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Is the TuffStuff Proformance Plus PPL-900 the world's strongest Smith machine?

By James Jackson
Last Updated on 19th August 2020

The TuffStuff Proformance Plus Smith Machine PPL-900 is designed and made in Chino, CA and boasts the highest weight capacity (1500lbs) of any Smith on the market. If you've been on the gym equipment scene for a while, then you'll know that these two facts are incredibly impressive.

For starters, most fitness companies don't even touch their own products because they inevitably decide to cut costs by outsourcing production to whoever offers them the best deal. Unfortunately, this means we have a gym equipment market that's flooded with poorly made products that often break down after a few years of moderate use, which is especially dangerous when it comes to Smith machines.

Second, 1500lbs?

I could barely believe my British eyes when I read that! Considering that weight capacity is highly correlated with durability and function (smoothness of the bar path), the PPL-900 could well be the best commercial Smith machine in existence. So let's see exactly what makes it a good investment for fitness facilities.

TuffStuff Proformance Plus Smith Machine (PPL-900) facts and figures

If you're fed up of rickety old Smith machines that feel like they haven't been lubricated in 10 years, then you'll love the TuffStuff PPL-900 because it comes with self-aligning linear bearings as standard.

The TuffStuff PPL-900

This smart design feature makes each set more productive because you can focus 100% of your attention on working your muscles (you know, the real reason why we go to the gym). In other words, the bar glides along the uprights without awkwardly swaying from side to side because the linear bearings give the counterbalanced barbell complete stability.

While not as compact as the CXT-200 Corner Multi-Functional Trainer, the frame itself measures 53" L x 87" W x 91" H and tips the scales and 425lbs, yet another indicator of the PPL-900's robust build quality. But even at this weight, the PPL-900 won't leave scuff marks all over your gym floor because it comes equipped with rubber feet, which also give the unit an extra layer of stability.

Unlike other Smith machines, the PPL-900 comes with a real 7-foot Olympic barbell. Yet with an intelligent counterbalance system, the bar has a starting weight of just 10lbs. This means that both beginners and advanced weight lifters can test their strength and easily keep track of their progress (10lbs is easy to add to the weight on the bar).

And to top it all off, TuffStuff gives us 4 plate pegs so that we can easily keep our weight room tidy and free from trip hazards.

Pros
  • Comes with fully adjustable spring action safety catches for spotter-free training
  • Includes self-aligning linear bearings for a smooth bar path
  • 7-foot Olympic barbell is counterbalanced to a beginner-friendly 10lbs
  • Has a mammoth 1500lb load capacity
  • Comes with built-in Olympic weight storage
  • Offers 10 lockout points for easy barbell reracking
  • Manufactured in the USA
Cons
  • Somewhat pricey

TuffStuff PPL-900 design

Frame

close up of the frame of the TuffStuff Proformance Plus Smith Machine PPL-900

Some people say that angled Smith machines offer a more natural range of motion. And for flat barbell bench press, I can see this being the case because most of us naturally arc the bar backwards as we lock out a rep. However, for the majority of exercises, a vertical Smith machine offers the greatest stability and safety because the range of motion is completely predictable.

In other words, with the PPL-900's 90-degree frame, there are no sudden curves in the bar paths that could knock your joints out of whack and cause an injury. Add this to the adjustable safety catches, and you can see why the PPL-900 is a top choice for training without a spotter.

I also like the open, walk-through design because it makes wheeling a bench inside ridiculously easy. Plus, you don't feel claustrophobic when you're lifting, which definitely pushes you to aim for new PRs because you know that you won't accidentally crash into the frame or catch your clothes on some internal component.

TuffStuff's colour choices for their Smith machine

And, if you enjoy designing the colour scheme of your gym, then you're in luck. Because TuffStuff offers the PPL-900 in 7 striking finishes:

  • Charcoal Texture
  • Platinum Sparkle
  • Red Baron II
  • Sky White
  • Twilight Blue
  • Matte Black
  • Wrinkle Black

Barbell

Bodybuilders, powerlifters and anyone with a love for weight lifting will instantly feel at home while lifting on the TuffStuff PPL-900. It comes with a familiar 7-foot Olympic barbell that has plenty of knurling, as well as a 47" inside grip width.

Naturally, this design means that you'll be able to generate maximum pressing power because your sweaty palms will be no match for the commercial-grade knurling on this counterbalanced barbell.

female fitness models doing back squats

Yet even rank beginners can benefit from TuffStuff's advanced barbell design. With a starting resistance of just 10lbs, you don't need to push yourself to the limit on day one. In fact, users of any ability level can get a great workout with the PPL-900 because the light starting weight is so conducive to learning the correct technique.

Similarly, the self-aligning linear bearings create an incredibly fluid bar path that enables you to focus purely on the working muscle and setting new personal bests. There's no need to think about pushing equally with both arms or legs (though doing so is still a good idea for avoiding muscular imbalances) because the PPL-900 automatically regulates the barbell positioning. It does not tilt from side to side like the knock-offs that plague the market.

If you're looking for an all-in-one product that's also capable of coping with the commercial gym environment, then you can read our TuffStuff CSM-725WS review to learn more.

Storage

Who likes a messy gym floor?

I certainly don't. That's why I was so impressed to see that TufStuff equipped the PPL-900 with not 2 but 4 plate posts. And unlike the competition, they flexed their gym equipment manufacturing knowledge by ensuring that the storage pegs aren't awkwardly high.

This is doubly beneficial because (1) it's easy to access your weight discs and (2) the plates can't fall from height and cause serious injury, which is extremely important as a fitness facility owner.

TuffStuff PPL-900 build quality

With an astounding 1500lb weight capacity, it's clear the TuffStuff PPL-900 lives up to its robust brand name. But what makes it so durable?

Well, for starters, the 2" x 4" 11 gauge oval tubular steel is combined with 2" round gauge steel, which makes the frame incredibly resistant to impact and heavy usage. This also means that you won't need to upgrade your equipment every few years like you generally have to do with some cheaper machines.

Muscualr woman doing a squat exercise

Moreover, the frame comes complete with an 8-step electrostatically-applied powder coat finish that enables the PPL-900 to withstand dents, scratches and chips with ease. Also, since the coating is precisely applied, there's very little wastage, which is great for the environment. You'll also find this on the TuffStuff CSM-600 Evolution Smith Machine/Half Cage Combo, which is a fantastic light commercial option if you also want a built-in squat rack.

On the workout side of things, keen lifters will be pleased to know that the steel shafts are made from 1.25" solid steel while being case hardened for further durability, and even polished to reduce friction. Ultimately, this user-friendly design results in a friction-free lifting motion that provides a potent muscle stimulus while simultaneously minimising joint stress.

TuffStuff PPL-900 safety features

The Tuff Stuff PPL-900 Smith machine comes with 10 lockout points and fully adjustable spring action safety catches so that you can test your limits even if you don't have a spotter handy. As a gym owner, this safety-first design means that your beginner clientele will feel at home because they don't have to rush into free weights straight away. Instead, they can familiarise themselves with barbell training by learning the correct form on the Tuff Stuff PPL-900.

Yet advanced lifters can also receive similar benefits. Due to the PPL-900 having the highest weight capacity of any Smith machine, you really can aim for new personal records with complete peace of mind because you know that even if you fail on a rep, the spring action safety catches have always got your back. If only the same could be said for the average gym spotter!

And as if that wasn't enough, TuffStuff makes our workouts that bit safer by equipping the PPL-900 with rubber feet to keep the machine from wobbling around as you put that impressive 1500lb weight capacity to work. This design is also great for keeping your gym floor (mostly) free from scuff marks, which means there's less maintenance work needed on your end.

What's the verdict?

The verdict on the TuffStuff PPL-900 is guilty—guilty of exceeding expectations. It's rare to find a Smith machine these days that offers a genuine 500lb weight capacity. So when I saw that the PPL-900 was rated for 3x that much, I knew TuffStuff was onto a winner.

The full commercial construction enables the PPL-900 to thrive in the intense weight room environment while the 10 lockout points and fully adjustable spring action safety catches let users become stronger without risking injury.

And best of all, we're treated to a great workout every time curtesy of the self-aligning linear bearings, which provide a much smoother range of motion than your typical commercial Smith.

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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