Smith machine vs Squat rack – Is there a clear winner?

When it comes to lifting safely with a barbell, different options arise at the gym: it’s going to be either by using the Smith machine or the squat rack. If both are currently used in a global gym setting it is because most people find advantages to both.

Everyone has their preferences, that is a given but what we want to know is technically speaking, what are each pros and cons? Also, how do we know which one to use?

Lots of questions emerge from the Smith machine vs squat rack debate and the best way to ease you in would be to introduce you to both these machines, weigh in the pros and cons depending on the type of lifts you are trying to perform and let you know what our final verdict is!

The Smith Machine: what is it?

Body Solid Series 7 Smith Machine Package Review

                               Body Solid Series 7

A Smith machine is like its titled suggest, a machine where an Olympic 45lbs barbell is fixed to its poles. Two twin rods guide the barbell up and down in a way that it can only travel vertically. The main attraction of this machine are the holes that are pre-set on both sides, allowing you to rack the bar at any given moment.

You can choose the weights you load by adding the same plates just like you would on a regular barbell.

Exercises for the Smith machine

Exercises listed below can be done using the Smith machine:

  • Bench Press
  • Incline Bench Press
  • Decline Bench Press (with adjustable or decline bench)
  • Military Press
  • Behind the Neck Press
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts

Why is it safe?

If you are a beginner, if it’s your first time at the gym, or if you are looking to max out on your own without the assistance of a spotter, the Smith machine is for you. It allows you by simply twisting the bar to re-rack it without risking the weights to drop down on you. If you know that you will be lifting on your own most of the time and are looking to build a home gym, then this is the piece of equipment you need. Head over to our selection of best smith machines  to learn more about how to pick the right one.

What’s so good about it?

The Smith machine includes many advantages including the one of safety described above. I would like to add that you can drive the bar safely from the start to the receiving position of your movement without being fearful that it would drop on your body mid rep which is an amazing relief.

Another benefit of the Smith machine is its ability to make you focus on the weight itself and not having to worry about balance and stability. When you are only trying to build muscle mass and not concerned by functionality, that counts as a big plus.

What’s the bad?

The Smith machine, unfortunately, has some disadvantages. One of them is also its great feature: the fact that the bar path is vertical. The issue is that it doesn’t allow the body to move freely around it. Some of you must know that each body is different and therefore not one lift is performed the same way. Some people find this type of bar path strenuous on the joints, especially the knees.

Another down side of the Smith machine is its rigidity in terms of balance. The tendency on a Smith machine is to avoid using the binary framework of the body, therefore, often one side works harder than the other which creates imbalances.

By the way, this video will help you to understand if the Smith Machine is the right choice for you:

The Squat rack: what is it?

PowerLine PPR200X Power Rack

            PowerLine PPR200X Power Rack

The Squat rack, also called power rack in some gyms, is a simple metal frame made of 4 poles. It has horizontal bars which can be adjusted to the preference of the lifters, depending on how low they wish their bar to come down.

Any type of barbell (women’s or men’s) can be set on the squat rack and of course, any kind of loading is permitted.

Exercises for the Squat rack

Exercises listed below can be done using the Squat rack:

  • Bench Press
  • Close grip bench press
  • Overhead press
  • Rack lockout
  • Rack pull
  • Barbell shrugs
  • Inverted rows
  • Barbell bent over rows
  • Barbell curls
  • Upright rows

Why is it safe?

No matter how heavy you load you bar you won’t need a spotter when using the squat rack. The horizontal bars on the side prevent the barbell to fall on you. No additional movement is required to re-rack the bar, as a matter of fact, there is no re-racking. The bar just drops and stays there, leaving you safe and sound.

What’s so good about it?

You control the bar from the moment you lift it from the rack to the moment you re-rack it. You can freely move within the frame and therefore manage your form according to your body type and technique. The main purpose of the squat rack is the safe environment it provides. Because it is fixed on the floor, the rack and the frame will likely never move, this system ensures maximum protection.

What’s the bad?

Unless you have experience in lifting, the squat rack can seem intimidating. That is honestly the only disadvantage of this piece of equipment!

Here you’ll find some useful tips on what to look for when buying a power rack for a home gym:

The Squat rack is, in my opinion, the best option to use at the gym because technique and form is crucial when lifting which a Smith machine doesn’t allow, especially in movements such as overhead presses, back and front squats.Even is the bar falls and safety is guaranteed, it’s always better to attempt a lift with the freedom to move joints around rather than to be stuck and force motion because of a restricted pathway.

About the Author Dumbbellsgeek

Hey! My name is Paul Sheldon. I live in Nashville, TN and I love all things related to sports. Naturally I love workking out and I do it every day. If you want to talk feel freee to hit me a message or if you happen to be in Nashville we can get a coffee, I know a great place. Peace!