Weight training comes with a massive range of different equipment, so choosing what works best for you can prove to be a challenge. Starting small with dumbbells and kettlebells and then moving up to multi-purpose installations, you are spoilt for choice. The larger equipment is even more diverse, but that is where we come in.

Two of the biggest pieces of equipment that can fall into this category are the titans of weight training: the power rack and the smith machine. Both are incredible choices because of the workout they provide. They are usually in the same category, but they are actually quite different! They have their advantages and their disadvantages, and you need to know them before you can commit to one. Luckily for you, we will be exploring that in this article.

Smith machine

Man using a smith machine

Smith machines are often considered the first choice for people who are unsure. They tend to be a little bit more user-friendly, and they seem less hardcore. They allow you to do the basic exercises, but with a bit of added extra support. However, there is more to it than just that.

Safety rails

The biggest selling point of the smith machine is the fact that it offers a lot of safety features. It might sound obvious, but this should be one of the points you look at when selecting equipment. A smith machine allows you to push yourself to your absolute limits no matter where you are and know that you can do it securely. If your muscles fail you, or you just want to see what you're capable of, you can do it without having to worry about dropping the weights or injuring yourself. It's a huge plus.

Fixed motion range

When you take the above point into account, though, there is another matter to look at. Because of how the mechanics of the machine work to give you that support, they do have a slight drawback: the limitations. To use them how they are intended, they have to be put into the guide for the bar. This limits the range of motion that you are capable of, and it can actually take away a lot of the benefits. Don't rely on the machine more than you need to.

Power rack

Man using a power rack

Power racks are almost the opposite of smith machines when you look at the points mentioned above. They have different benefits, but they are still powerhouses of weight training. They will your exercises a serious edge for heavy lifting in their own unique way.

Adjustable pegs

To start with, although power racks don't benefit from the hooking system and guided rail that the smith machine has, they have adjustable pegs. This means that, compared to the smith machine, they can be used for different purposes and with much more freedom and a natural motion range. You still have the safety to stop the bar where you need it to, but not before the movement is finished and not in the same way.

Pull up handles

Integrated pull up handles are another extra feature of the power rack. They allow you to use your own body weight to exercise, so there is a bit more versatility when it comes to your work out. If you want to know more about how to execute the perfect pull up, we have written an article about it here.


Overall, the two machines are both well suited for doing large heavy lifts safely. The main takeaway is that smith machines are a little safer with features to support the lift throughout, but power racks give you more freedom to move. Power racks also come with a wider choice of exercises so that you can progress to a more advanced level. Choose what works best for you!

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Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.