A Closer Look at the Smith Machine Bar Weight

 by Dr. Steve Hruby, D.C.

I’m a fitness advocate with a holistic approach to health, wellness, and longevity. I’ve walked the walk since 2009 - using my personal development methods to unleash the fitness champ within you.

  Fact Checked
 by Rhealyn Celestial
Reviewed by Rhealyn Celestial

I’m a researcher, and I’m also a full-time mom. I spend my weekdays crafting thoughtful articles for small businesses, and my weekends with my son learning about the world together

If you are a little familiar with gyms, or are fond checking out various equipment that may help you in your fitness goals, then you may also be familiar with the Smith machine. 

But what you may want to know is how much is a Smith machine’s bar weight? Is there any way to measure it? And if so, knowing the machine bar weight necessary before I use the equipment?

An Overview of the Smith Machine

It is easy to get intimidated when we walk into a new gym. And this is especially so around machines. 

I remember my first week into a new year’s resolution. My target then was to be healthier and more fit. So, I walked into our neighborhood gym and signed up for a weight training program.  The minute I stepped inside, I was lost on the gym floor, wondering aimlessly around barbells, weight plates, machines and sweaty people. 

On that day, one machine caught my eye –  it was the Smith machine.  The trainer must have seen me checking out the equipment. So, he came over to ask if I wanted to try the machine out.  I did and it was love at first rep!

Smith machines come in different sizes. And because of these, bars sizes also differ in size and weight. Other factors also contribute to the weight of the bar. This are factors like counterbalance, angle of rails, frictional, and resistance of the frames.

Because of these factors, the perceived weight of the bar or the resistance of the bar differ from one machine to another. This perceived weight is the Smith machine’s difference compared to a standard Olympic seven-foot barbell.  The Olympic barbell weight is at 44lbs everywhere you go, while that of the Smith machine’s can vary. 

What Is a Smith Machine Bar

The Smith Machine bar is just like the regular free weights bar. They are mostly made of steel. Its weight and thickness may also vary among different machines depending on its construction and design. 

The Smith machine bar also varies depending on the price point. The more expensive ones are made of stainless steel and come in different finishes i.e. oxidized, cerakote etc.  On the average, the Smith machine bar would weigh somewhere between 20 lbs to 40 lbs. 

Factors That Affect the Weight of the Bar

Its Counter Balance Design

One feature of the Smith machine is that it was designed to deliver varying degrees of resistance. The rate of bar’s descent can be adjusted to be slower than gravity.

woman lifting a smith machine bar

This can be done through the use of counter balancing. Counter balancing gives you that more controlled, concentric and eccentric movement during your exercise. 

It Has Adjustable Rail Angles

Modern Smith machines are also designed to have a slight angle that is adjustable up to 5 degrees. This angle will help change the path of the bar. And this will allow weight lifters to target specific muscle groups.

This feature is useful especially for athletes with previous injuries who want to decrease the load on their joints. 

It Comes in Different Materials

Smith machine bars also come in different materials, and these affects the weight of the bar. Some are made of steel, while more fancy ones come in shiny stainless steel which are sometimes thicker and bulkier. The material contributes to the heaviness of the bar weight. 

Starting Weight of the Smith Machine Bar

The Smith machine bar itself typically weighs somewhere between 20 lbs to 40 lbs. However, because of factors that affect the bar’s weight (like counter balance and rail angles), it’s perceived weight would be around 15 lbs to 30 lbs. 

Also, more expensive machines tend to have a heavier feel or perceived weight because of the materials it was made from (i.e. like stainless steel). 

Measuring the Smith Machine Bar Weight

There are a few ways to measure the Smith machine bar weight. 

By Using a Hanging Scale With a Weighing Hook

This is the most straightforward method. This is done by hanging a scale on a sturdy and fixed beam; then attaching the hook to the bar; and letting it hang freely. The scale should give out an accurate reading on the bar weight. 

By Using a Bathroom Scale

This is another commonly method used, and will require a stable platform for the scale to rest on. Let the bar to rest freely on the bathroom scale. Make sure that you are placing the middle of the bar right on the bathroom scale.  Check the reading on the scale. This should give you the Smith machine weight. 

Through Old Fashioned Approach

If you are not able to weigh your Smith machine using a hanging scale or bathroom scale, then you can still measure the weight of the bar the old fashioned way. You can do it by using some weighted plates and a durable rope about a few meters long. 

weight plate on barbell

How to do the old fashioned approach:

  1. Find a beam that you can hang the rope on. One end of the rope should be for the bar, while the other end should be for the plates. 
  2. Then, tie the middle of the bar on one end of the rope. Make sure you balance the bar on the rope. 
  3. Next, find a weighted plate that you think is the same weight as the bar.
  4. Then, tie that weighted plate on the other end of the rope. 
  5. If the plated weight on the one end of the rope is lighter than the barbell on the other end, then get another plated weight that is heavier than the initial you selected.
  6. Do steps three to five above until you see that the barbell and the plated weight are hanging balanced on either side of the rope. 

The sum of the plate weights you used in the exercise would be the weight of the bar. 

Why You Should Weigh the Smith Machine Bar

Weighing the bar is important. By weighing, you get to know how much total weight you are actually lifting. You can then be able to track your progress accurately, as you gain more experience in weight lifting. 

Knowing the bar weight also allows you to determine the equivalent maximum weight that you can lift for one single rep on the Smith Machine. You can then compare that to a one rep max exercise using free weights. 

Comparing the weight for these lifts side by side will allow you to track your progress. And you can do these comparisons on each of your workouts, regardless if these are main or complementary exercises. 

Different Smith Machine Bars and Their Weights

Smith Machines from different brands and fitness centers have bar weights ranging from a light 15 pounds to a hefty 35 pounder. Below is a comparison of the bar weights from different Smith Machines. 

Brand / Fitness CenterBar Weight (in Pounds)
Hammer Strength20
Body Solid20
LA Fitness25
Planet Fitness35
Life Fitness20

Find Out More About the Smith Machine Bar Weight

Should I Consider the Weight of the Bar While Using the Smith Machine?

Yes, you should consider the weight of the bar. This is especially helpful if you are a beginner. But first, make sure that you first try to do your lifts with zero plates attached to the bar. This is so you can check how heavy it is for you. Then, you can now add plates based on your capabilities. 

woman using smith machine lifting weights in the gym

Is Knowing the Bar Weight Necessary?

No, knowing the bar weight is not really necessary. What is more important is how you feel about the weight of the bar if there is no load. Since the effective weight of the machine is not equal to the weight plates attached, how heavy it feels to you is more important. 

How Much Weight Should I Use on the Smith Machine?

The weight will depend on your capabilities and experience. If you are a beginner, it is more important to lift weights with correct form. How heavy the weight is is only secondary. Then, as you progress and get stronger, you can plan to lift heavier weights on the bench. 

Is the Weight on a Smith Machine Accurate?

No, the weight on the Smith machine is not accurate. Because of the machine’s inherent counter balance design, the plated weight you are using can feel as if it is lighter.

Let’s say you are lifting a 10lb weight using the Smith machine. You will feel you are lifting lighter when using the Smith machine versus when you are lifting the same load using free weights. However, there is a way for you weigh the bar, and identify the actual weight you are lifting. By doing this, you will be able to track your progress more accurately. 

Should I Count the Bar When Lifting?

Yes, you need to count the bar. This is so you will know exactly how much weight you are lifting. This will minimize the risk of injury and will help you track your workout progress over time. You will be able to determine how much you have improved because you are aware of the weight you are lifting. 


So, does the Smith machine’s bar weight matter? In the end, this will really boil down to your level of capability and experience in lifting. If you are a beginner lifter, I would not advise that you determine the bar. Your focus should be on the correct form and posture when lifting. You can even start lifting the barbell alone, without attaching weighted plates.

However, as you progress through your lifting journey, counting the bar weight is important.  You would need to determine the actual weight you are lifting. This is important because you would want to track your progress accurately. 

Lastly, if you do not want to go to the gym, you can always work out from the confines of your home. There are smith machines for your home gym that you can consider which would be a perfect addition to your home gym.

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