How Much Does A Smith Machine Bar Weigh?

If your gym has a Smith machine, you’ve probably noticed that the bar doesn’t weigh as much as a standard barbell. And that makes it hard to know how much weight you’re lifting compared to other free-weight exercises or machines.

To make matters worse, most Smith machines don’t have a placard or label telling you how much the bar weighs. And it’s not always easy to measure it yourself.

That’s why I’m going to answer the question “how much does a Smith machine bar weigh?” So you no longer have to guess how much resistance you’re using.

How Much Does A Smith Machine Bar Weigh

What Is A Smith Machine?

A Smith machine is a weight lifting apparatus where the barbell travels up and down along a set of steel rails. The guide rails restrict the weight to a vertical (or near-vertical) movement which makes it somewhat safer than free weights.

Each end of the bar has a hook that rotates and there are a series of lockout points at which the weight can be hooked. This means the Smith machine can be a sort of “self-spotting” device, which also increases safety.

By removing the need to stabilize the bar, Smith machines put more of the load on the primary muscles targeted by each exercise. This can be a good way to mix up your routine.

Another feature of Smith machines is that they have a lower starting weight than Olympic barbells. But the actual weight of the bar depends on a couple of factors. So let’s dive into Smith machine bar weight.

How Much Does A Smith Machine Bar Weigh?

A Smith machine bar weighs anywhere from 6 lbs to 32 lbs depending on the material of construction, counterbalancing, and the angle of the rails.

Bar Materials

Some smith machine bars are lighter than a standard 45 lb Olympic bar because they’re not made out of high-strength steel. With supports on each end, the bar doesn’t undergo the kind of bending stress seen by a free-weight bar.

Therefore, the bar itself may weigh 30-40 lbs. Although sometimes it can weigh more due to the added bearings and hooks.

Counterbalancing

In addition, Smith machine bars are often counterbalanced. This means the bar is made to feel lighter through a system of cables, pulleys, and counterweights.

Normally this counterbalance system is hidden behind safety covers, but the image below is what it looks like inside.

How Much Does A Smith Machine Bar Weigh Counterbalance Example

With a counterbalance, the perceived weight of a Smith machine bar is usually less than 30 lbs. But it could be as low as 6 lbs depending on the balancing use.

But why counterbalance the bar at all? The reason is to lower the starting weight of the bar for people new to training or for exercises where a lighter load is preferred.

Ok, so why not make the bar weigh 0 lbs? Well, if the bar were perfectly balanced with an equal counterweight, the slightest touch would send it up to the top of the machine. Like an astronaut in zero gravity!

But this free-floating bar could damage the machine. Therefore, Smith machine manufacturers counterbalance the bar so it has some weight, but not as much as a traditional barbell.

Angle of Rails

Some Smith machines have guide rails angled on an incline. This is intended to better match the natural movement path for exercises like squats and bench press. And the angle of the rails can change the weight of the bar slightly.

In physics class, you may have drawn force diagrams like the one below. This is a simple representation of the forces acting on an object resting on an incline.

How Much Does A Smith Machine Bar Weigh Force Diagram

The steeper the incline, the more pulling (or pushing) force is required to move the object – in this case, the bar. So on a vertical Smith machine, you feel the full weight of the bar pushing down.

But as the angle gets flatter, the force required to move the object goes down. Think of pushing a box across a smooth table. The force required to push it is much less than the weight of the box.

The reason is that some of the weight is directed into the surface. In this example, the table is supporting most of the weight so the box feels light when you push it.

Similarly, the inclined Smith machine rails take some of the load. Although the angle is at most 12 degrees from vertical – still pretty steep. When you do the math, a 30 lb bar feels like 29 lbs. So it’s probably not of much concern to you.

Common Smith Machine Bar Weights

So far we’ve established that Smith machine bars can weigh anywhere from 6 to 32 lbs depending on the type of Smith machine you have. To help you narrow that down, I’ve split that up into two common Smith machine types.

Residential Smith Machines

A residential Smith machine is one that you might purchase for your home gym. Typically they are made of cheaper materials and cost in the neighborhood of $1,000-$2,000.

Often a residential Smith machine has a standard barbell with a 1″ diameter as opposed to the 2″ diameter of Olympic bars and plates. Although they do sell adapters so you can use Olympic plates.

In addition, the bar is usually not counterbalanced. So, while the bar is made of lighter steel than an Olympic bar, you feel the full weight. That means residential Smith machines can have a starting weight of around 30 lbs.

Another common cost-saving area is the slide mechanism for the bar on the rails. Residential Smith machines sometimes use nylon bushings as opposed to ball bearings. This makes the movement a little less smooth than a commercial Smith machine.

Commercial Smith Machines

On the other hand, a commercial Smith machine is one that you would find in a large gym. This is a piece of equipment made from higher quality materials and costs something like $3,000-$4,000.

Commercial Smith machines don’t always have Olympic quality bars, but they do fit 2″ diameter Olympic plates. And they usually have ball bearings as well as a counterbalance to reduce the starting weight to 30 lbs or less.

The table below shows the bar weight of a residential Smith machine compared to various commercial Smith machines.

How Much Does A Smith Machine Bar Weigh?

  Brand Bar Weight Angle Slide Type Counterbalance
Body Solid Residential Smith Machine Body-Solid Residential 32 lbs 0o Nylon Bushings No
Tuff Stuff Commercial Smith Machine Tuff Stuff 10 lbs 0o Linear Bearings Yes
Body Solid Commercial Smith Machine Body-Solid Commercial 6 lbs 12o Linear Bearings Yes
Hammer Strength 30 lbs 7o Linear Bearings Yes
Legend 25 lbs 5o Linear Bearings Yes

Table 1. Actual bar weights of popular Smith machines according to manufacturer data.

Keep in mind, the weights in Table 1 are what the equipment suppliers say the bar should weigh. But that doesn’t mean it’s exact.

In my experience, the weight may differ by 5 lbs or more from the specification. This is probably due to variation between machines and changes that occur with the bearings after years of use.

Therefore, if you’re a numbers nerd like me and you want to know exactly how much your particular Smith machine bar weighs, you might have to measure it!

How To Measure Smith Machine Bar Weight

There are a couple of different ways to measure the weight of a Smith machine bar using a scale or a rope and weight. I’ll start with the scale method since it’s easier and that’s how I did it.

Also, before you begin, it’s a good idea to talk to an employee at the gym so they know what you’re up to. Don’t be a weirdo tying ropes to machines or stealing bathroom scales without asking… be a weirdo with permission. 😂

Option 1: Scale

First, find a box or sturdy object you can use to hold the bar up off the safety stops at the bottom of the machine. Then put a scale on top of the box and let the bar rest on top of it. The readout on the scale will indicate the weight of the bar.

If you don’t have a box, you could put the scale on the floor, step on the scale while holding the bar, and record the weight. Then weigh yourself without the bar and subtract that from the first measurement.

How Much Does A Smith Machine Bar Weigh Scale Test
How Much Does A Smith Machine Bar Weigh Scale Test

When I did this test, the scale showed a weight of 18 lbs. Since this is an older analog scale, I also weighed a 20, 30, and 40 lb dumbbell to see if it was calibrated. Each one read about 2 lbs low. So the bar probably actually weighs 20 lbs.

According to an equipment supplier, the bar should have a starting weight of 25 lbs. Therefore, each machine is different, and wear and tear might change the resistance of the bar over time.

Of course, if you don’t have a scale, then you’ll have to use option 2.

Option 2: Rope & Weight

For this measurement, you’ll need a thin rope about 10 feet long and a series of 10, 5, and 2.5 lbs weight plates. Tie one end of a rope around the middle of the bar, Then throw the other end over the top crossbar of the machine.

Now move the bar up to one of the top hooks so the loose end of the rope is on the floor. On this end, tie some weight plates. Next, unhook the bar and see if it balances.

Add or remove weights until the bar is in near perfect balance. When the bar is balanced, the amount of weight tied to the rope is equal to the weight of the bar.

How Much Does A Smith Machine Bar Weigh Rope Test

I should point out that there are some flaws with this method.

First, you can only be as precise as the smallest weight plate you have available. So most likely +/- 2.5 lbs.

Second, the friction between the rope and the crossbar will make the bar look a little heavier than it is. Which means you could be off by 3 lbs or more.

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Why The Weight Of The Bar Is Important

Admittedly, that’s a lot of work for finding the weight of a Smith machine bar. So why does it matter in the first place?

For one, it helps you make more accurate percentage-based adjustments to the weight you lift week to week. This is an important part of any progressive overload plan.

Also, knowing the actual weight of the bar is useful for determining your starting weight based on a similar free weight exercise. For example, if you normally bench press 135 lbs, you may want to add a 10 lb plate on each side for Smith machine bench press.

Keep in mind this is not always a perfect comparison since the path of the Smith machine recruits different muscles.

Smith Machine Bar Weight Key Takeaways

  • On average, Smith machine bars weigh 15-25 lbs
  • Counterbalanced Smith machine bars may weigh less than 15 lbs
  • The angle of the Smith machine has little affect on the weight of the bar
  • Each machine is different, wear and tear can change the resistance of the bar
  • To get an accurate measurement, use a scale to weigh the bar on the machine

Conclusion

Now that I’ve answered the question “how much does a Smith machine bar weigh?”, you can have a better idea of how much weight you’re actually lifting when using this equipment.

While being off by a few pounds won’t make or break your fitness results, those who pay attention to the details tend to get results faster.

So if you’re the type who likes to get detailed answers to your fitness questions, check out some of my other related articles below.

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