Here at Smith machine UK, we're constantly researching and reviewing the lastest safety-focused strength training equipment. Most of the team, including me, lift at home without a training partner. So we're always on the lookout for innovative home gyms that provide an intense, yet safe workout.
However, our high standards for both safety and usability has meant exposing fitness companies who're more interested in lining their pockets than providing great home gyms for you and me (thankfully Weider isn't one of them).
And while the Weider Pro 8500 Smith Cage Machine isn't necessarily a bad product, the market has simply moved on, and there are now much better options available for those serious about their home workouts (in my opinion).
If you're in a rush, you can just skip to the end to see the gem of a home gym that we recommend instead.
As you'll soon learn in my Weider Pro 8500 review, this Weider Smith machine home gym is a versatile workout system that falls short in a few key areas.
But let's start with the good stuff.
Well, first of all, it's a Weider machine. The company deservedly has a strong reputation for innovation in the fitness industry, especially in bodybuilding circles. Their late founder, Joe Weider, created the world's first sports nutrition company (Weider Nutrition), published countless magazines including Flex and along with his brother Ben, founded the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB).
The Weider Smith Machine 8500 replaces 7 common gym machines: squat rack, Smith machine, low row, cable crossover, pec deck, preacher curl, hamstring curl and leg extension. And to top it all off, there's an adjustable bench with flat, decline, incline and military press positions.
Naturally, the Weider Pro 8500 Smith Cage is an attractive home gym for those who enjoy having plenty of variety in their workout regimes. Virtually anything that you can do in a commercial gym strength training wise (aside from bodyweight exercises) you can do on the Weider 8500.
However, during my research, some users noted that the cable pulleys weren't as smooth as they'd hoped, citing excessive friction as the main culprit.
Also, the warranty information is very ambiguous. For example, in the product description, we're told that we get 2 years guarantee (could be the third-party seller's fault). But in the manual, which is the source that I'd tend to believe, it says that we only get 90 days warranty.
It's pretty disappointing in either case considering that many other home gym companies now offer 5-10 year warranties as standard. More on that later.
The Weider Smith station uses linear bearings to provide a fluid lifting motion, which according to most users, was much smoother than the cable pulley's resistance. The benefit of this for us is that we can achieve a more reliable mind-muscle connection because there are no sudden sticking points that make it hard to get a pump.
Furthermore, a strong mind-muscle connection often leads to to the grand prize of muscle growth itself (as long as your diet is appropriate, of course).
You'll also notice that the Smith station has multiple lockout points for re-racking the barbell. These bar hooks are always great to have around, but they're especially useful if you often train alone like I do because they enable you to lift without a spotter.
The Weider Pro 8500 Smith Cage is a pretty bulky home gym, all things considered. However, the company actually makes clever use of space by installing a free weight rack on the front of the frame's main uprights—opposite to the Smith machine.
This convenient 2-for-1 makes it easy to perform Smith machine and free weight supersets—a very effective combination for finishing off a muscle when you perform a heavy barbell lift (like a flat bench) followed by a higher rep Smith machine movement (such as incline bench).
The barbell rests, which are height adjustable, support a total resistance of 141kg (310lbs). While many other home gyms offer twice this capacity, making them far sturdier, a 141kg weight rating is still decent. Especially considering that the Weider Pro 8500's audience is mainly beginners and intermediates, who aren't typically concerned with optimal progress.
On the safety side of things, the adjustable bar catches enable you to lift without a spotter because they stop you from getting pinned underneath the barbell in the event of muscular failure—if you remember to adjust them, that is.
Like that tasty, calorie-loaded dessert that you ordered at the restaurant, the pulleys seem fine at a glance. But if you're getting this gym for the cables, then there's a chance that you might have to endure buyer's remorse afterwards—when the sugar-rush of your new purchase turns into regret.
I read thousands of home gym reviews before creating this site, and I have to be honest, the Weider Pro 8500—and specifically, its cable system—probably received more complaints than nearly any other product.
Many users noted that although the pulleys were ok when lubricated, they also produced more friction than expected, causing their cable exercises to become less effective.
For me, the lack of smooth resistance is a deal-breaker because, aside from Smith machines, cables are probably my favourite piece of gym equipment. Getting an effective workout using cables that are cursed with friction is like trying to set a new 100m world record by sprinting through mud—it's not fun, and it never works.
Similarly, the weight carriage only supports 68kg (150lbs), which is quite limiting on compound exercises like lat pulldowns, and especially on cable rows. Also, you can check out our Tunturi SM60 review if you just want a quality Smith machine without any cables.
The pec deck arms, which each support up to 22kg (48lbs) of resistance, function independently of one another. Naturally, this makes the pec deck a great station for ensuring that both sides of your chest receive equal work—thus making your physique look proportional.
However, since pushing 22kg on a machine feel much lighter than lifting 22kg dumbbells, you're going to need to perform high reps exclusively if you want to enjoy this station's best effects.
Like the previous Weider Smith machines, the Pro 8500 comes with an adjustable bench that has both leg developer and preacher curl attachments.
But let's stick with the bench for now. It supports users of up to 136kg (300lbs) and offers various positions, including decline, incline and upright angles. As a result, you can build a better-looking chest by performing all the different types of bench press.
The leg developer has 6 foam rollers to reduce lower body discomfort when you're getting close to the 68kg weight rating. Unlike other multi gyms, you can perform both quad extensions and lying hamstring curls. You're not saddled with standing hamstring curls, which force you to use significantly less weight, thereby reducing muscular development.
Like the leg attachment, the preacher pad has thick foam padding and offers a 68kg weight capacity. It also comes with a handle so that you can mimic machine curls and get constant biceps tension, which is handy if you don't have access to dumbbells.
Related review: Tunturi SM80 Full Smith Machine
Overall, the Icon Fitness Weider Pro 8500 Smith Cage looks pretty sturdy. After all, it's made from steel and weighs a hefty 148kg. And that's without weights.
However, the 90-day warranty does make me question whether or not this home gym can stand up to long term use. The fact that users were experiencing cable friction shortly after buying the 8500 doesn't exactly feel me with hope.
That said, the vinyl upholstery on the bench is comfortable by all accounts. And vinyl, while a relatively cheap material, is durable and easy to maintain. So that's something to smile about. But not enough to compensate for the dubious warranty if you ask me.
Now let's take a look at the Weider Pro 8500 Smith Cage dimensions and safety features.
As mentioned earlier in my Weider Pro 8500 review, this home gym is both heavy and bulky. However, if you remove the bench from the equation, the dimensions aren't as off-putting.
The handy thing about the bench being separate from the central unit is that you can easily store it against a wall while it's not in use. This way, you'll also have more space inside the actual work area to do Smith machine and cable exercises.
The weight capacities are also generally pretty reasonable:
Although the Weider Pro 8500 Smith Cage Strength Trainer is pretty lacklustre when it comes cable training, it does a much better job on the user safety side of things, which is great for those of us who train alone.
I like that Weider equips the free weight rack with adjustable safety catches. Doing so puts us in control by allowing us to dictate our own range of motion.
Obviously, you have to get the safety stops in the correct position. But once you get a knack for finding the optimal position for a given exercise, you'll mentally be able to push yourself harder because you know that the safety catches have always got you covered if you reach muscular failure and can't lock out that final rep.
The weight plate storage pegs are a hidden, often overlooked safety benefit of the Pro 8500 because they minimise trip hazards by enabling you to keep your workout area tidy. Having 4 of them also means that you don't need to spend extra money on weight disc trees.
On the theory side of things, Weider really starts to flex its fitness knowledge. The Pro 8500 comes with an exercise chart to help beginners learn the proper form, and also has a range of other tips and tricks to help us get faster results, including:
Weider has a lot of experience in the fitness industry. And in that time, it seems like they've cracked the code to creating easy-to-follow assembly instructions.
Before you begin, you'll need to recruit a second set of hands and source the following tools:
After that, you can tuck into the meat of the assembly, which consists of 66 small steps.
The manual kicks things off with a helpful identification chart for the small parts (nuts, bolts, washers, etc.), which can often look strikingly similar. At this point, I recommend sorting the smaller components into piles. This way, you won't have to interrupt your flow and hunt for parts at every single step.
Each step consists of clear and concise textual instruction, to help you avoid overwhelm, as well as exploded schematics so that you can see precisely where to put each part .
Weider also bolds important info for extra clarity (such when to fully tighten the bolts and when to just leave them finger tight). This guidance helps you to avoid mistakes that could require you to redo entire sections of the gym.
Likewise, whenever they tell you to attach a part, they include a corresponding identification number so that you can cross-reference the component in the convenient parts list in the back of the manual. The parts list also enables you to verify that you've got all the necessary parts, or if you've been shortchanged.
The final section of the assembly instructions consists of 3 exploded diagrams that give you a handy bird's eye view of the entire home gym, allowing you to check that you've got all the parts their rightful places.
Also consider: Valor Fitness BE-11 Smith Machine
I recommend the affordable Body Power 185kg TRI-GRIP Olympic Weight Set.
I've been using these plates for years, and I've got no complaints. The weights are accurate and having tri-grips makes carrying the heavier discs easy (especially when your arms are fatigued after bicep curls or high volume back training).
You can get these Body Power plates in 10 different weights, ranging from a beginner 85kg set all the way to a 235kg powerlifting disc collection. Each set also comes with two spring collars and an Olympic barbell, so you'll have everything you need for your home gym—regardless of whether you buy the Weider Pro 8500 or go for something else.
The Weider Pro 8500 Smith cage doesn't come with a barbell. However, the Olympic weight set that I recommended above does come with a 7ft Olympic bar.
I recommend investing in the Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbbell Set if you want something durable but also relatively affordable.
This 20kg set ascends in manageable 1.1kg increments (try getting that precision elsewhere), and you can upgrade them to 34kg, 54.5kg—even 74.8kg with a simple add-on kit (which you can buy at a later date if you only need a modest amount of weight initially).
Unlike other home dumbbells, these Ironmaster Quick-Lock Dumbells are made from steel and iron—and they don't rattle around like cheaper alternatives. Ironmaster, who always stands behind its products, even says that you can drop their dumbbells with peace of mind. Hence, every set comes with a lifetime warranty.
If you want something a bit cheaper, then the Bowflex 2-24 Kg SelectTech Dumbbells are also a good option.
These adjustable dumbbells provide 15 different weights, come with a workout app for tutorials and also have durable moulding around the metal plates to fight off wear and tear.
However, they only come with a 2-year warranty. But that doesn't stop the Bowflex SelectTech from being a popular choice among personal trainers with their own fitness studios, who need fast-adjusting dumbbells for their clients.
If we rated home gyms on versatility alone, then the Weider Pro 8500 Smith Machine would pass the test with flying colours. After all, it replaces 7 different gym machines while taking up only slightly more space than a regular squat rack.
Plus, it's quite affordable for most people. Especially when you compare it to the monthly burden of a gym membership (and all the commuting that such a commitment entails).
However, the Weider Pro 8500 is simply not the best choice for the money, in my opinion.
The Body Solid GS348QP, while admittedly more expensive, is a much more dependable fitness investment in the long term if you ask me. It has double the weight capacity of the Weider Pro 8500—a whopping 272kg—while also being much more damage-resistant (hence the lifetime warranty).
Body Solid has revolutionised home workouts for thousands of people in the UK and abroad because you can completely customise their Series 7. How?
Well, there's the "standard" Smith machine, which comes with an integrated squat rack, and both stations are angled at 7 degrees to help you build muscle faster by providing a more natural range of motion.
However, you can also upgrade the system (or buy a package deal) and turn your Series 7 into your very own commercial-grade home gym. By adding a 450kg-capacity bench, a 95kg selectorized weight stack, a cable system, a pec deck, a preacher pad and a leg developer, you'll never need to buy fitness equipment again.
If you're a gambler, go for the Weider Pro 8500. If you're an investor and are more serious about your home workouts, then take a look at Body Solid Series 7 Package.
I hope that you found my Weider Pro 8500 Smith Weight Cage review helpful. And I hope that you can decide which home gym is right for you!