Squat/ Power Rack vs. Smith Machine: The Ultimate Guide

All bodybuilders, trainers, and fitness freaks are well familiar with the two standard gym gear; Squat rack and smith machine. Both share some standard features…But what is the difference between them and which should I choose?

If you are new to weightlifting or body workout, let’s start with a brief introduction.


Squat or Power Rack

Related to the most popular power rack, a squat rack is a piece of gym equipment that lets you perform many weight training and lifting exercises. As the name suggests, a squat rack is specially made for squat exercise. For exercises like free weight barbell, a power rack acts as a mechanical spotter so you can work out with utmost safety. 

Moving to the design, it features four upright vertical posts with two attached horizontal supports or bar catches that are adjustable. Some power racks also feature accessory attachments like pulldown cable, pegs to store weight plates, or chin-up bar. This freedom of choice allows you to do many other exercises such as pull-ups, bench presses, and dips. 

smith machine

Smith machine 

A smith machine is also a gym gear with a bar attached to slide poles that go up and down just like a pulley system. It’s an excellent machine for beginners or those lifting on their own without a spotter. 

Squat Rack vs. Smith Machine: Comparison Table


Why choose a squat rack?

Not only a power rack lets you squat safely but offers more freedom than a smith machine by setting the horizontal bars at a specific height. You can ensure that if you drop the height, it’s not all coming down on you. Yet, you still have complete freedom as the barbell is not restricted like it is in the smith machine.

This function provides versatility for exercises beyond squats that smith machine might not offer. Moreover, it’s also much cheaper than a smith machine. An average power rack costs as little as 300 dollars. 

Finally, Power Racks are usually smaller than Smith Machines, which makes them a better choice for a home gym.

Squat Rack Downsides

All of the safety rods make sure the bar won’t drop on you; otherwise, securing the bar mid rep is impossible. It would be best if you also focused on balancing the weight and paying attention to form. Although the power rack is very safe, there is still an increased chance of injury. Another concern is the space required the power rack with four standing bars that need proper space for setup. Plus, you also require the help of a trainer to work out the right way.

smith machine

Why choose a smith machine?

Smith machine has guide rods that eliminate the need for you to balance the barbell. This lets you focus solely on lifting weight only. Plus, it allows you to go to failure without a spotter. Simply twist the bar and it will hook onto the frame. The smith machine is safe and allows the user to have a spotter. With safety pins and hooks, the machine enables the user to test the waters on weight and movement before they give it a real try. 

Also, it does a great job of isolating the muscles. If you are squatting or benching, it’s much more comfortable and safer to switch up grip and stance with a smith machine to hit different parts of the muscles. The smith machine serves a great purpose in providing security and safety if you’re hesitant to squat or bench. 

Smith Machine Downsides

For starters, the smith machine is counterbalanced making the weight significantly reduced. Another drawback is that the muscles used during a free-weighted squat to stabilize the weight are not activated while using a smith machine. For hardcore lifters looking to lift the raw weight, this can be seen as a considerable disadvantage. 

Plus, the smith machine doesn’t deviate from its horizontal pack. This means for exercise like squats specifically, it will place extra strength on your joints and also lead to one limb doing more work than the other for an unbalanced strength physique. With a smith machine, you can only do restricted exercises like bench presses and squats only. Being extra stable and safe, it comes with a noteworthy price tag ranging from 800-5000+$. 

Which one is right for you?

The freedom of squats in the power rack overshadows the stability and safety of a smith machine. If you have serious weightlifting and bodybuilding goals, then a squat rack is the right gym machine for you. Unlike a smith machine, a squat rack activates the stabilizer muscles for extra support to build muscles and strength. 

With the squat rack, you can perform multiple exercises by adding attachments while the smith machine offers only limited exercises. Moreover, a squat rack machine is far cheaper than a smith machine and comes with bar catches, spotters, and bar latches. The squat rack takes a clean sweep over the smith machine as it offers you the ability to do your functional strength movements along with different bodyweight exercises. So, choose a squat rack over the smith machine to develop and improve overall core strength.