Smith Machine vs Free Weights: Is a Smith Machine Easier To Use Than Free Weights?

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Is using a Smith Machine easier than Free Weights? Do you think a machine can help you gain muscle and build strength?

Well, if you’re looking for equipment that can help you achieve your fitness goals, we’ve got the answer.

You’ve got a few options for your workout routine. You can either do free weights exercises or Smith machine exercises. Both are effective in getting an intense workout and seeing results.

If you are going to ask around the fitness community, most people will tell you to never touch a Smith Machine. A lot of them swear by free weights, especially in achieving muscle gains.

While others see the Smith Machine as an extra accessory to help build muscle and improve their strength.

In this article, we will help you decide if using a Smith Machine is easier than Free Weights.

Keep on reading to find more about:
• The difference between the Smith Machine vs Free Weights
• The pros and cons of using the Smith Machine vs Free Weights
• How much weight can you lift on the Smith Machine vs Free Weights
• Which is easier to use? The Smith Machine vs Free Weights?
• Which option is best for you

What is a Smith Machine?

What is a Smith Machine

According to this Wikipedia article, a Smith Machine is an equipment used for weight training.

It has a barbell attached to two steel frames. It has safety hooks along the vertical rails which allows you to lock and unlock the smith bar.

The smith bar can be adjustable according to your desired height preference, so if you want to do squats lower, you are able to do so.

A Smith Machine can be found in most commercial gyms and it can hold up to 600 lbs – 1000 lbs in weight capacity. You can also do a variety of exercises on a Smith Machine depending on your fitness goals.

There are pros and cons in using a Smith Machine. Let’s take a look at some of those.

Benefits of using a Smith Machine

A Smith Machine can offer a controlled and safe environment to do weight training.

Since the barbell is attached, it is a rather safe equipment to use.

If you are a beginner, it is a good option for practicing correct form and posture before moving on to free weight lifting. If at any point you are struggling with your exercises, all you have to do is hook the smith bar and it will lock into place.

If you are coming from an injury, a Smith Machine will help you control and stabilize the bar when you lift. But, make sure you get a doctor’s note saying you are fit to workout!

Another benefit of using a Smith Machine is you can have your very own home gym!

You can perform different kinds of exercises at your own pace and in your own space. Most people buy a Smith Machine for their home gym for their own convenience.

Imagine not having to line up and wait for another person to finish their reps so you can do yours!

Drawbacks of using a Smith Machine

Since the barbell is attached to two steel rails, the smith bar can only go in a fixed vertical path.

This feature limits the range of motion when it comes to exercises that need horizontal movement.

For some, the stability and control offered by a Smith Machine can be a drawback. The stabilizer muscles, which help with stability and balance, are not used.

The Smith Machine might also sense a false sense of security when you lift heavier discs. Since the machine is helping stabilize the barbells, you might be lifting with a heavier weight capacity than you would be comfortable with without the machine.

You will have to reassess your strength and stability when you transition from the Smith Machine to Free Weights.

Can you build muscle on a Smith Machine?

Now this is commonly asked amongst the fitness community.

The answer is yes. Yes, you can build muscle on a Smith Machine.

There was a study done in 2010 that compared the muscle activation of different muscle groups in the chest, shoulders and arms during a bench press. The study was tested on a Smith Machine and free weights doing 1 repetition movement using different intensities.

The result of the study shows greater muscle activation on the free weight compared to the Smith Machine.

While the results of the study are in favor of free weights, we can safely say that building muscle using a Smith Machine is viable.

It is especially helpful for beginners who want to increase their strength level and build muscle since the Smith Machine can still give the resistance needed in your workouts.

What are Free Weights?

What are Free Weights

If you go to the gym and see people picking up and moving their objects to go workout in their own space, you’re looking at free weight equipment.

Free weights are also another form of strength and weight training. The difference is the equipment is not attached to anything.

Some free weight equipments you can see in a commercial gym are:
• Kettlebells
• Dumbbells
• Medicine Balls
• Sandbags

For those who want a more traditional approach to weight training, free weights might be the better choice.

Free weights offer more workout variety. They allow you to perform bodyweight exercises like pushups and pullups without any equipment needed (or at least not much).

With free weights, your range of motion is not limited. Your stabilization muscles are also at work which means building core strength along with gaining muscles.

If you are strong enough, you can definitely start lifting in your desired weight capacity.

For beginners who do not want to use a Smith Machine, there is no harm in lifting an empty bar to focus on proper form and strength building.

Free weights appeal more to the majority of the fitness community because of the way movement is incorporated. At the end of the day, we don’t only move in an up and down motion.

Benefits of Free Weights

Just like a Smith Machine, free weights can be done in a variety of ways.

You also have a lot of equipment to choose from and not rely on a machine. With different equipment available, you can choose to target a specific muscle group today and a different group the next.

Free weight exercises can help build strength, power and coordination.

Unlike with Smith machines, doing exercises with free weights lets you use your stabilizer muscles.

As the study showed [1], free weight exercises are more efficient in muscle activation. The machine does not control and stabilize the bar for you. You need all your strength to be able to lift heavier weight discs and not get injured.

With free weight training, your body won’t have to get used to doing the same movements each time you workout. Free weights have a more varied range of motion and you can have more options in terms of the exercises that you want to do.

Drawbacks of Free Weights

Even when well-liked by the fitness community, free weight training does have its drawbacks.

Doing free weight training requires a strong sense of stability and control of your body. If you are not strong enough, you might end up dropping the barbell on you or to someone else.

Doing exercises like the Single Romanian Deadlift with a kettlebell might be a challenge if you are not good at balancing.

Because a free weight barbell is not attached to a machine, a strong core is essential when doing heavy lifting.

Some balk at the thought of starting with an empty bar but it is better to increase your strength first. It takes a lot of concentration to lift heavy weights. It will cause injury when exercises are not performed correctly.

If you are a beginner at free weight training, it is best to start with the smaller equipment and concentrate on proper form first. Have a spotter ready just in case you need help.

The drawbacks make the Smith Machine easier to use than free weights.

With a machine to help stabilize the bar, you will be more at ease and focus more on proper form and not worry about dropping the barbell on yourself.

Smith Machine Bench Press vs Free Weight Bench Press

Smith Machine Bench Press vs Free Weight Bench Press

You might be wondering which is more effective? Bench presses on free weights or on smith machines?

It is definitely okay to do bench presses both ways. But if you want to activate your muscles more effectively, you might want to do a free weight bench press. This is because with free weight equipment, you are using your own strength to lift.

With Smith machines, you have the machine helping you stabilize and control the barbell.

But don’t shy away from using Smith machines. It still activates and helps build your muscles. It is good especially if you are coming from an injury or it’s your first time doing a bench press.

Smith Machine Squats vs Free Weight Squats

Smith Machine Squats vs Free Weight Squats

Using Smith machines in doing squats is good for beginners.

Since Smith machines have a fixed range of movement, you can focus on your proper form when doing your squats.

In doing a conventional free weight squat, you should already have a high level of strength to be able to do those lifts safely and effectively.

Is the Smith Machine easier than Free Weights

So this begs the question, is Smith Machine easier than Free Weights?

According to our research, most gym-goers think that a Smith Machine is easier to use than free weights.

The Smith Machine will already stabilize and control the bar for you. It lets you lift a weight capacity heavier than you can with a free weight. With the barbell attached, you have more control of the bar than you would with free weights.

The Smith Machine is easier than free weights especially if you are a beginner or are coming from an injury.

But that does not mean that the machine will lift the barbell for you. You still need enough strength to be able to do the exercises on a Smith Machine.

Which one is best for you: Smith Machine or Free Weights? 

Which one is best for you Smith Machine or Free Weights

If you are a beginner or are coming from an injury, you may want to start with a Smith Machine. But you can also do free weight training with a spotter to check your form and guide you as you improve your strength.

Free weight equipment can be used if you have a high level of strength and can lift heavy weights without a problem.

At the end of the day, whether you choose a Smith Machine or free weights will depend on your fitness goal.


We can say that a Smith Machine is easier to use than free weight equipment.

With a lot of people from the fitness community not liking the Smith Machine, you might want to use free weights to not be in their radar.

But that does not mean that a Smith Machine is a bad thing. If you need the support of a machine, we say go for it! As long as you are doing the exercises correctly and seeing results, use whatever you think is best for you.

Smith Machine and free weights can both be used to help you in your fitness goals. Don’t use one and stick to it. It’s better to have more options to be able to get the most of your workout routine.

I hope this article answered your questions about the Smith Machine and free weights!