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September 29, 2021
You might think the answer for “how much does a Smith machine bar weigh?” is as simple as two words - a number followed by a unit of weight (lb or kg) - but actually there is no standardized weight for a Smith machine barbell. It can be anywhere from 6 to 45+ pounds...As such, we need to break this question down in-depth to provide the answer you desire.
In this article, we are going to look at the different types of Smith machines, how they are made, and what the barbells generally weigh based on that. We will also go over the bar weight of some of the most popular Smith machine models for home gyms and commercial gyms, as well as Smith machines at gyms like Planet Fitness and LA Fitness. And if you still don't get your answer, we will explain how you can easily measure the weight of the Smith machine bar yourself.
To start, let's look at what a Smith machine actually is...
A Smith machine is a weight training machine with a barbell that is fixed within a set of steel rails, permitting it to move strictly up and down in a vertical (or near vertical) path.
The barbell on a Smith machine has two hooks, one on each side, that rotate so you can lock the bar in place along a series of lockout points. This allows you to start with the bar at different heights and it provides a measure of safety for the lifter as they can quickly lock the bar to get out of an exercise.
The main purpose of a Smith machine is to take the demand of stabilizing the bar out of the equation. Not only is this good for beginners who may have stability issues with free weight barbell exercises, but it also allows you to really hone in on the primary muscles targeted by each exercise. For example, with back squats, you can focus on your quads and glutes without concern for balance, leaning too far forward, or falling back.
Another interesting feature of the Smith machine is that most have a lower starting weight than an Olympic barbell. An Olympic barbell will always weigh 45lbs (with exception to women’s Olympic barbells). With a Smith machine, the bar can weigh anywhere from 6-45+ lbs (although 15-25lbs is the average for Smith machines at commercial gyms).
The difference in weight comes down to how the Smith machine is made...
While all Smith machines will have a fixed barbell and safety hooks, some Smith machines use a counterbalance mechanism (which also varies in how much its counterbalanced) AND the angle of the rail and bar material varies as well.
Obviously you are here reading this article to learn about the weight of a Smith machine bar, so let’s dig in and see how they differ among all the sellers and how you can know how heavy the Smith machine bar you are using is.
Just in case you're in the market for one read our post where we cover the Best Smith Machines on the market today.
Let’s just make this very clear. There is NO standardized weight that a Smith machine barbell should weigh. It’s not like an Olympic barbell that is standardized universally at 45lbs (20kg). As such, the starting weight of a Smith machine (meaning the bar only, without plates) will depend on the specific Smith machine you are using.
Thankfully, you have us to help you find out the bar weight of the most popular kinds of Smith machines as well as how you can easily measure the weight if the Smith machine you are using is different than the ones we discuss here.
Pro Tip: A lot of Smith machines label the bar weight on the side of the machine, so check around the machine first. If not, look up the Smith machine you are using online to see if the manufacturer has the barbell weight listed, many do.
WHY IS KNOWING THE SMITH MACHINE BAR WEIGHT IMPORTANT?
You might be wondering, “but wait, is it even necessary to know the weight of the Smith machine bar?”.
We say, YES. For sure.
So, let’s just quickly go over why knowing the bar weight for a Smith Machine is important, just in case you are ready to give up on getting an exact answer.
Knowing the bar weight of the Smith machine you are using is just as important as knowing the weight of a regular barbell (which most of us know by heart) or dumbbells. If you want to progressive overload (make percentage/incremental increases to the weight you are lifting each week/session), then you need to know how much you are lifting and that includes the bar.
Also, knowing the actual weight of the bar is important for determining what your starting weight is for any given exercise. For example, if you can do 40lb dumbbell shoulder presses, then knowing the weight of the Smith machine barbell will help you choose how much additional weight you need to load on the bar.
It’s really that simple. If you like accuracy in your lifts, which is important for progression, then you should know how much you are lifting.
Here are two other frequency asked questions...
Should I count the weight of a smith machine bar?
Yes, you should definitely count the bar. With Smith machine bars weighing anywhere from 6-40lbs, you need to know the weight to know exactly how much you are lifting.
Is Smith machine true weight?
The Smith machine is definitely a true weight, but it shouldn’t be compared to a free weight barbell lift. Because the stability demands are taken out of play with the Smith machine, the feeling of the load won't be the same. That said, if you are going to use a Smith machine regularly, then you will want to increase the weight over time, so knowing the baseline you are lifting is essential for progression.
So, you aren’t comparing the weight of a Smith machine to other equipment, you are comparing it to your previous weeks' Smith machine lifts.
That said, you can get an idea for how much to lift on a Smith machine based on how much you can do of a similar exercise with a barbell or dumbbell. The amount won’t be too far off. Generally, you can do 10% more with a Smith machine than you can with dumbbells or a free weight barbell. But, it’s probably best to start with a similar or even lesser weight just to be safe, then progress from there.
Related: Barbell vs Dumbbell, What are the Differences?
Smith machine bars can weight anywhere from 6lbs to ~45lbs, but the average range is somewhere between 15-25lbs at most commercial gyms.
The reason for the big differences in bar weight is the bar material, counterbalances, and angle of rails (although the angle of the rail doesn’t play a huge factor in the weight off the bar).
The type of steel used for many Smith machine bar is different than that of an Olympic bar.
Olympic bars are made out of high strength steel as they must be able to handle a lot of stress on their own without bending (or with flex).
The tensile strength is higher for an Olympic bar, and with that, the weight of the bar itself is greater.
Smith machine bars have additional support with the clamps, bearings and slides, so they don’t need the same tensile strength to carry the same amount of weight.
So, a Smith machine bar is generally a little lighter, but it’s not as if a smith machine can’t handle the same weight as a barbell. Most commercial Smith machines have a 600-1000lb max capacity, which is right on par with Olympic barbells.
In regards to the barbell size, they are the same as an Olympic bar, with exception to some less expensive residential style Smith machines which have 1 inch sleeves. Any commercial Smith machine is going to have 2 inch sleeves just like an Olympic barbell. In fact, some smith machines actually use an Olympic barbell.
In summary, generally speaking, most Smith machine bars are a little lighter than an Olympic barbell because they don’t need the same tensile strength. For most, the bar itself will weigh 25-40lbs (if you were to remove the bar from the Smith machine, that’s how much it would weigh). Then you can also factor in the bearings, clamps and hooks, which may add an additional couple pounds.
HOWEVER, some Smith machines use counterbalances, and if they have this mechanism, even if the bar weighs 40lbs, they can make it function as less.
Let us explain...
If you are talking about high-end new Smith machines, which many commercial gyms have, then it's likely the bar is counterbalanced.
Typically, residential-made Smith machines don’t have counterbalances and commercial-made Smith machines do. So, if you are working out at places like Planet Fitness, LA Fitness, Life Time, Equinox, or Gold’s Gym, then the Smith machine is probably counterbalanced. And if you have a home gym Smith machine, then it’s probably not.
A counterbalanced bar will feel lighter, generally 6-20lbs. The reason for the range is how much it is counterbalanced.
Either way, you should definitely be able to feel the difference between a bar that is counterbalanced and a bar that is not when it is unloaded.
So, how do counterbalanced Smith machine barbells work?
Think about it like a balancing scale. The bar is on one side of the scale and a set of weights within the Smith machine on the other. But, rather than have them weigh an even amount, the barbell purposely weighs more.
So, let’s say the bar itself weighs 40lbs and the set of weight on the other side weighs 20lbs, then the bar will feel, and for all intents and purposes, weigh, 20lbs when using it on the Smith machine.
The manufacturer may decide to counterbalance it more or less. There is no standardized method for this, which is why counterbalanced Smith machine bars usually weigh anywhere from 6 to 20-25 pounds.
Be that as it may, there is some certain logic that must be followed. For one, you obviously don't want to counterbalance the bar to make it even. I mean, you could make it even, which would leave the bar weighing 0lbs, but then the bar would fly up the top of the Smith machine at the slightest touch. In fact, it would do this similarly even at just a couple pounds.
Once you get to 6lbs+, it proves to work just perfectly.
Now, the benefit of having it on the lower range of this counterbalanced scale is that the starting weight is good for people who are new to training. Thus, the Smith machine is accessible to all fitness levels, as more advanced/stronger trainees can simply add plates to get the weight they need, and as you can remember, a Smith machine can handle very heavy loads...
It’s actually quite impressive that a high-end counterbalanced Smith machine can range from 6lbs (the barbells starting weight) to 1,000lbs (max load capacity)!
Anyway, moving on...
ANGLE OF THE RAILS:
While you might think a Smith machine bar moves perfectly straight up and down, many Smith machines have their rails set on a slight incline.
The intention of using a slight incline bar path is that it better matches the natural movement path for big compound movements like squats and bench press.
Note: Usually commercial Smith machines have an incline (7-12˚) and residential Smith machines are perfectly straight up and down.
Now, besides offering a potentially more natural movement path, the slight incline also changes the weight of the bar...ever so slightly.
The more vertical the bar, the more you feel its full weight.
So, Smith machine bars that have a slight incline will make the bar feel like slightly less. That said, it is very minimal. After all, even a 12 degree incline is still very steep. It may only make it feel 1-2lbs less. Nevertheless, if we are getting technical, it does change the weight of the bar.
The point is, yes the angle of the rail plays a role in the weight of the bar, but it’s minimal. The main purpose of the angle is for the bar’s path of motion, not its weight.
To simplify things, there are two main types of Smith machines, residential Smith machines and commercial Smith machines.
In general, the characteristics of residential and commercial Smith machines are as follows...
Residential Smith machines usually have a 400lb max weight capacity.
Commercial Smith machines have a max weight capacity that ranges from 600-1000lbs
Besides these two main categories, of which there are many sellers and slight characteristic differences, you also have All-in-One Smith machines and 3D Smith machines.
All-in-One Smith machines are like residential Smith machines but they include cable pulleys, an adjustable bench, and other attachments. They can range in quality. Many are very high-end and expensive and may actually have an inclined rail.
3D (3-dimensional) Smith machines are something relatively new to the industry, and not often seen. They are capable of moving both horizontally and vertically, so they are not limited to moving just up and down. For the purpose of this post, we are not including 3D Smith machines, but if you want one or have one, you should be able to find the bar weight via the manufacturer’s website or on the machine itself. If not, contact the manufacturer and they will tell you.
Although there are many manufacturers and brands of Smith machines out there, there are just several big players. Moreover, commercial gyms usually stick to these sellers. So, we can actually make a list of the most popular Smith machine bar weights.
But, let’s first go over some of the most popular gyms and what their Smith machine bars weigh and then we can look at a few big name manufactures for both commercial and home gyms.
The Smith machines at Planet Fitness will have the bar weight written on the side of the machine. So, you can just have a look, but they should range from 15-20lbs.
Note: Some PF gyms may have heavier bars, as we’ve seen members claim their Planet Fitness gym’s Smith machine weighs 35lbs.
LA Fitness will have a commercial Smith machine with a counterbalanced barbell. Most LA Fitness gyms have a Smith machine with a bar weight of 15-25lbs.
“Your Gym” is obviously not a commercial gym brand name ;) But, it’s safe to say your gym's Smith Machine bar weighs 15-25lbs.
If you want to find out exactly how much it weighs, we will teach you a few simple methods to measure the bar’s weight further below, but first, let’s look at some of the biggest manufacturers, as we may list the one you are using...
Marcy is a brand known for producing home gym equipment. They sell all-in-one Smith machines, not commercial Smith machines. However, they do make their all-in-one Smith machines with angled bar paths and counterbalanced weight.
Most Marcy Smith machines have a bar weight of 16lbs, but the SM-4033 model’s bar weighs about 36lbs and the Diamond Elite MD-9010G weighs 25lbs.
Body Solid has a range of Smith machines from inexpensive residential models to high end commercial.
They have residential Smith machines (model PSM144X & PSM1442xS) with a standard barbell that weighs 32lbs, angled Smith machines with Olympic sized barbells that weigh 25lbs (model GS348Q & GS348QP4), and a high end commercial gym Smith machine with a counterbalanced barbell that weighs 6lbs (model SCB1000).
Nautilus is a huge brand that most of you probably know. They sell a high end commercial Smith machine that you’ll find at some gyms, and the bar weighs approximately 15lbs.
Matrix is another Smith machine that you will find at many commercial gyms. Their most popular model, the Magnum Smith Machine, has a bar weight of 25lbs.
Matrix’s Varsity VY-M49 Angled Smith Machine's bar weighs 25lbs. And, Matrix’s G1 FW161 Smith Machine’s bar weighs 44lbs
Hammer Strength is a commercial Smith machine brand with a model that you will find at gyms all over the world. Their Smith machine has a 7 degree bar path angle and a counterbalance system that sets the bar’s starting weight at 20lbs (9kg) and a max capacity of 650lbs.
Now let’s look two of the most popular home gym brands...
Hoist is a popular brand especially for home gyms, even though they make commercial quality Smith machines too.
Their all-in-one Smith machine (Mi7Smith Functional Training System) has a bar weight of 30lbs.
Their two most popular commercial Smith machines, CF 3753 and CF 3754, have bars that weigh 25lbs and 52lbs respectively.
Force USA sells all-in-one Smith machines for home gyms. They use a regular Olympic barbell that weighs 45lbs (20kg). It is not counterbalanced, so that is its true weight.
We’d have to go on and on and on to list all of the Smith machine bar weights out there, and even then we couldn’t get them all as not all manufacturers list them on their sites. So, if you didn’t see the Smith machine you are using above, which is highly possible, and you want to nail down the exact bar weight, then here’s how you can measure it yourself...
There are three straight forward methods to measure the weight of a Smith machine bar. You can use a regular step-on bathroom scale, a hanging scale, or a rope with plates.
The only issue with the above is if the Smith machine in question is at your gym because bringing in a scale and measuring it may come off as just a tad bit weird, as will tying a rope to the bar to figure out the weight like a mad scientist. Nevertheless, we are going to teach you how. We just recommend that you either ask an employee first so they know what’s going on or you do it during a time when not many members are there.
1. Bathroom Scale
Place the scale on the floor, then place the barbell on your upper back like you would a squat and step on the scale.
Record the total weight.
Then, weigh yourself without the bar and subtract that from the total weight of the first measurement. EASY!
For this one, you need a flat, hard box (like a plyobox) as well.
Place the box at the center of the bar path. The box is used simply to bring the scale to a height that reaches the bar as Smith machines have several inches of free space from the floor to where the bar’s lowest position starts.
From there, place the bathroom scale on the box and then bring the bar down to the scale and let it rest on it.
Whatever the scale reads is the weight of your barbell.
2. Hanging Scale
It doesn’t get more accurate than this method. The only issue is, not many people have a hanging scale (aka fish scale).
If you DO happen to have a hanging scale (or you buy one), then you can wrap a strap around the bar, hook the strap to the hanging scale, and hang the bar from the scale to get its total weight.
3. Rope & Plates
If you have a thin rope, you can tie it around the middle of the Smith machine barbell then throw the other end over the crossbar of the machine.
Bring the bar up high (i.e. chest level) and hook it in place. You want the loose end of the rope to be touching or near the floor.
Then, just tie some weight plates to the loose end of the rope and unhook the bar to see if it balances with the weighted end of the rope. If it doesn’t, add or remove some weight from the rope until it does.
Once the bar is perfectly balanced with the amount of weight tied to the rope, you have your bar weight.
i.e. If you have 15lbs of plates tied to the rope and it is balancing perfectly with the bar, your Smith machine barbell weighs 15lbs.
LET'S WRAP THIS UP
It’s safe to say that most Smith machine bars at gyms weigh between 15-25lbs. However, Smith machines made for home gyms vary greatly and can be as much, if not more (with the added weight of the clamps and such) as an Olympic barbell.
If you didn’t find the bar weight info you need for your Smith machine here, we’ve given you the info needed to figure out how much it weighs (either measure it yourself or contact the seller). Another pro-tip is just to look at the stickers on the machine! You’ll be surprised how many Smith machines state the starting weight on the machine itself and people just don’t care to look.
In any case, we applaud you for wanting to know how much a Smith machine bar weighs because those who pay attention to the specifics usually progress the fastest and achieve the best results. If you still have questions about Smith machines, please feel free to contact us!
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