As a strength trainer, it is always best to train using a machine that can assist and ensure your safety during your training. Smith machines and Power racks both work great as a tool for weight training and provide you added protection from injuries.
They are, however, slightly different in the way they target your muscles. If you are thinking of getting one for you, this article will help you decide which is best for you.
We will talk about the differences between the Smith machine and Power rack and the key workouts you can perform with them.
What is a Power rack?
A power rack is a piece of equipment that allows the racking and de-racking of weighted barbells. It will make training with free weights safer as it contains horizontal bars for placing the barbell. It thus acts as a mechanical spotter for practical weight training.
What is a Smith machine?
A Smith machine is another version of a Power rack that does not allow lifting free weights; instead consists of fixed steel rails between which the bar moves. It has a set range of motion, i.e. it will enable only vertical movement for added safety and multiple hooks to rack the bar along the length.
Ten main differences of Power rack and smith machine
Here are the main differences between the Power rack and Smith machine regarding their use and the type of movements they allow.
1. Ease of use
It is probably the most pronounced difference between the Power rack and the Smith machine. Smith machines are a winner and are much more beginner-friendly in terms of ease of use. Their design with the hooks makes it very simple to replace the weights at any point of your movement.
Also, there is a fixed line of movement for the bar you are holding, and there is no danger of it dangling from side to side. In the case of a Power rack, you need to be much more careful in stabilizing the bar.
A Power rack may not be as easy to use, but the Smith machine can not beat it in terms of versatility. It allows more freedom of movement and creates more effective muscle tension for workouts.
It does not assist in balancing the weight, which makes a better choice for expert-level trainers than assisted squat rack exercises in a Smith machine. In addition, it contains more features such as a pull-up bar which makes it helpful in targeting more muscles of your body.
Talking about durability and the ability to last more as equipment, the machine with fewer parts and attachments should win. The Smith machine has a lot of frame parts and extensions that help stabilize the weight and hold it in a line.
On the other hand, the power rack is one large chunk of steel and simple enough with not many removable parts. It makes a Power rack long-lasting and more durable than a Smith machine.
4. Muscle isolation
As an expert, you can focus on muscle isolation using both types of machines. But if you are struggling to focus on the muscles and balancing out the weight simultaneously, the Smith machine can be very assistive.
With a Smith machine, you do not have to work extra hard to stabilize the bar and balance weights. You can also experiment with foot placement during a squat because there is no danger of faltering to the sides.
5. Strength and stability
If you want to challenge yourself and lift heavier, the Smith machine can be beneficial. Its ability to stabilize and balance the weights for you allows you to lift more weights.
Especially if you are lifting without a spotter, it can be challenging. Smith machines have a fixed path of moving the barbell with an assisted squat rack bar weight, and there are several points at which you can rack the barbell.
6. Muscle gains
Smith machines somewhat divide the focus of the weight on your body and the machine. Working with free weights is always more effective for building muscles more effectively.
A Power rack allows you more freedom of movement, and you have to do all the work in stabilization and to work your muscles. It is why experts always prefer a Power rack for challenging their muscle strength and technique.
7. Prevention from injuries
Injuries can be a problem if you are concerned about your safety, especially when training without a spotter. Instead of getting injured and not building muscle at all, it is best to be as safe as possible.
Both the Smith machine and Power rack can provide safety. Smith machines have many hooks along the length that make it very safe to use, and you can replace the bar simply by turning your wrists.
Not all Power racks have horizontal bar catches for replacing the weight. And when they do, the catches are not as sturdy. Also, the catches can be at only one point along the length, which may be fixed or adjusted to a specific height.
If you consider getting a machine for your home gym or garage, budget is a vital thing to consider. The Power rack can be hard to train with, but it is undoubtedly more cost-effective than a Smith machine squat rack.
Not only does it provide variable ways of performing the exercise, but it is also cheaper. You can get a high-quality, high-grade Power rack at a much lower price than a Smith machine price.
The time required to assemble either of the machines depends on the number of separate device attachments. Power racks are simple, straightforward, and contain lesser attachments than a Smith machine.
In this regard, a Smith machine is much more time-consuming in terms of assembly than a Power rack. Power racks, especially the cheap ones, do not have adjustable parts.
It comes once again to the number of parts with the machine. The attachments on a Smith machine need to be lubricated every once in a while to prevent getting stuck.
You also need to adjust the tightness of the bolts and screws to make sure the frame remains tightly fixed and doesn’t come off with the weight. With a Power rack, you do not need to take care of such requirements as the setup is pretty straightforward and thus easier to maintain.
Six key workouts with a Power rack and Smith machine
Here are the key workouts you can perform using both the Power rack and Smith machine.
1. Bench press
The bench press is a great exercise that you can do with the assistance of a Smith machine or power rack. It mainly targets the chest muscles but is a compound exercise.
It is best to do a bench press with free weights that you can do using a Power rack, but if you want to take some stress away and focus on your pecs more, the Smith machine is also a great option.
Barbell squats can be done very efficiently with both machines, and you can add as much weight as you like. If you want more muscle engagement, you can do it with a Power rack, but Smith machines can allow more options for foot placement and added safety for squats.
They are great for straight, incline, and decline bench press exercises.
3. Barbell shrugs
Barbell shrugs are also an exercise you can perform if you can not perform a deadlift. They help you get a better grip to practice for a deadlift.
You can perform simple shoulder shrugs or behind-the-back shrugs with both a Power rack and a Smith machine. However, the latter will give you more excellent stability to achieve the shrugs easily and with heavier weights.
4. Barbell rows
Barbell rows are a great alternative to deadlifts when done in a bent-over position. The power rack and the Smith machine also allow greater safety as you can replace the barbell at the lower point of your movement.
You can also try other forms of rows, such as inverted rows and inverted face pulls for added variation.
5. Overhead press
The overhead press is tough to do with free weights without any safety. The Smith machine and Power racks provide points for safely replacing the weight. However, the Smith machine can provide added support and stability.
Lunges with weighted bars are very effective for glutes and lower legs, and you can perform them with a Smith machine very easily by holding the barbell on your shoulders. It is much riskier to make the lunges with a Power rack as it does not support the movement of the barbell in a straight line while you focus on your leg movement.
Final verdict – Power rack or Smith machine
So we have discussed the difference between the Smith machine and Power rack and the difference in the workout technique they offer. The choice depends on your strength training goals and the type of equipment you can efficiently work with.
Generally, the Smith machine is a better choice for beginner or intermediate level trainers as it provides more safety and ease of use. Advanced lifters, however, always prefer working with free weights, and the Power rack gives more range for flexibility.
1. Which machine is best for a home gym?
For a home gym, the best machine is the one that requires less maintenance, is cheaper, and is easier to install. A Power rack fits all these requirements, so it is the best choice.
2. Can you do pull-ups with a Smith machine?
Although Power racks are more versatile and usually contain rods for pull-ups and dips, you can also add attachments such as a pull-up station with a Smith machine to make it more versatile.
3. What does a Smith machine and Power rack bar weigh?
A Smith machine bar usually weighs about 45lbs, whereas, on a Power rack, you can use a standard (6-15kgs) or Olympic barbell (20kgs).