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A Smith machine can be a good addition to a home gym. But can you fit one in your space and should you go for the tallest one you can find? Let’s find out.
The average height of a Smith machine is 84.9” /215.65 cm. Heights range from 80”/203.2 cm to 92”/233.68 cm. A Smith machine of average height is tall enough for the vast majority of people. The only exercise height could limit is the standing shoulder press which can easily be performed seated.
Find out the exact data and what you should look for in Smith machine height below.
How tall are Smith machines?
Not every home gym can be built in a place that has very high ceilings. How tall is the average Smith machine? Here is a list of the most popular models.
There are different types of Smith machine in this list. Some are combinations of functional trainers and Smith machines while others are also capable of holding a free barbell while others still are just a Smith machine and nothing else. That said, there isn’t as much variability in height even between those different types as you might think.
The average height of a Smith machine is 84.9” /215.65 cm. The heights range from 80”/203.2 cm to 92”/233.68 cm.
The vast majority of the machines is very close to the 84.9” average height. As you can see most of the Smith machines in the list above are between 83” and 86” tall (210.8 to 218.4 cm). That means that most of these machines fit under a 7.5’ high ceiling.
Is a taller Smith machine better?
Is it better to get a Smith machine that is taller? Can you do more exercises if you’ve got a taller Smith machine?
Pretty much every Smith machine will be tall enough to stand under and for the barbell to get around head height. (unless you’re really tall.) That means that every exercise where the bar is around shoulder height at the highest, is no problem. That leaves exercises where the barbell goes above the shoulders.
Those would be the shoulder exercises like a shoulder press or military press. Olympic style weightlifting also has exercises where the barbell is pushed above the shoulders but this style of exercise shouldn’t be performed with a Smith machine anyways.
For people of average height, doing standing shoulder exercises in a Smith machine is usually not possible. Most machines are too short for that. However, shoulder exercises are pretty easily modified by sitting down on a bench. Just perform your shoulder presses seated and any machine will be tall enough because if you push the bar up while seated, it will get up to about a standing shoulder height.
Because a Smith bar has a fixed path anyways (with the exception of the BodyCraft Jones line), you don’t get the stabilizer muscle engagement like you would with a free barbell anyways. So performing them standing in a Smith machine has minimal benefits. So opting for a taller machine just to perform standing shoulder exercises is not worth it. The benefits are minimal and you severely limit the choices you have.
Now of course if you buy a machine that combines a Smith bar with other functionality, that other functionality might also be important. And therefore the height will be important. If you have a combination of a functional trainer and Smith machine, you definitely want it to be tall enough so the pulleys are above your head. However, the average height of a functional trainer is close to the average height of a Smith machine so in practice, this isn’t really going to be an issue you have to worry about.
Getting a Smith machine that’s around average height will be the best option for most people. Unless you’re taller than 6’5, most average height machines will fit you perfectly fine.
Can I use a short Smith machine?
If you’re limited in headroom, can you get away with getting a machine that’s shorter than average?
As you can see above, there are only a few exercises where height is going to be an issue and there are ways around it if necessary. So how short can you go? That depends on the specific machine and how tall you are.
There are a few things you want to be able to do in a Smith machine:
- Stand up straight under it without hitting your head
- Having the barbell at about shoulder height
The first one is by far the most important and if you can stand in the machine and walk around under it without hitting your head, the second one is not going to be a problem. The shoulder height is a good reference point because that’s roughly the height the bar is going to go up to when doing overhead exercises while sitting down.
But of course if you can stand up under a Smith machine, shoulder height shouldn’t be a problem.
Keep one thing in mind though: The overall height is not the height you have under the machine. The height in the list above is the overall height from top to bottom. That doesn’t take the frame/bracing on top of the machine into account. It’s the bracing in the front that matters. That’s because that is the place where you enter the machine. You want to be able to walk into the machine without hitting your head on the top brace.
Take a look at the pictures of the machine and see what the highest point is and what the front brace looks like. If there is only a brace on the top back of the machine, that means the front is open to walk into and the overall height is less important.
If there is a brace that goes over the top in front, you’ll have to pass under it to get into position and you don’t want that to be so low you’ll hit your head. In this case, check out the pictures carefully and try to see how high the opening is. In most cases, this is only going to be a problem if you’re over 6’. If you’re 6’ or under, even the short machines are going to be fine.
However people over 6’ should select a machine that’s tall enough or go for one with an open front.
Pull up bar
It’s worth mentioning the pull up bar separately. Most dedicated Smith machines don’t have one but if you have a machine that combines different things into one, it probably does. If you want the pull up bar to be functional, you need about 16” of headroom above it. In some cases that means picking a slightly shorter machine means you’ll have a more functional pull up bar.
If picking a machine that leaves 16” of headroom above the pull up bar means it’s not tall enough to stand in, you’ll have to make a compromise.
Many people often forget a few important pieces of their home gym that isn’t directly gym equipment. Here are my favorite home gym tools.
- Interval timer: To time your intervals and all types of other workouts, the GymNext Flex is easily the best and easiest to use.
- Mirrors: Fab & Glass (Amazon link) makes the best large mirror sheets so you can see your exercise form.
- Flooring: American Floor Mats gym flooring (Amazon) or equipment mats make your gym quieter, easier to clean and keeps your floor and equipment safe.
- Fan: The Rowenta VU5670 (Amazon) is a great way to stay cool while working out.