angled or vertical smith machine

What Is A Smith Machine?

If you like your strength machines, the Smith Machine is a steel frame that at the front has a fixed barbell that runs on vertical steel rails. The barbell has a hook each side to secure to the "safety catches", or notches, up and down the vertical frame and you control when to hook and when to release using a twist of your wrists on the barbell. This allows you to hang the barbell and weights at a suitable height for you and the exercise you want to perform.

As the vertical steel rails act as a guide for barbell movement in the vertical plane, this all but removes uses of stabilising muscles as you perform the exercises. This does allow you to lift heavier weights, but this should be done with advice. 

There are a couple of things to consider when buying a Smith machine (why not check out the Smith Machine section). Firstly whether you want a vertical smith machine or an angled smith machine (See below). Secondly, do you want a counterbalanced Smith machine. This means the bar weight is completely offset with two weights inside the frame - meaning the only weight you lift are the weight plates you add to the bar. 

angled smith machine 5 degrees

The Angled Smith Machine 

A simple variation of the more traditional machine, the Angled Smith machine has the steel rails tilted back, usually, 5 degrees. This is done deliberately to aide a natural movement plane when performing a range of exercises - but in particular squats. Read our in-depth "how to squat" article.

The advantage an angled machine has over a vertical one is :

  • Increases Range of Motion - deeper squats and lunges
  • Improves Muscle Activation - muscles engaged in more natural and functional way
  • Reduction in Joint Stress during exercise


vertical smith machine

The Vertical Smith Machine

There is no angled front uprights and the barbell moves up and down the steel rails in the vertical plane. The subtle difference is that this type of smith machine should be used for exercises such as deadlifts, incline press, chest press and shoulder press. This does mean that the vertical machine has some definite advantages and benefits:

  • Traditional Lift Patterns and experience
  • Target Upper Body Muscles
  • Good Stability & Control


Exercises On A Smith Machine

Given you can't remove the bar, you may think your exercises are a little limited. However you will find that whilst you don't have the complete freedom of dumbbells to mix and match benchwork with standing or sitting exercises, there are some great exercises you can do with whatever type of smith machine you choose :

Smith Machine Squat

Easy with both machines - put feet further forward 'in front' of the bar in order to really activate your glutes (see the Exigo Smith Machine - 5 Degree)

Bench Press

Place your bench centrally between the verticals, then adjust so your chest below the bar (see the Primal Performance Series Smith machine )

Incline Press

Put your incline bench in place and ensure below the bar so you lift vertically.

Dead Lifting

The classic weightlift exercise. Position feet carefully with shins next to the bar.


Place bar over your shoulders then you can either front or reverse lunge.

Upright Rows


Hip Thrust on Smith Machine


What Type Of Smith Machine Should You Choose?

The choice between the Angled Smith Machine and the Vertical Smith Machine ultimately depends on your fitness goals and personal preferences. If you are looking to target your lower body with exercises like squats and lunges, the Angled Smith Machine may be the better option. On the other hand, if you primarily want to focus on upper body exercises, the Vertical Smith Machine might be more suitable.

It's important to note that both machines can be valuable additions to your workout routine, and incorporating a variety of exercises using different equipment can help maximize your overall strength and muscle development.

Remember to consult with a fitness professional or trainer to ensure proper form and technique when using either type of Smith Machine.