not least, the Mikolo power cage includes a Smith machine with a steel tube rig and 14 different height settings depending on the workout or movement you’re performing.
The pulleys and cables have high tensile strength and are steel coated for durability – the rig itself weighs 260 lb and can manage the weight of a user and equipment up to 1,200 lb.
You get multiple attachments, such as a cable bar, t-bar, j-hooks, and drop bars, and there are posts to hold either standard weight plates or Olympic weights, with an extra holder to maximize storage.
If you have any problems or need help with assembly, the components are guaranteed for eight months, and the brand promises to respond to queries within 12 hours.
- Smith machine included: yes
- Rated four stars after 324 reviews
- Commercial quality workout rig
- Weight capacity up to 1,200 lb
- Includes dip bars, j-hooks, cable bars, and a landmine
- Adjustable dip attachments
- Requires two people to assemble
- The component warranty is only eight months
The Mikolo home gym is a large rig and requires 82″ clearance to include the top of the frame and the welds for the pulleys – it doesn’t come with an Olympic barbell, so you’ll need to buy one separately if required.
The Benefits of a Home Gym With a Smith Machine
Home gym rigs are purely functional and provided they are made from tough materials with solid joins; it’s difficult to get them wrong.
A Smith machine is also pretty simple and includes a bar, racked horizontally, that slides up and down within a set of brackets.
It’s the same movement as a squat, but the bonus is that if you misjudge or slip, the bar can’t fall.
Once you’ve chosen a Smith machine, all you need to do is adjust the bar to the right height and then stack on your plates – although we recommend warming up with an empty bar first and gradually going heavier as your muscles settle.
The great advantage of a Smith machine is that it’s not just for squats or lunges.
You can use a reclined bench for shoulder presses, either with a straight back or on an incline, and bench presses as a couple of examples.
Pick a home gym and Smith machine with weight catches, and you’ll have the assurance that if you fail a rep, the bar won’t crash to the floor.
Safety Tips for Working Out on a Smith Machine
Why do some people think that Smith machines are unsafe?
Much of this disagreement is an argument for or against traditional squat racks and barbells – and the right choice is really down to personal preference.
Here’s a snapshot of why some fitness lovers opt for free weights over a Smith machine:
- Your form is essential – a Smith machine won’t correct you if you’re in the wrong position, so there is a possibility of working a different muscle group. However, if you have solid form and know how to squat correctly, you’ll be fine.
- Smith machines provide too much stability – the point of a barbell is that you have to correct your posture to ensure you are stable. A Smith machine does that for you, so it can mean you don’t get as good a core workout if you’re reliant on the rig and aren’t focusing on engaging your ab muscles.
As we say, these are all preferences, and many people go for a Smith machine because it allows you to progress with your lifts, even if you cannot clean a bar from the floor anywhere close to your 1RM.
The fixed bar path could mean you under-activate your muscles, so it’s advisable to watch a few tutorial videos if you’re new to this movement.
Hence, you understand how to maintain good form and pressure the right muscles.
What to Look for in a Great Home Gym With a Smith Machine
Smith machines are big, bulky bits of home workout kit, so it’s best to compare the different models and think about the attachments and features you’re most likely to use during your exercise routine.
These rigs take time to assemble (usually with two people) and require a significant amount of space, so measure up before you order since it can be difficult to return a home gym station that requires several people to lift.
Here are some of the factors we’d consider before choosing which Smith machine to buy.
- Budget: a great quality Smith machine normally costs around $1,000 as a minimum, although there are some great low-cost alternatives available, and a premium home gym can cost a great deal more! Shopping around might mean you can buy the rig, plates, and bars for the same price as a home gym, so read reviews and set a finite budget.
- Workout options: don’t be tempted to buy the most expensive Smith machine on the market if you know you won’t use most of the attachments. A basic home gym with a Smith machine comes with a track, rack, and bar – that’s all you need to use it. Extras like cables, pulleys, pull-up bars, and leg extension attachments are great, but only if you get good use.
- Space: It’s surprisingly common to order a rack online and then realize that it won’t fit into your garage, spare room, or home gym when you assemble it. Make sure you measure not just the space but the clearance. If you lift heavy and you’re right next to a wall, you’ve got nowhere to go if you slip, so you need to account for the bar width and plenty of breathing room.
- Durability: excellent home gym equipment can last for years, so it’s worth getting the strongest frame possible – most Smith machines are made from steel because they last longer and can withstand great pressure. Fabricated steel rigs are sturdy, support a huge volume of weight, and are a far better option than anything flimsy or with parts made from plastic.
- Assembly: normally, you’ll need at least two people to put together a full home gym with a Smith machine. The parts are hefty and can be very difficult to carry up or downstairs by yourself, so don’t start until you have another pair of hands. It’s also worth checking what tools you need and whether or not they’re included – electric ratchets are advisable for nuts and bolts because you don’t want any risk that a hand-tightened screw will work its way loose.
- Home gym warranties: the longer the warranty, the better. It’s unlikely something will break on a quality home gym, but they’re also not the cheapest things to buy or replace. Look for warranty periods on the different aspects – usually, brands have guarantees separately for the parts, labor, and attachments.
Finally, you might want to consider the design of the machine.
Most home gyms come in a standard black or gray, but if your home gym is your pride and joy, you may prefer something with a similar scheme.
FAQs – Choosing the Best Smith Machine to Use at Home
We’ll answer some of the frequently asked questions about buying a home gym with a Smith machine and how to use it!
How Do I Train With a Smith Machine?
A Smith machine is often used for squats, but the same equipment is also perfect for a wide range of other workouts, such as bicep curls and bench presses.
They work by incorporating hooks (ideal for spotting if you don’t have a workout buddy) and a bar path, stabilized to ensure you can’t drop the barbell if you fail a rep.
Smith machines can look a bit complex for beginner lifters but are great for targeting defined muscle groups and slowly accumulating gains.
Why Buy a Smith Machine Instead of a Barbell Rack?
We talked earlier about the argument between these two pieces of equipment, but the right answer depends on your workout goals, the movements you want to perform, and how you like to train.
Smith machines are good for people who train alone because you can stack your weights onto the bar without cleaning it from the floor (most people can squat significantly more than they can clean!).
If you aren’t confident with a freestanding barbell, don’t have the space, or need a racking option that is accessible on your own, a Smith machine could be suitable.
Are Smith Machines Dangerous?
As with every piece of workout kit known to man, a Smith machine can be dangerous if you stack on more weight than you can manage or have a poor form that leads to an injury.However, many trainers consider a Smith machine safer because you can rack the weight any time you become unstuck – even if you’re right at the bottom of the squat.
The bar slides up and down a path and is secured so you could even drop the weight if you needed to and move backward.
Of course, we don’t recommend dropping a fully loaded bar if you can avoid it since doing so repeatedly could damage the frame – but in an emergency, it’s fine.
Do I Need Smith Machine Accessories to Train at Home?
Not necessarily – most of the machines we’ve reviewed come with a full complement of accessories and attachments, so you wouldn’t need to buy anything at all.
Many people like to combine a rig with free weights, so you might choose to add some dumbbells or perhaps an Olympic barbell, but it’s far from compulsory.
If you haven’t used resistance cables before, and your home gym has them, it’s worth trying since you can get an incredibly intense workout without needing more space or spending more money on additional kit.
Can You Build Muscle Mass Working Out With a Smith Machine?
Absolutely! Like all workouts, when you put your muscles under strain and progressively challenge yourself to lift more weight, you create micro-tears that feel like sore muscles when you’ve pushed it hard.
As a simplified explanation, eating a healthy, protein-rich diet ‘fills’ those tears, promoting muscle growth.
Smith machines allow you to move through your entire range of motion and aim for progressive overload, so if you commit to a workout regime, you will certainly start to build larger muscles.
Is a Smith Machine Suitable for Beginners?
A Smith machine is fine for a beginner, provided you ensure your home gym is correctly assembled.
The last thing you want is to feel uncomfortable during a workout because the rig feels unbalanced or wobbly.
It’s a popular choice for people new to weightlifting because you can’t remove the bar from the rack (unless you undo the clips).
Smith machines can be a great asset if you want to replicate the workout you get in the gym at home – and with some excellent home gyms with Smith machine brackets, you can!
A Smith machine can be valuable as a workout tool if you use the correct form and combine your weights with rest and recovery.
Make sure your gym is correctly constructed before use, and enjoy the process of strengthening your muscles and becoming fitter and healthier as you go!