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Nautilus Smith Machine review: Does it live up to its name?

By James Jackson
Last Updated on 8th July 2020

I remember the day like it was yesterday...

There was a buzz around the weight room, and all the lads were excited. Free protein shakes? Arnold coming to visit?

No. Our gym was getting Nautilus machines.

The very machines that Arthur Jones created in 1970 and which I'd ogled for years were coming to my gym. And like a dog salivating at a saucer of milk, I was ready to lap up the gains. And boy, did I make some gains on those variable resistance machines!

Those were the days.

The Smith machine is another great fitness invention. However, most companies simply copy what's already been done with little regard for innovation and, unfortunately for their users, with little regard for safety.

But within the vast sea of carbon copies that plague the industry, there are quality products to be had. And as you'll soon learn in this review, the Nautilus Smith Machine is most certainly a quality piece of gym equipment.

Nautilus Smith Machine facts and figures

I've tested, reviewed and critiqued over 45 Smith machines at this point. And so far, only one product has proven to be more durable (higher weight capacity) than the Nautilus Commercial Smith Machine. And even then it was a close call.

nautilus smith machine

So what all do you get for a Smith machine in the top 1%?

Nautilus gives us a counterbalanced Smith machine with a whopping 327kg weight capacity—and that's not including the 12 storage pegs conveniently placed at the back of the unit.

Yes, despite having a starting weight of just 7kg, this behemoth can support more than 7 plates per side. As such, it's a remarkably sturdy workout station that enables advanced lifters to test their strength without having to recruit an interfering spotter.

Likewise, it's an excellent tool for injury prevention (especially for beginners) because you can learn the proper form without having to lift a heavy barbell from day one.

Nautilus also goes to great lengths to encourage users to train safely. The bar catches, for example, are finished in a dark red colour that contrasts and compliments the design of the main frame. Like a lighthouse guiding a sailor to the shore, these distinct safety catches remind the user to set a limit on the bar travel before their set.

  • Dimensions: 170cm L x 226cm W x 208cm H
  • Dimensions (inches): 67" L x 89" W x 82" H
  • Unit weight: 294kg/648lbs
  • Weight capacity: 327kg/720lbs
  • Type of bearings: linear
  • Starting weight: 7kg/15lbs
  • Storage: 6 pegs per side

Nautilus Smith Machine design

You'll immediately notice that Nautilus Smith Machines have a 7-degree slant built into the frame. Like their iconic weight machine predecessors, this 7-degree angle enables us to utilise a more natural range of motion and ultimately, achieve faster and better results.

You see, no human lifts straight up and down. On bench presses, for example, we all have a natural tendency to arc the barbell backwards as we lock out the rep. So the closer a machine can emulate these natural human movement patterns, the stronger we'll be, and the more muscle we'll build.

Continuing with the theme of sevens, the counterbalance system creates a manageable starting weight of just 7kg. Naturally, this makes the machine a great choice for beginners, who typically need to use light weights initially to learn the correct technique.

There are also 9 lockout points on the frame so that users can easily re-rack the bar at any point during their set with a small turn of the wrist.

Similarly, Nautilus makes it easier for you to encourage your gym members to put their weights away by including 6 cleverly-designed weight pegs on each side of the machine. Aside from reducing trip hazards, this keeps the gym floor tidy and makes the weight room much more comfortable for everyone to use.

Nautilus Smith Machine build quality

When it comes to durability, it's clear that Nautilus doesn't take half measures.

While most so-called commercial Smith machines bow out at around 220kg, Naturalis gives us extra peace of mind by equipping their workout station with a whopping 327kg weight capacity.

As a result, the unit won't unnervingly wobble around as you work out. This stability is great for gym owners since you won't have to buy a new Smith machine anytime soon. But it's equally useful for gym members who want to test their strength since the solid frame and safety catches will always have their back.

The Technogym Multipower is another sturdy option if you're buying for a British or European facility. And so are Matrix Fitness, who actually make three different Smith machines. However, Nautilus still comes out on top in the durability department.

Nautilus Smith Machine safety features

As mentioned earlier in my Nautilus Smith Machine review, the unit comes equipped with easily-identifiable red safety catches that encourage users to choose their own range of motion.

This means that, should they fail on a rep, they won't have to scream across the weight room for help.

Instead, they can calmly lower the bar onto the safety catches, which with a weight capacity of 327kg, will easily bear the load and get them out of harm's way real quick.

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Nautilus Smith Machine assembly

The assembly manual begins with general usage guidance and then tells you how to properly anchor the equipment, which will prevent it from tipping over.

The instructions themselves consist of numbered steps written in good, concise English. This user-friendliness makes them much more digestible than the usual half-translated Chinese that other fitness companies make us decipher.

There's also a series of exploded diagrams so that you can see exactly where the pieces go.

As for how long it takes, it depends. If you're buying this as a Nautilus Smith Machine home gym, then it depends how mechanical you are. If you're buying this for your facility, then it's probably a good idea to let a professional assemble it, especially if you're ordering in bulk.

In case you are putting it together yourself, here are the tools you'll need:

  • 1/2" Box / Open End Spanner/Wrench (x2)
  • 3/8" Box / Open End Spanner/Wrench (x2)
  • 5/16" Box / Open End Spanner/Wrench (x2)
  • Hex Key/Allen key 5/16" (x2)
  • Hex Key/Allen key 7/32" (x2)
  • Hex Key/Allen key 3/16"(x2)

FAQ

What are the Nautilus Smith Machine dimensions?

The Nautilus Smith Machine measures 170cm L x 226cm W x 208 H.

How much does the bar weigh on the Nautilus Smith Machine?

The Nautilus Smith Machine bar weight is 7kg, which is roughly equal to 15lbs.

What exercises can you do on the Nautilus Smith Machine?

There are a variety of Nautilus Smith Machine exercises including:

Chest: incline bench presses, decline bench presses, flat bench presses
Back: bent-over rows, inverted rows, Smith machine pull-ups, deadlifts, rack pulls
Shoulders: shoulder presses, behind the neck presses, upright rows, rear delt rows
Arms: close grip bench presses, triceps extensions, biceps curls, drag curls, wrist curls
Legs: squats, lunges, step ups, Romanian deadlifts, hip thrusts, calf raises

Is the Nautilus Smith Machine NT-SM1 any good?

You can find older models such as the Nautilus Smith Machine NT SM1 on places like eBay. They're particularly good for home use since they have other features besides the Smith machine, enabling you to get a more varied workout.

How about the Nautilus Smith Machine NT-CC3?

This was a great Nautilus home gym Smith machine since it has cable crossovers and a pull-up bar. Definitely worth a look if you can find one for sale.

What's the Nautilus Smith Machine price?

The price varies depending on where you source the machine from. But you can always visit their website for more information. [1]

Where is the Nautilus Smith Machine for sale?

You can request a quote from Core Health and Fitness [2].

What weights do you recommend buying?

I recommend the Body Power 100kg Tri-Gip Olympic Disc Kit. It's available in 12 different sizes ranging from 17.5kg all the way up to 165kg. Whether you're buying for yourself or your facility, these plates are great value for money and are also incredibly durable. I've been using them for years, and I've got no complaints.

What adjustable bench goes well with the Nautilus Smith Machine?

I recommend the Body-Solid Flat/Incline/Decline Bench. It has an enormous 272kg weight capacity, 8 positions for the backrest and seat pad and also comes with a lifetime warranty and free delivery.

What kind of floor protection should I buy?

You can go with either floor mats or floor tiles.

If you're buying for your home gym, then floor mats are a good option because they're thicker than tiles and offer more cushion.

However, if you have a larger area to cover, say for a fitness studio or health club, then tiles make much more sense. They'll give your facility a more sleek, professional appearance and also save you money because you won't have to buy a separate equipment mat for each machine.

What's the verdict on the Nautilus Smith Machine?

When I think of Nautilus, I think of innovation, durability and the sweet gains I made on their iconic machines as a teenager [3].

But how does their Smith machine fair in the modern-day?

Put simply, there few—if any—Smith machines that can rival the safety and durability of what Nautilus has developed [4].

From the mammoth 327kg weight capacity to the user-friendly red safety catches, this Smith machine has everything a health club (or home gym) needs for its members to build muscle in a safe environment.

While most fly-by-night fitness companies last for only a few years, Nautilus has been around for decades, and their latest product line proves that they still have the muscle to compete with the big guns.

I hope that my Nautilus Smith Machine review was helpful. And be sure to let me know if you have any questions!

James Jackson
I'm a former academy rugby union player who specialises in strength and conditioning for competitive athletes. I split my time between coaching the next generation of British talent and creating hands-on gym equipment case studies at Smith Machine UK.
At Smith Machine UK, we create in-depth tests of the latest and greatest gym equipment on the British market so that you can create your dream home gym.
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