Today, we're taking a break from our usual home Smith machines reviews and going commercial.
If you own a fitness facility and are thinking of investing in a new Smith machine, then listen up.
I recently tested the latest Precor Smith Machine for the UK market—the 802 model. Precor's newest Smith machine iteration is part of their Discovery Series, which is their line of gym equipment that focuses on ease of use and proper biomechanics to provide users with a more effective workout.
I did a full upper body workout along with a few leg exercises to put the machine through its paces. But before I get into my verdict, let's dive into the facts and figures.
For the better part of my gym career, my health club had an entire suite of old-school Precor machines. Now I'm not talking about old-school-style machines; I'm on about genuine 20+-year-old workout stations that looked like they were straight out of Pumping Iron.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, my gym then decided to "upgrade" their nationwide facilities with hundreds of modern gym machines that looked more like robots than workout stations. When the gym opened back up after its so-called "refurbishment", there was a complete uproar in the weight room. I'd say that at least 30% of members packed in their memberships—me included.
How was it that these expensive, brand-new machines were worse—much, much worse— than machines that were more than 20 years old?
Well, suffice to say that Precor knows a thing or two about creating a durable workout station. However, until recently, I'd never tried their Smith machine. Had they maintained their old-school feel in their new Discover Series equipment?
As it turns out, the answer is yes. Their Smith machine has 16 lockout points, an 11-degree slant built into the frame and a non-counterbalanced starting weight of 11.3kg.
Precor has equipped the latest version with 6 weight storage pegs, 2 exercise placards, adjustable safety stops and a whopping 272kg weight capacity. Let's take a look at each feature in more detail.
Including the barbell, the frame measures 142cm L x 214cm W x 229cm H and tips the scales at 179kg. Its above average height affords users an 80" head clearance, enabling taller and shorter members to use the Smith machine comfortably.
Similarly, the 802 Smith machine has an open, walk-through design for easy access from both sides of the unit. This setup means that users don't have to awkwardly climb over a bench to access the work area, which is especially useful for those who train with a partner.
The most striking feature, however, is the 11-degree slant that's built into the frame. Like a certain leaning tower found in Italy, the innovative 11-degree angle differentiates Precor's Smith machine from the army of others that offer nothing new besides their brand name.
Since no human lifts straight up and down, the subtle angle creates more optimal movement patterns by positioning our joints in a stronger, safer position.
I noticed this the most while bench pressing because, if we're using proper form, we naturally arc the bar backwards slightly as we lock out a bench press rep. Most notably, I was stronger by about 10% compared to lifting on a regular Smith machine. Yet despite lifting heavier, I could also feel more tension in my chest—and most importantly, less strain on my shoulders.
While most companies rave about their expensive and confusing counterbalance systems, Precor sticks to its roots by giving us a familiar, free weight-like barbell with an 11.3kg starting resistance (same as the Matrix Magnum Smith Machine).
Aside from its enticing old-school appeal, the traditional Smith bar has some other nice benefits that both beginners and advanced gym users will appreciate.
First off, the resistance feels smooth because you don't get any friction during your reps. Naturally, this enables you to get a more effective workout since you feel the tension in your muscles rather than in your joints.
Also, the 3.5cm grip diameter makes the barbell easy to grasp. Not only does this increase user safety by making your grip more secure, but it also enables you to generate extra power by squeezing the bar more firmly.
Yet for those just learning the ropes, the manageable 11.3kg starting weight enables beginners to learn the proper form without straining themselves by lifting heavy weights. Plus, since the bar has the feel of a free weight barbell, novices will be more prepared once they graduate to free weight training.
There are also 16 lockout points (spread 10cm apart) on both sides of the frame. While training alone, I was easily able to re-rack the bar at virtually any point during the movement with a small forward wrist turn. This ease of use was particularly helpful since I didn't have a training partner to spot me.
Precor has equipped the 802 Smith machine with 6 storage horns (like Nautilus) to encourage gym users to put their weights away.
Each peg measures 25cm long and can accommodate up to 6x20kg plates or 5x25kg plates, another indication of the frame's impressive durability.
The Precor Smith Machine is made from 11 gauge trapezoidal steel, which is an incredibly thick type of metal that's often used in the construction of buildings.
Unsurprisingly the unit has a very high loading capacity—272kg to be precise. This is slightly more than other commercial products, like the Signature Series Smith machine.
The unit also comes with a heavy-duty leveller device that helps it to cope with uneven floor surfaces. This stability naturally makes the machine safer for users because the base is more stable.
Similarly, Precor equips the 802 with rubber feet to protect the floor from damage, which is important considering that this behemoth weighs 179kg.
Another clever feature that lends itself to long-term durability is the bearing system that makes the barbell move. Since there's no counterbalance system, there are fewer complex moving parts (which are typically more prone to wear and tear).
Besides making the unit feel familiar for the user (Olympic barbells aren't counterbalanced), the absence of a counterbalance system extends the life of the machine, enabling Precor to include a 10-year warranty on the frame and a 5-year guarantee on the parts.
Precor tackles safety from two distinct angles.
First, the practical side. They include a pair of highly-visible (and adjustable) safety stops to enable users to train safely without a spotter, which reduces their injury risk.
Also, Precor includes 2 exercise placards on the back of the frame at head height. These convenient exercise placards come complete with QR codes that enable users to get quick instructions on their smartphones. It's essentially like having your own interactive gym instructor to show you the proper form.
Also check out the Technogym Smith machine if you're ordering for a British or European fitness facility.
Before you start the assembly, you'll need to leave at least 40" of space between this machine and any others, as well as 40" of space from the wall. You'll also need at least two people to put it together. But if you intend to have your Smith machine(s) professionally installed, then you don't need to worry about this.
The instructions themselves consist of numbered steps, and also close-up diagrams for the more nuanced sections (such as attaching the bar).
Precor lists out all the small parts from the hardware kit and includes their exact measurements so that you can easily differentiate between similar-looking washers and bolts.
There are also instructions on how to bolt the unit to the gym floor for extra stability.
Here are all the tools you'll need:
The Precor Smith Machine bar weight is 11.3kg or 25lbs.
You can buy it on Precor's official website.
I'm no expert in commercial gym purchasing (I'm just a third-party tester), but I think that it depends on your order quantity, among other things. You can contact Precor for a quote, and they'll let you know .
While I prefer the 802 model, I like the Precor Icarian Smith Machine a lot. I actually tried it out when I was abroad and had some great workouts .
Since I took an interest in commercial gym equipment a few years ago, many new brands have come on the scene. And while most do a reasonably good job, they bring nothing new to the table other than a snazzy logo or catchy slogan.
Precor, on the other hand, is continuously innovating. They built an 11-degree slant into their 802 Smith machine to allow for a more natural range of motion. And as a user, I really liked it. I was stronger, my muscle got a great workout and my shoulders felt calmer and less irritable.
Yet they don't sacrifice their traditional weightlifting appeal that I've enjoyed for so many years. Rather than including a flimsy counterbalance system, they use a traditional barbell that feels a lot like lifting free weights. Except, of course, that you get the added safety and control of a Smith machine.
Overall, the Precor Smith machine is probably above the average home user's budget. But if you have a health club, fitness studio or any kind fo fitness facility, then the 802 Smith machine is an excellent choice.