When you walk into a commercial gym and find Life Fitness machines, you can almost guarantee that you're going to have an awesome workout.
And as a gym owner, you know that your paying members will always appreciate a weight room full of Life Fitness equipment.
But today, we're talking about Life Fitness Smith machine systems specifically. And in particular, you'll find out which of their three products is the best Smith machine for your fitness facility.
Let's get into the reviews.
Eagle-eyed gym equipment admirers will notice that Life Fitness Optima Series is essentially an upgraded version of the old Life Fitness Fit Series Smith Machine from 2010. Thanks to exciting new developments in engineering and production, there's been major improvements in this time.
The Life Fitness OSSM Smith Machine now includes extra storage, a sturdier frame, and a more open, accessible design. As a result, it's a top choice for gym owners and fitness professionals seeking an easy-to-use, durable Smith machine that'll stand the test of time.
You'll quickly realise that the Optima Series isn't your ordinary linear Smith machine. Like all of the Life Fitness Smith machines, it comes with a 7-degree angle built into its frame to promote natural movement patterns, while also sparing your joints.
Clearly, this angled design is great for getting an effective workout because your joints are already pre-aligned in their optimal positions, which enables you to feel your muscles working more intensely.
Better still, the Optima Series Smith Machine comes with a space-saving, integrated squat rack so that you can quickly switch between free weight and machine exercises (and thus achieve a more effective workout in less time). The rack also has 11 steel lockout points for safe weight lifting and comes complete with an accompanying barbell holder so that you don't have to leave your barbell resting on the hooks.
Similarly, the Smith station, which is rated for a hefty 220kg, has 14 heavy-duty lockout points that allow you to re-rack the bar with a simple forward wrist turn—regardless of where you are in a rep.
The Smith bar itself weighs 20kg, giving it a familiar, free-weight feeling that'll instantly make advanced lifters feel at home, while also enabling them to accurately track their strength progress. Yet, at the same time, the Smith bar is an excellent tool for beginners because its size aptly prepares them for the world of free weights and Olympic barbells.
But most importantly, the Optima Series Smith Machine comes with linear bearings, which along with the angled frame, provide a smooth, frictionless bar path.
Of course, this fluid lifting motion is great for developing a stronger mind-muscle connection (and thus more muscle growth itself). However, it also helps to keep the stress off your joints (and thereby speed up your recovery) because there are no sudden sticking points that make your tendons and ligaments feeling like they're getting pulled apart.
The Hammer Strength Smith Machine has the highest weight capacity (295kg) of all the Life Fitness Smith machines, making it an excellent choice for health clubs with high member numbers who need the sturdiest possible equipment.
As with the Optima Series, the Hammer Strength Smith Machine has a 7-degree slant built-into its frame to provide users with a more natural bar path. In this sense, training on the Hammer Strength Smith Machine feels a lot like lifting free weights because the bar naturally arcs backwards as you lock out the rep. This actually increases your pushing strength on movements such as the bench press.
Similarly, the Hammer Strength Smith Machine comes equipped with linear bearings that enable the barbell (which weighs 9kg) to glide smoothly up and down the guide rods. Aside from alleviating uncomfortable joint strain, the fluid lifting motion also increases your muscle activation because there's no annoying friction that makes it hard to get a pump.
As anyone who's ever trained on Hammer Strength machines will attest to, the equipment is incredibly sturdy. And after using their Smith machine for well over a year, I'm glad to report that it's no exception.
The HS Smith Machine weighs a whopping 289kg, boasts a solid 295kg weight rating and is constructed from heavy-duty 11 gauge steel, which is the thickest steel used in gym equipment production. As a result, the unit is exceptionally sturdy and certainly won't wobble around under the pressure of intense, aggressive workouts.
Like with all their machines, Life Fitness also adorn the HS Smith machine with an aesthetically-pleasing powder coat finish. Besides giving the machine an air of luxury, the protective powder coat also helps to fight off wear and tear by making the frame resistant to scratches, chipping, heavy impact and even ultraviolet light.
On the safety side of things, the HS Smith machine comes equipped with 14 steel lockout points for easy barbell re-racking, enabling you to train without a spotter. Likewise, Life Fitness also includes a pair of adjustable safety catches, which gives you the peace of mind to train hard and heavy because you know that if you fail a rep, it doesn't matter because the safety caches have always got your back.
The Life Fitness Signature Series Smith Machine is essentially a less versatile (but slightly more heavy-duty) version of the Optima Series (which you saw me review above). It's significantly heavier than the Optima (264kg vs 180kg), and is also considerably wider and taller, indicating that it's a more rugged piece of equipment.
Additionally, the Signature Series (also called the Life Fitness Smith machine SSM) is by far the most expensive Life Fitness Smith machine. It's undoubtedly reserved for larger fitness facilities which can spend many thousands on a single machine.
As with the Optima, the Signature series has a 7-degree frame angle and a familiar 20kg starting weight, both of which liken this Smith machine to training with an Olympic barbell.
You essentially get smooth, free weight-like resistance, but with the added safety of a Smith machine. Naturally, this makes the Signature Series an excellent stepping stone between traditional gym machines and actual free weight training.
As is customary for Life Fitness Smith machines, the Signature Series includes 14 heavy-duty bar hooks to enable you to easily re-rack the barbell at any point during a rep with a simple turn of the wrist. Add in the adjustable safety catches, and you can see why the Signature Series is a popular choice for gym owners who want to allow their members to train alone in the utmost safety.
Similarly, Life Fitness equips the Signature Series's base with rubber feet to prevent the unit from sliding. Not only does this keep you safe, but it also enables you to generate more power since your mind isn't preoccupied with trying to stabilise the barbell.
As for storage, you'll get 8 heavy-duty weight plate pegs regardless of which Life Fitness Smith machine you buy. This is more than you get with the Precor Smith Machine and is a must-have feature for commercial gym owners because it encourages members to put their weights away, which in turn helps the gym floor to remain free from unnecessary trip hazards.
Here are the dimensions for each Life Fitness Smith Machine:
Life Fitness Optima Series: 130cm L x 185cm W x 223cm H/51" L x 73" W x 88" H
Life Fitness Signature Series: 125cm L x 221cm W x 237cm H/49" L x 87" W x 93" H
Hammer Strength: 127cm L x 220cm W x 237cm H/50" L x 86.5" W x 93" H
The Life Fitness Smith Machine bar weight is 20kg/45lbs for the Optima Series and the Signature Series.
If you're wondering how to use Life Fitness Smith Machine systems for building muscle, there are many possible exercises that you can do. In fact, you can do virtually every barbell exercise on the LifeFitness Smith Machine .
Chest: decline presses, incline presses, flat presses, reverse grip presses, bench throws
Back: bent over rows, single-arm rows, bodyweight rows, pull-ups, deadlifts, rack pulls
Shoulders: seated shoulder presses, behind the neck presses, upright rows, lateral raise, rear delt rows
Arms: bicep curls, drag curls, reverse curls, close-grip bench presses, skull crushers, triceps extensions, forearm curls
Quads: back squats, hack squats, front squats, split squats, lunges, step ups
Hamstrings: stiff-legged deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, good mornings
Glutes: glute bridges, hip thrusts, donkey kickbacks, kneeling squats
Calves: seated calf raises, standing calf raises, reverse calf raises
The cost of a Life Fitness Smith Machine can vary significantly. However, from my research, you're looking at around £3,000 - £6,0000 GBP.
You can check the latest price on their website.
The Life Fitness Optima Series Adjustable Bench is a useful accessory because it has a multitude of adjustable angles and is also extremely heavy duty. You'll find this bench in many commercial gyms around the globe.
Another good option is the Life Fitness G7 Functional Trainer. It comes with dual 73kg (160lb) weight stacks and provides endless amounts of cable exercises. Being a light commercial machine, it's ideal for smaller fitness facilities who want to increase member satisfaction by providing them with more training variety.
If you're buying for a commercial gym, then the Life Fitness Signature Series Dual Adjustable Pulley is a top choice for cable training and a great complement to any of their Smith machines. It provides friction-free movement and comes with a 1:4 resistance ratio, which makes it highly desirable to both beginners who're just learning the ropes and to advanced weightlifters who want to test their strength.
When you think of commercial gym equipment, Life Fitness is undoubtedly one of the first brands that pops into your head. Out of the thousands of hours that I've spent training on commercial gym equipment, my best workouts have always come from Life Fitness machines .
And my workouts on their three Smith machines were no exception. Their trio of Smith machines all produce unbelievably smooth resistance and come equipped with some of the most heavy-duty safety features on the market. I had no problem re-racking the barbell or activating the safety catches when I pushed things too far.
As for which is the best, I recommend going with the Life Fitness Optima Series Smith Machine because it offers the most bang for your buck. We mainly work with smaller commercial gyms, and I can definitely appreciate the Optima Series' versatility because It's the only Life Fitness Smith machine to include a squat rack (and it's also by far the cheapest).
However, if you want to provide your members with the sturdiest possible equipment, then the Hammer Strength Smith Machine is a brilliant choice. It has 75kg more weight capacity than the Optima Series (220kg vs 295kg), while also providing a lower starting resistance to help beginners learn the proper form without overexerting themselves. The Hammer Strength Smith Machine isn't the cheapest, but it's hard to beat on build quality.
Of course, you also have the Life Fitness Signature Series Smith machine. But frankly, I think the Optima Series is much better value (and just as sturdy in my personal experience).