Are cable machine squats easier to do than squats on a Smith machine? I'm able to do about 220 pounds on the cables, but I'm doubtful whether I'll be able to replicate the results on a Smith machine. In terms of physics, I don't really see why they would be - both are assisted to some degree, but it seems to me that cables would actually provide less assistance since they are not rigid. Any ideas?

  • What specific type of cable squat are you doing? I've seen some that don't require you to support any weight at your shoulders, which would be a big difference between the two.
    – user4644
    Apr 6, 2013 at 22:29
  • I'm holding the two handles at about shoulder length, with hands positioned the same way as if I was holding a bar there. Apr 7, 2013 at 0:01
  • @JohnRoberts This question seems like an "experimental," since there is no data out there to say whether one is harder than the other. With that being said, I suggest you to give a Smith Machine Squat a try to find out yourself. I'm sorry, but I'm not able to find any decent literature out there to give you a firm answer. I've tried both, and it seems like the squat machine is a little harder to me. This is strictly a personal opinion.
    – QikMood
    Apr 7, 2013 at 1:35
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    Altho this remark is a bit remotely related to the question being asked, Id say both types of squats are easier than barbell squats, as there is less stabilization work involved.
    – K.L.
    Apr 8, 2013 at 14:07
  • I don't see how to correctly answer the question as it is currently a bit open and I don't see the practical application. As you have not tried both exercises yet, this is only a guessing game and invites for speculation. I think a better approach would be: "I lift 220 pounds on cables, but can only lift 190 on the smith machine, why?" (or vice versa).
    – Baarn
    Jul 27, 2013 at 13:35

3 Answers 3


This depends on the equipment that you are using. Smith machines friction levels vary greatly and so do cable machines (along with their weight read-outs). In general Smith squats should be harder. Also I would never substitute regular squats with these and I would never recommend anyone to do Smith machine squats unless they were advanced. It isn't a normal range of motion and can cause back, hip, knee problems.


Things to take into consideration:

  1. If the cable machine you use more than one pulley wheel, then your not lifting the full weight (see Wikipedia).
  2. Unless you manage to get the cable almost vertical, you are not displacing the weight as much on a cable machine and so not producing the same amount of work (see more wikipedia).
  3. Don't forget to count the weight of the bar on the Smith machine!

So you are probably right that the weight you can squat on a cable machine is likely to be more than on a Smith machine.

  • Even if it has one pulley it is not the same as full weight (or it could be more based on friction levels).
    – DMoore
    Jul 27, 2013 at 16:52

They are not comparable exercises. The cable machine squat incorporates your arms, while the smith machine will be pretty much all legs.

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