Squat Rack VS Smith Machine – Which One is Best for You?

Squat Rack or Smith Machine

If you are a bodybuilder, you have already heard of this very common equipment in the gym. But, if you are completely new to them

  • Squat Rack– A Squat rack or a Power rack is a machine that allows you to perform weight lifting exercises. It consists of four vertical upright pillars, with bar catches and spotters attached to them. It allows the individuals to work out with free weights, ensuring complete safety.

You can perform additional exercises on power racks such as bench presses, pull-ups, dips by adding a few accessories to them.

  • Smith Machine– Smith machine is a similar kind of machine setup for performing the weight lifting exercises. It is a machine that has a bar attached to it in a pulley like system; you can add weights to the bar. It has multiple bar catches that allows putting it up at any level you want.

Here you are not working with free weights, as you already have a bar attached to the machine. You only need to add the amount of weights you want to lift and start doing the workout.

Even though the purpose of both the machines is likewise similar, they still are a lot different from each other.

There are certain pros and cons of both these machines and if you are going to purchase anyone of them, you must have proper knowledge or information about it.

best power rack

Pros and Cons of Squat Racks (Power rack)


  1. Can be set up with ease– Squat racks or Power rack consists of 4 vertical upright bars, with two horizontal bars that are attached to the vertical bars. It is very easy to set this up, if you want to use this as your personal gym.
  2. Safe to use– As you have bar catches and spotters that can be set up right at the lowest level of your squat, it makes it safe to use. You can drop the weights onto the spotters if you are not able to go up again.
  3. Multiple exercises– Squat rack allows you to perform multiple exercises. You can add additional bars for bar dips, buy an additional bench for bench presses, etc.
  4. Light weight and mobile– It can be assembled and di-assembled with ease and can be moved from one place to another. Although the material used to make the power rack or squat rack is strong, it is still lightweight and mobile.
  5. Low cost– On an average, you can buy a squat rack for around 300$ only, which is comparatively lower than buying a smith machine.


  1. Space– Space is often a concern for the squat rack users. As it has four bars standing in a square like structure, it makes it very important to have enough space for proper setup.
  2. Not very safe– The spotters on the power rack do act as a support for the individuals. But when working with free weights, there is a huge chance of losing balance, thus, dropping very heavy weights on the spotter might move the rack or damage it.
  3. Additional help is required– While working on squat racks, if you are using it for the first time, you might need some assistance with setting up the bar or doing squats. You shall also need the help of a trainer to work out in the right form, without losing balance and getting injured.

Pros and Cons of a Smith Machine


  1. Safety– The modern day smith machine offers you with utmost safety and comfort. Unlike squat racks, you are not working with free weights; instead a bar is attached to the smith machine with a pulley like structure. You simply add weights and start working out.Multiple bar catches allow you to put up the weights at any level you want. You simply need to roll and hook the bar to put it down and vice versa to work out on it.
  2. Easy to use– You do not need to adjust the bar catches manually, you can simply unhook the bar drag to the level you want and re-hook it again. That’s it, add weighs on both side of the bar and you can start working out.
  3. Working out becomes easier– By using a smith machine you are least worried about balancing the bar on your shoulders. This allows you to focus more on the work out, instead of continuously putting your effort behind maintaining the balance. This works great for newbies.Moreover, you do not require additional help to work out on it. As the smith machine is framed to allow straight vertical movement of the weights, you cannot lift it in the wrong way. You can vary on your standing posture as well, to alter the effectiveness in different muscles.
  4. Space– Smith machines require less space in the gym, as it is comparatively smaller than the power racks. The setup is simple and small and thus requires less space in your gym room. You are also provided with weight hangers, you do not need additional space for them. It is very compact and therefore recommended.
  5. Strength and durability– The smith machine is comparatively stronger and thus more durable. You can find stronger squat racks but the mechanism with which smith machine works make it more durable.


  1. High Cost– Although buying a smith machine is considered to be beneficial, its costs a lot. Even the basic smith machines can cost you around 800-1000$.
  2. Limited with exercises– Smith machines limits the exercises that you can do using it to squats and bench presses. For example, it cannot be used for dips, as the mechanism is small and does not have additional bar latches to perform exercises like bar dips.

What is better the Smith Machine or the Squat Rack?

It depends on what your bodybuilding goals are with weight lifting.

If you are only concerned with building the aesthetics, then smith machine is likely a better option. But if you want to build immense strength by building up more muscles, I personally prefer the free weight lifting exercises using the squat racks.

At MuscleMaxim, we recommend using the squat rack, as we want you build up great muscles, gain strength and feel strong.

Read- Here are our best 10 Squat rack recommendation.

Essentials to focus on while buying any one of the equipment.

1. Stabilizer Muscles Activation

There is a major difference between working out on Squat Rack and a Smith Machine.

While working with squats you need to balance the bar weights and even maintain your posture, you activate your stabilizer muscles for additional support.

While with smith machine, the bar is already balanced within the system, you do feel the effectiveness of the exercise but it reduces the activation of the stabilizer muscles.

2. Perform multiple exercises

With squat racks, you are able to perform different types of squats only by increasing or decreasing the horizontal distance between your feet. This is because you also have to maintain your balance and prevent yourself from getting injured.

But, with smith machines you get to perform the squats with additional positions. Like for an instance, you can move one step ahead from the vertical straight line at which the squats are performed generally. Performing the squats at this position releases the stress on your knees. This can be a great workout for the people that have bad knees.

3. Injuries

You are very less likely to get injured while performing squats using the smith machines, as you have multiple bar catches that can be used to put down the weights at any level you are. Moreover, as there is no need for worrying about the balancing of the bar, you eliminate the most important aspect of an injury during squat. This is the best equipment for beginners.

But with squat racks, if you are not very well aware of the form, then it becomes difficult for you to balance it. This might lead to injuries.

Squats on power racks lay more stress on the knees.  Even though the stabilizer muscles are activated, working with heavier weights still becomes very difficult.

4. Gaining strength, becoming stronger

If you are performing Squats with squat racks, be assured you are picking up more weight than the smith machine. This is because the average weight of the bar on the smith machine is around 15pounds; whereas the average weight of the bar used for free weights is around 45 pounds. You can do the Math!!!

For an instance, if you put up 180 pounds of weight on both the power rack and the smith machine and lift it. Lifting on smith machine is going to feel a little easier, as you are actually lifting less weight as compared to what you lift with free weights. The bar used in free weights is thrice of what is used in the smith machine.

Therefore, individuals lifting free weights are considered comparatively stronger. Of course they also develop the stabilizer muscles, which make them more balanced with the form.

5. Costs

Squat racks are far cheaper than the smith machines; you have spotters, bar catches or you can make use of bands that can add to the safety, you may still save a lot of money. Moreover, you can also prepare a squat rack of your own at home, if you want to and have the right materials.

Smith machines are comparatively expensive and even limit you to certain type of exercises. But then there are different versions of smith machines that you can consider, by increasing your budget.


Whether it is a squat rack or the smith machine, each of them have their advantages and disadvantages.

There are people that criticize the use of smith machines whereas you may also find people that praise it. Modern day gyms mostly consist of the smith machines, as it is recommended for beginners and even professional lifters can benefit from it.

You have the information needed to buy the equipment; you can choose what is best for you.