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Imagine one is doing squats on a smith machine and loads 3x10kg on one the left but then 4x10kg on the right. Or imagine it was simply 4x20kg on the right and nothing at all on the left side. Would the fact of the barbell being steadied by a smith machine negate any of the uneven resistance that would otherwise result from the asymmetry?

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The first scenario would probably not have enough difference to notice. The railing would hold the bar in place. You'd be able to use it just fine.

The second scenario may be getting to the limit. Well-built machines could probably handle it, but cheaper models would probably struggle to hold it. The bar will start torquing in to the railing as weight keeps getting added. The railing would start getting scratched up and maybe even bend under the stress. Worst case scenario, the entire machine could flip over if it's not bolted to the ground.

This is true for other machines that use railings like leg presses or hack squat machines. They can handle quite a bit of asymmetry, but there's a limit just like anything. It would be best to keep things as symmetrical as possible for safety and just general respect for the equipment and people who own it.

Though if you want to add a few kg but are struggling (or lazy) to find two even plates, then just slap one bigger plate on a side and you're good to go. I've certainly done it (because I'm lazy).

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