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York Barbell Smith Machine: Learn how this old-school fitness brand has been at the top of its game for over 80 years

By James Jackson
Last Updated on 17th August 2020

York Barbell is a popular fitness company with 80+ years of experience in producing strength training equipment. As I write this, I can see two of my dad's old York Barbell weight plates on the floor beside me—they look like new—which would indicate that their slogan, the strongest name in fitness, has a lot of truth to it.

But today at Smith Machine UK, we're taking a look at York's STS Counter balanced Smith Machine.

Despite York's reputation as more of a home fitness brand (at least in my mind), I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the quality of their commercial product line.

So with that said, let's get into the review.

York Barbell Smith Machine facts and figures

The York STS Counter Balanced Smith Machine has a user-friendly, walk-through design that enables easy access from both sides of the unit as well as from the front. Naturally, this makes it an attractive choice for commercial gym owner's because the open design provides quick access for training partners to get inside the machine and support their fellow lifter.

Of course, being a Smith machine, one doesn't technically need a spotter to enjoy safe workouts on the York STS. Nonetheless, it never hurts to have a bit of encouragement on those final few reps, which as Arnold Schwarzenegger said, are the ones that count the most.

Yet even in the event of muscular failure—a common side-effect of any effective strength training program—safety is never far away while lifting on the York STS Counter Balanced Smith Machine. The ingenious safety stoppers each have 3 square holes to allow for more precise adjustments and to provide extra reinforcement.

Obviously, these safety stoppers satisfy requirement number one. Namely, they keep you out of harm's way while you're training alone.

york sts smith machine

However, the precise adjustments granted by the unique safety catch design are especially effective for muscle growth because they allow you to restrict the barbell's depth without excessively limiting your own range of motion.

So many other Smith machine manufactures get this wrong. They make you choose between range of motion (and thereby muscle growth) and safety. Sure, I'd rather be safe than muscular. But that's not why I go to the gym!

  • Dimensions: 219cm L x 102.2cm W x 232.4cm H
  • Unit weight: 333kg
  • Type of bearings: linear
  • Lockout points: 9
  • Warranty: full commercial warranty
  • Price: Check Current Price

Design

As mentioned, the York STS Counter Balanced Smith Machine has an open design for easy-access, enabling gym members to easily work out with a training partner.

york sts bar hooks

However, the most striking design feature, especially from the perspective of workout quality, is the 5-degree slant that's built into the frame. This subtle slant plays personal trainer by pre-aligning your joints in a more biomechanically-advantageous position.

What this means to you is that you can achieve a more potent mind-muscle connection (and hence, faster muscle growth) because the resistance is smoother. Since no human lifts straight up and down, traditional upright Smith machines tend to produce friction by forcing your body to adapt to an unnatural range of motion (ROM).

Aside from increasing your injury risk, this forced ROM gives the Smith machine an undeserved bad rep, which is one of the reasons why I created this site—to shine a light on high performing Smith machines (and expose the bad ones).

york sts safety hooks

In addition to feeling smooth while lifting, the barbell on the York STS is also remarkably straightforward to re-rack, much like the Titan Smith machine. Thanks to the 9 safety hooks that line each side of the steel uprights, you can re-rack the barbell at virtually any point during the set with a simple forward turn of the wrist.

So even if you reach the point of muscular failure, you won't have to shout across the gym for help!

York Fitness also equips the STS Counter Balanced Smith machine with 4 convenient storage pegs, which encourage gym members to put their weights away.

The pegs are also incredibly handy for performing drop sets because you don't have to walk over to a weight disc tree—which defeats the purpose of a drop set—or create a trip hazard by dumping the plates on the floor.

Build quality

The York STS Counter Balanced Smith Machine is constructed from heavy-duty 11 gauge steel to increase the unit's stability and to also make it more damage-resistant. Naturally, this commercial-grade constructions means that the STS doesn't wobble around during use.

Aside from being a sign of high-quality manufacturing, the stable base enables you to push yourself harder because you know that the machine won't tip over or cause you to lose control of the barbell.

york smith machine

Similarly, the protective powder coat finish helps the York STS to fight off the wear and tear (impact, scratches, moisture) that's common in the commercial gym environment. In the same way that a healthy diet keeps us looking young and vibrant, the powder coat also helps to keep the York STS in tip-top condition.

Additionally, York Fitness has case-hardened the STS's 1.5" guide rods to increase their durability while also keeping friction at bay. This design choice is great for the user because it provides them with a smoother lifting motion, making them more likely to use the Smith machine and enjoy its best effects.

Overall, the York STS Counter Balanced Smith machine is sturdy and durable, much like the Hammer Smith Machine (but way cheaper in price).

Safety features

As mentioned, the York STS Counter Balanced Smith Machine comes with a pair of innovative, triple-hole safety catches to keep gym members out of trouble.

york sts safety catches

It sounds obvious in mathematical terms, but having safety catches with three holes literally triples the number of adjustment possibilities. What this means for us is that we can set the safety stoppers to a more precise position that'll keep us out harm's way—but which won't limit our range of motion.

Also check out our post about Exigo if you want a to see some Smith machines from another good British manufacturer.

Should you buy the York Smith machine for your gym?

Like a commanding oak tree standing tall in the forest, a fitness brand doesn't stand the test of time without being of exceptional quality.

And like the unforgiving forest itself, the fitness industry is crammed full of fly-by-night companies that wither away into hiding once consumers realise that their equipment is rubbish.

But I won't be exposing any unscrupulous brands today. Instead, I'm recommending that you give the York STS Counter Balanced Smith Machine serious consideration if you own a fitness facility and are seeking a Smith machine of the utmost quality.

Everything from the silky smooth resistance to the impact-resistant 11 gauge steel makes the York STS a top choice for commercial gyms. Plus, It's significantly cheaper than the likes of the Cybex Smith Press while offering the same rugged durability.

I hope that you found my York Barbell Smith machine review helpful!

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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