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Smith Machines vs Free Weights: Which Should You Choose?

smith machines versus free weights

You have many options when it comes to strength training, and in this guide, we’re taking a closer look at two of the most popular: Smith Machines and free weights.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but which is most suitable for you?

It all depends on your skill levels and fitness goals. Let’s take a closer look at their differences to help you decide which is most suitable for you.

 

Smith Machines

A Smith Machine is a weight machine that has a barbell fixed inside two rails on either side. This means the bar can only move vertically up or down.

You can use a Smith Machine to lift barbells and carry out several types of exercises, including shoulder presses, squats and bench presses.

 

Advantages:

  • The movements with a Smith Machine are guided because the path is fixed, so you can focus on your form, making them ideal for beginners.

 

  • Smith Machines come with safety features like safety hooks, which reduce the risk of dropping weights.

 

  • They are a great way to isolate muscle groups and target specific muscles.

 

  • Smith Machines are useful if you want to practise your form because you can lift weights properly without worrying about losing your balance.

 

Disadvantages:

  • Some more experienced fitness enthusiasts prefer greater freedom rather than the fixed movement of Smith Machines which may feel unnatural or uncomfortable.

 

  • The range of motion is limited, so you cannot do all the variations of an exercise.

 

Free Weights

There are many types of free weights, including dumbbells, kettlebell sets and fixed barbells. These are weights that are not attached to machines, so they can be used more freely.

Advantages:

 

  • Free weights provide a complete range of motion. This promotes natural movement, engages more muscles and helps improve balance and coordination.

 

  • They help with functional strength by mimicking everyday activities.

 

  • Free weights are very versatile, and you can do lots of exercises with them. This can help to make them more interesting.

 

  • They are excellent at building strength and muscle size because you need to stabilise the weights and engage more muscles when using them.

 

  • Free weights are more affordable. You can pick up a set of dumbbells or a kettlebell for much less than a Smith Machine.

 

Disadvantages:

  • There is more risk of injury when using free weights if you don’t use them properly, so you need to know the right techniques.

 

  • They can sometimes be more intimidating for beginners who are not sure about the correct form and technique to use.

 

Which Is the Best Option for You?

There is no right and wrong answer when it comes to choosing between Smith Machines and free weights. For example, if you are a beginner, you may want to start by using the Smith Machine at your local gym, but you could just as easily pick up some light dumbbells and start working out at home.

While the Smith Machine is more approachable and gives you a greater feeling of safety, it depends on your goals – if you want to build more muscle mass, free weights are often better.

Of course, you could simply use both. When you use both Smith Machines and free weights, you can enjoy all the benefits they provide. So try them out next time you’re at the gym, get some guidance from an instructor, and see which you prefer.

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