Strength training is a huge growth category for the fitness industry. More and more customers are asking how to get fitter stronger and healthier by using products such as Smith Machines, Functional Trainers and Racks.
These versatile products are very popular due to the vast array of exercises that can be performed on them by consumers wanting to improve their strength, shape and functional ability.
There are many variations of thee products on the market today and we have put this buyer’s guide together to help navigate you through the confusion and highlight the features, advantages and benefits of them.
The Elite Fitness Difference
At Elite Fitness we have been educating and providing advice to customers on purchasing fitness equipment for nearly 30 years. We have a large selection of strength equipment both online and in-store to meet your budget, health and fitness requirements. No matter if you are a first-time purchaser or if you have experience similar products in the past we have the range to satisfy your requirements. Our range includes some of the best in the world with international brands such as Marcy, Torque, Inspire, Body Solid and Nautilus. We have also invested heavily in our brands of Silverback, Kolossus and Xtreme Elite.
When it comes to investing in this type of strength equipment for your health and fitness needs, there are many factors to take into consideration when selecting the right machine for you and your family.
We cannot emphasise the importance of trying or testing out strength equipment enough as the feel of the machine can be crucial in your buying decision, especially with a lot of options available.
When purchasing these types of strength gear make sure the retailer or supplier can service and support your product for years to come. At any given time on the market, there are many suppliers selling “too good to be true” products on Online auction websites for crazy prices. These machines are often over marketed and ongoing after sales support is usually non-existent. The companies advertise a product for a short time then disappear. Always buy from a reputable source that can offer parts and service for years to come from experienced and qualified technicians such as Elite Fitness.
Don’t rely on the warranty information alone as a safeguard, the company selling the product still needs to able to support the purchaser for the duration of the warranty.
What are the benefits of Smith Machines, Functional trainers and Racks?
Full Racks and Power Cages
Full Racks are basically 4 sided frameworks that allow the trainer to do leg squats, bench presses or deadlifts in a safe manner. They are constructed of box tubing or varying degrees of thickness and diameter depending on quality and price. They will have weight limits depending on these qualities. When a power rack is combined with a quality bench then the training options are limitless.
- Other factors to look for in a quality power rack are the width of the rack to allow room to conduct a full range of movements, solid connection points, good weld quality on joints and a heavy framework so the rack feels solid when being used.
- One other key area is the quality and positioning of the J-hooks (where the barbell will be stationed) and safety catches (adjustable hooks that need to be positioned just below the bottom range of motion of the exercise being undertaken). These hooks need to be strong and robust and the positioning points on the rack need to be able to accommodate all exercises.
Best options: Xtreme Elite K1 Power Rack & Torque 8ft Warrior Rig w/ Triple Cross
Half racks have two uprights (unlike the 4 on full racks) therefore tend to take up less space than full racks, are typically cheaper but can also be less robust than full racks but a good brand and well-constructed half rack can still allow for an excellent range of exercises and can also cater for full training progression. These racks also have j-hooks for the barbell and safety hooks. Framework and connection points all need to be constructed to the same degree of full cages.
Best options: Marcy SM 8117 Half Cage & Torque Arsenal 7-X Cage
A smith machine refers to a fixed movement with a guided vertical squat bar. This allows the user to increase weight significantly without worrying about control also safety is increased from free barbell work. Smith machines come in a variety of designs, some are attached to half racks but most are attached to full cages increasing robustness, overall solidity and versatility of training options.
The Smith bar is guided by rods inserted into the framework. The fluidity of the smith bars movement is determined by usually either plastic bushes on lower-priced products or a linear bearing mechanism on higher quality racks. Hardened solid steel guide rods ensure these linear bearing systems on quality systems glide smoothly, ensuring maximum efficiency for every exercise conducted.
The Smith movement is usually central to smith machines capabilities however a lot of manufacturers are adding other very useful movements to the Smith cage including adjustable high low cable systems, weight stacks, pec dec or outer bar catches so the trainer can also use the Smith cage to do free barbell squats and bench press as well as utilising the smith machine for these movements making these products hugely multi-functional.
Best options: Marcy 9010G Smith Machine & Inspire SCS Smith Cage
Functional trainers are specifically designed to allow the trainer to execute exercises in an unrestricted and natural style. They usually consist of dual weight stacks and pivoting pulley points with adjustable high and low pulley positions to allow the user to accomplish any exercise they wish when trying to simulate a sports specific movement, rehabilitation movement or an exercise that taxes their muscular system for growth.
Functional trainers need to be designed with a high degree of framework strength, smooth pulley and weight systems so as not to hinder the movements and multiple attachments so the trainers’ imagination can run riot with exercise variations.USA brands such as Inspire dominate in this area of design incorporating a high degree of engineering into every product they produce
Best options: Silverback Dual Pulley 1.0 & Inspire FT2 Functional Trainer/ Smith Machine
In recent years the Smith Machines, Functional trainers and Power Racks market in New Zealand has been flooded with cheap and inferior Chinese imports.
The main priority of these imports is to match a cheap price point. To match the price point the manufacturer will always compromise on quality by sourcing components from a variety of different factories to match these price points. These strength factories do not design, develop or test new innovation or efficiencies they are only interested in ‘churning out” inferior product with substandard warranties and no ongoing parts or after sales support. Typically these factories are short lived.
When purchasing a Power rack, functional trainer or smith machine from USA brands such as Inspire, Torque Fitness, Body Solid, or our own range of Xtreme Elite or Silverback you are receiving assurances that the development, innovation and testing of these multi-gyms are of the highest possible international standards. These brands are responsible for 100’s patents, continually striving to design and engineer products that are at the cutting edge of home production. This desire to bring the international consumer, quality home gyms for the last few decades is reflected in their outstanding warranties.
Often manufacturing warranties from leading brands such as these are superior and reflect the highest grade and standard of componentry incorporated with their products as they are required to meet strict European Standards such as CE, GS, TUV, ROHS, IS9001.
Framework tubing, powder coating, cable strength, pulley quality, biomechanics and adjustments are all hugely important when designing strength equipment.
Below are examples of the type of specifications only found on quality internationally engineered strength equipment;
- Heavy-Duty 2″ x 4″ Oval 11 Gauge Tubular Steel Frame
- Maintenance-Free Electrostatic Powder Coat Finish
- Bearing System: Precision Steel linear Ball Bearing system provides a smooth, maintenance-free action.
- Heat treated Solid steel guide rods to aid smoothness and durability of the bearing system. durability
- Pulleys: Fiberglass reinforced nylon.
- Finish: Storm grey wrinkle textured powder-coat paint
- Hardware: Zinc plated 1/2” Grade 5 socket head cap screws with oversized washers and nylock nuts.
- Westside hole spacing
When investigating strength equipment always check that the manufacturer can supply detailed information on the construction quality of their products.
If the only information is a weight limit and a good image on the internet then be very wary.
Just like test driving a new car, it is important to come and try our range of Power racks, Smith machines and Functional trainers in store. We invite you to drop into your nearest Elite Fitness Store to experience them for yourself and have any questions answered by our knowledgeable and friendly staff.
Written by Elite Fitness Team,
November 13, 2018