Smith Machines, Squat Racks, and Functional Trainers: What's The Difference And Which One Is Better For You?
Training from home has plenty of advantages, and more so now in the current climate! And when it comes to creating a home gym, we are finding more and more people are shifting towards creating a great strength training set up at home…but where do you start when it comes to smith machines, squat racks, and functional trainers? We'll walk you through the main differences and which machine might be better suited for your training goals.
Visually looking at a smith machine, the main difference that really makes it stand out from other pieces of strength equipment is the twin vertical rods that guide the barbell while you lift creating a controlled barbell strength workout like with the FFITTECH Multipower Smith Machine. These vertical rods allow you to increase weight significantly without worrying as much about control but also safety is increased compared to free barbell work.
- Provides stabilised weight - Most smith machines include a self-balancing barbell. Equipped with guide rods, you don’t have to worry about balancing the barbell. As a result, you can really focus all your attention on lifting the weight.
- Great for safety - Smith press bar catches lessen the need for a spotter while performing heavy plate loaded exercises. You can hook the barbell into several slots on the frame so that it won’t be dropped. If you do get into trouble, just twist the bar and it hooks onto the frame.
- Benefits all major muscle groups - Versatility is another benefit as the smith machine can be used for a wide range of exercises. In fact, it can be used to work every major muscle group.
- Promotes good posture - When doing exercises, the rails, along with the weights securing the machine in place, help you move properly, so you maintain good form.
- Is suited for both beginners and experienced users - Although a smith machine is generally the preferred choice for beginners, it’s also ideal for people with advanced fitness skills.
- Lack of stabilizer muscle activation - The bar won’t deviate from its fixed, vertical path resulting in a limitation to activating additional stabilizer muscles while you lift.
- Personal comfortability - Some users find the fixed bar path to be uncomfortable.
- Versatility - There are some exercises that can’t be done safely, so it’s not as versatile as a power rack.
- Body balance - If one side of your body has less strength than the other, since the smith machine’s movement doesn’t consider the difference between left and right sides of your body, you may not strengthen the weaker side as quickly as working with a free bar and weights would.
Squat racks, which can also be referred to as "Squat Stands", "Power Racks", and "Half Racks" are designed for performing free weight exercises, such as squats, bench presses and dead lifts. Compared to a smith machine, the key difference is that your lifting bar is not attached to your piece of equipment meaning you suddenly have no restrictions in the movement of the bar.
- Safety is a benefit - If you drop a barbell, it won’t crash on the floor because the horizontal safety arms are fully adjustable.
- There are no restrictions on the barbell - Meaning that you can do exercises and engage more muscles with your training
- It’s remarkably versatile - Most power racks contain attachments for doing chin-ups, and even additional extra’s like lat-pulldown’s and cable crossovers like the Xpeed X-Series Power Cage.
- For all fitness levels - With the amount of versatility a squat rack or power rack can offer, it really caters to all fitness levels without leaving more intermediate trainers feeling like they have been limited in meeting their training needs.
- Takes time to adjust safety arms - The power rack safety arms have to be adjusted and used properly. Users can drop the barbell and miss the safety arms.
- Mid rep safety - Even though the safety arms on a power rack can catch the barbell, you still cannot secure the bar mid-rep, which is not a problem for a smith machine.
- Space - Whilst there are attachments available to really amp up the versatility of a power rack with additions like cable crossover's, this also results in the unit taking up more floor space, so for smaller rooms it may not be ideal.
Functional trainers are specifically designed to allow the trainer to execute exercises in an unrestricted and natural style. Unlike smith machines and squat racks, the key difference with functional trainers is that is works off dual pin loaded weight stacks attached to cables and pulleys. To the naked eye, functional trainers like the FFITTECH Functional Trainer does look more complex, however this is primarily due to the fact they are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment on the strength market and really do pack a punch on what they offer their users.
- Versatility - The biggest benefit of owning a functional trainer is the sheer number of exercises you can perform on them. You really can work every single body part in such dynamic fashion. You can enjoy full and varied sessions on a functional trainer whether you are into full body training or split training.
- Safety - Because there is no barbells being used, there is no danger of having any weights directly on top of you and therefore dropping or getting stuck under a weighted bar.
- Time saver - Say "Hello" to not needing to load and unload plates!! This is one the biggest draw cards users have in that they simply use a pin selector to adjust their weight stack between reps.
- Space saver - Given the sheer amount of exercises that a functional trainer offers, it really does do it all while not taking up a whole room in terms of floor space.
- Great for all fitness levels - With the safety system of cables and pulleys and pre-set weight increments, a functional trainer is great for all fitness levels and ideal for family environments.
- Weight Stack Increments - Whilst having a pin load weight stack is amazing on the time factor, it does have the down fall that you are confided to the incremental increases or decreases based on the pre-set plate weights.
- Weight Stack Limitations - Once you reach the full weight stack, there is no way of adding extra weights to the stack itself, thus for most machines; limiting you to the weight stack the functional trainer comes with. Occasionally you will find functional trainers on the market that have the capacity to increase the weight stack by adding on upgrades such as the Inspire FT2 Functional Trainer.
- Body Knowledge - Yes, having free movement with cables is a huge plus, however this also brings in the element of knowing your body and using the cables properly to ensure that you don't injure yourself in the movement of certain muscle exercises.
For most people creating their new gym set up in their home, you really want to hit a few key notes being; versatility, easy to use without the aid of someone else and space. Whether it's a smith machine, squat rack, power rack or functional trainer; each unit delivers it own range of advantages and disadvantages but ultimately it does come down to personal choice and which piece of equipment you are most familiar with and feel most confident with to commence your training journey from home. Discover our full range of smith machines, power racks and functional trainers here.