We work with a lot of clients who have a limited capacity to get to the gym.
But in many cases, they have been able to transform strength and fitness levels by using a Smith machine.
Now, these are not the smallest investments you could make for a home gym. And, unfortunately, there are quite a lot of crappy Smith machines that probably wouldn’t last all that long.
So, we got together with a few friends in specialty fitness and exercise stores to see if we could find the best Smith machines for different budgets.
Here are our results.
Our Top Smith Machines
1 - Marcy Pro Smith Machine (Editor's Choice)
Our first home gym recommendation is a good choice if you’re looking for a complete setup with the traditional power rack feel to it.
Even if you have plenty of space in your home gym, this one could be ideal as the wheels mean that you may move it around a bit more easily.
The safety arms look solid and would help you if you don’t have someone to spot you when you’re working out at home.
- Cage design
- Adjustable bench
- Pulley system
- The pulley rails seem to run smoothly
- Safety feature for squats and bench press seems to be well designed
- Convenient wheels on the frame make it easier to move around
- It’s an all-in-one station with power tower, utility bench, and squat rack
- Could do with more storage for weights
2 - Inspire Fitness Ft2 Functional Trainer and Smith Machine
Out of all the Smith machines we tested, this Functional Trainer and Smith Machine from Inspire Fitness is one of our favorites.
Two other members on our team have since bought this for their home gym setup because it seems to have the smoothest movements.
It’s also not a huge design, which a lot of people need when space is a bit limited.
- Power cage
- Multi-function pulley system
- Uses independent weight stacks to reduce the need for Olympic weights
- The pull-up bar is positioned well to give you more space
- Compact enough design that still provides a wide choice of workouts
- Weight bench and leg extension attachments are extra
The one thing you have to keep in mind is that you’ll need to order a bench and probably the leg developer extensions separately.
3 - FORCE USA Monster G3 Smith Machine
Yes, the name attracted me first, but after I saw the solid design and the safety features, I thought that this could be the right choice if you have enough space.
We saw quite a few comments that the pulley and bar adjustments could be made quickly enough so that they shouldn’t interrupt your training in between sets.
There also might be enough storage for weights, and it looks like it’s wide enough to comfortably use for deadlifts and squats.
- Squat rack
- Bars and handles
- Comes with heavy-duty J hooks for better safety
- Seems to be easily adjustable to different height positions
- Has built-in storage for Olympic weight plates
- A bench is not included, so make sure you order it separately
An adjustable weight bench isn’t included, so make sure you add one to your order.
4 - Body Solid Series 7 Smith Machine
If you have a limited budget and mainly do squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, then this Smith machine might be a great way to have a more flexible free weight training plan.
There are weights included to get you going, and for many home gyms, these will be enough for a while.
We also liked that there were quite a lot of height adjustments to give you some added flexibility and safety.
- Full rack
- Safety bar
- 14 height positions
- Simple design for bench press, squats, and powerlifting
- 255 lbs of weight plates included to get you going
- The J hooks look solid, and you have 14 height positions to choose from
- Bench and bar are not included in the price
This one doesn’t include a bench, but it’s also missing a barbell, so don't forget to add those to your order.
5 - Marcy Diamond Elite Smith Machine
This Smith machine is another one of the top Marcy Smith cages that comes with pretty much everything you might need for your home gym.
It may take up a fair bit of space, but you probably won’t need much other home workout equipment.
We like that it has plenty of included accessories that may allow you to create full-body workouts targeting many different muscle groups.
- Adjustable bench
- Full rack
- Pulley station
- Includes a good leg development system with multiple functions
- Plenty of storage options for Olympic weight plates
- Weight capacity up to 300 lbs should be enough for most people
- Assembly doesn’t seem to be the easiest job
Just keep in mind that because of all the add-ons, you’ll probably spend a few hours putting all the exercise equipment together. But it's all worth it for a complete Smith machine experience.
6 - MiM USA Hercules 1001 Jumbo Smith Machine
Another Smith machine option for fitness enthusiasts who would like a complete home gym setup is this MiM model with a pretty cool name.
It includes a bench that many users say is sturdy and comfortable, and it also has quite a few different handles and grips to provide a more varied routine that includes leg extensions as well.
- Adjustable bench
- Squat rack
- Multiple handles and bars
- May work well as a power cage for deadlifts and squats
- Includes a barbell and bench for a wider choice of free weight exercises
- Positive comments about the well-built pulley system providing smooth movements
- You’ll need to remove the bench to use the pull-up bars
The main downside with the design is that you’ll need to remove the bench in order to use the pull-up and chin-up station.
7 - Valor Fitness BE-11 Smith Machine
This is another Smith machine that many mistake as a standard power cage or squatting rack. While it’s perfectly suitable for those types of exercise, it may give you a lot more flexibility for weight lifting routines.
The guided system for the bar is a good safety feature that allows for stable and smooth motion. If you’re more advanced when it comes to weight lifting, then this Smith machine is probably not a top priority, though.
- Squat and power rack
- Guided rail
- Guided motion rail may provide additional safety
- Plenty of space for weight plates
- Adjustable to 14 different height settings
- This model doesn’t include the cables which you’ll need to buy extra
While it does allow for a cable system to be used, you’ll have to order the cables separately if you plan to use this feature.
8 - Body-Solid Powerline Smith Machine
Here’s another affordable Smith machine that many users think is one of the better choices for a varied squatting and deadlift routine.
The guide rods seem to be very smooth and shouldn’t disrupt your movements.
If you don’t have much space, then this is one of the better purchases for your home gym equipment.
The upper weight capacity is also impressive at 400 lbs, which should suit most people.
- Power rack
- Guided rail
- Simple power rack design which seems to be suitable for tighter spaces
- Safety spotter arms look solid with a dual lock catcher system
- Has a good 400 lbs weight limit
- Doesn’t include cable system functionality
The only thing is that this one doesn’t include cable system, so you might be a bit limited in the number of different workouts you may come up with.
9 - ICON Fitness Weider PRO 8500 Smith Machine
This is another good Smith machine option if you want all the bells and whistles to get a workout station that may be easily switched around for pulling up and down, in seated and standing positions.
We also noted that the bench seems solid, and many people said that it could be quickly adjusted in between sets to avoid cooling down too much.
- Pulley system
- Adjustable bench
- Pulley system is flexible enough for pull up and pull down motions
- The bench seems to be easily adjusted
- Many positive reviews about the number of different workouts possible
- Make sure you plan plenty of time for the assembly process
The one thing I did notice in a lot of the online comments is that many people said that the assembly could take the better part of a day.
10 - Body-Solid GS348QP4 Series 7 Smith Machine
The last on our list of the best Smith machines is another product from Body-Solid. This Body Solid Series 7 Smith machine might be a good option if you like the handling of free weight training.
While it’s a bit more like a power rack, it also includes a cable system to train both your upper and lower body.
No matter what level of athlete you are, we also recommend using a Smith machine that may offer good safety pins, so you don’t have to be reliant on a spotter.
- Full cage design
- Adjustable bench
- Multiple attachments
- One of the most flexible Smith machines for strength training
- Includes multiple attachments to better target arms and legs
- Seems to have solid safety catches for bench presses
- A pull-up bar attachment would have been a good bonus
The only thing we’re missing on this Series 7 Smith machine is a pull-up or chin-up bar for some extra bodyweight exercises.
Smith Machine Buyer’s Guide
Here are the top considerations when buying a Smith machine for your home gym set up.
1 - Measure Out The Dimensions
There’s a DIY saying that goes something like “Measure twice, cut once.”
And when it comes to home gym equipment, I would change that to “Measure twice, avoid looking like an idiot.”
Believe me when I say this comes from experience, and when it comes to a home gym, make sure you take the measurements and then check the space you’re planning to assemble it.
I would even say that cutting up some old boxes might help you to get a better idea of the footprint.
Oh, and don’t forget to measure the height, as some Smith machines are quite tall.
2 - Check For Accessories
One of the “tricks” to building muscle mass is to have a wide range of workouts so that your muscles don’t become complacent.
All of the best Smith machines above will work fine for squats and bench presses, but the more important thing to look for is the accessories.
“Training of any kind needs to be functional, adaptive, and healthy (for mind and body). Muscles will do what they are supposed to do - they will adapt to need, function, and demand. Make sure that they are readily prepared to meet those demands (even on the fly) without risking injury.”
- Katie Chasey, Fitness Coach.
You should look for either included or optional things like different handles, bars, and even a triceps rope to gain more flexibility in your strength exercises .
3 - Smooth Movement
Before using a Smith machine, you want to make sure that all the moving parts have a smooth motion.
We’ve used some that felt almost like the bearings were causing friction and even a slight stuttering move.
For the barbell section, you want to make sure that it uses high-quality linear bearings, and it should be easy to add a bit of lubricant for maintenance.
On the cable crossovers, you want to also see ball bearings rather than bushes, as we’ve found that the bushes tend to wear out considerably faster .
4 - Always Consider Safety
When you’re looking at different types of Smith machines, always look at what kind of safety mechanisms are included and how they work.
I would never recommend a Smith machine that doesn’t have a safety spotter catch system.
“Using a spotter is always a good practice for weightlifting, but it is essential when attempting heavy or advanced lifts.”
When you’re working out at home, you’re not likely going to have a load of people walking around that you could ask to be your spotter .
And you don’t want a barbell falling down on top of you if you end up struggling with the last rep. For home use, the safety bars are going to be your new best friend.
5 - Weight Capacity
Most Smith machines come with a cable system and weights that don’t allow you to extend the weight capacity.
But this becomes extremely important if the system has a standard barbell which allows you to add your own weight plates.
The overall frame will be designed to be sturdy enough for a certain weight limit, and if you’re big into bodybuilding, you’ll need something possibly upwards of 500 lbs.
And even if you’re not at those kinds of weights yet, make sure you plan out what your goal is, so that you don’t end up outgrowing your Smith machine.
6 - Quality Materials
Start by looking for a Smith machine with high-quality steel frame.
The frame will dictate how sturdy the overall Smith machine will be, and the thicker the bars are, the less chance of any kind of wobbling.
Look for an indication of the steel strength, which is often shown as tensile strength in PSI .
But you also need to check the parts that can be adjusted like the bar holder and pulley settings.
Make sure that they use solid steel, as other materials are just going to wear and possibly rust.
7 - Number Of Workstations
When you’re setting up your home gym, make sure that you get as many different workstations as possible to allow a variety of workouts.
You may also want to include some cardio in your workouts, so check out these machines if you want to improve your overall fitness.
Your workout area should ideally allow you to cover these stations:
- Calf raises
- Dip station mount
- Chin-up bar
- Preacher curl attachment
- Straight bar
- Curl bar
- Lat bar
- Press bar
- Leg Presses
8 - Warranty
Before you make a final decision on the best Smith machine for your needs based on the feature set and the purchase price, take a quick look at the warranty.
Fitness equipment makers have very different approaches to this, and even if they mention something like a lifetime warranty, this is likely a limited warranty.
Most wear and tear won’t be included, and it’s more down to equipment failing under normal use and weight loads.
Are Smith Machines as Good as Free Weights?
Yes, some Smith machines may be as good as free weights depending on their design. We’ve tested out quite a few that allow for a standard feel and movement where you even add your standard weight plates to a barbell.
Can You Build Muscle on a Smith Machine?
Yes, you can build muscle on a Smith machine as most of these devices will allow for heavy lifting and a full-body workout routine. It’s more down to how you use the Smith machine, but for the average person, it’s entirely possible to bulk up significantly.
What Are Smith Machines Good For?
Smith machines are good for many types of weight training, especially for people who don’t feel comfortable working with free weights. They might also be more suitable for people who want to reduce the pressure on joints.
Why Is It Called the Smith Machine?
It’s called a Smith machine because of a gym owner named Rudy Smith who invented it. The idea is that you have a guiding system for the barbell, but over the years, many different functions have been added to make it a complete home exercise system.
And The Best Smith Machine Is..
Out of all the products we tested out, the one we think is the best Smith machine is the Marcy Pro.
Between the sturdy quality and the number of different stations, it just seems like it’s by far the most versatile workout equipment for a home gym.
This Smith machine should give you everything you need to train at home in the same way you do at the gym.
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